Cooking in your RV is similar to cooking at home, but the size and mobility of a recreational vehicle create distinct differences. Keeping your RV kitchen tidy and creating enjoyable cooking experiences becomes a surprising challenge. But, it’s also one that thousands of other RV owners have tackled over the years. From keeping your items secured to packing exactly what you need, here are tips from the RV pros on making the most of your RV kitchen with meals you can enjoy alone or with the whole family.
The most important thing to keep in mind when stocking your RV kitchen is that things will move around. It may be tempting to lay everything out the same way you would in your kitchen at home. However, remember that your RV will go up and down hills, make turns, and roll over uneven campground roads. Pack everything into sturdy containers and wedge them in next to each other, including the dishes. This policy isn’t just good for keeping things from sliding, it also makes the most efficient use of your limited cabinet space.
To finish, bungee everything tightly to make sure items don’t just slide out of the cabinets even after being packed together. Command hooks can provide anchors for the cords inside your cabinets. The wire refrigerator shelves make great anchors for food in your fridge, which will also slide around if you’re not careful.
Dishes and Cookware
When packing your dishes, your first consideration should be keeping them from breaking. Plastic patio dishes provide a great solution. Keep in mind the number of people you’ll be feeding so you don’t over or understock.
It may be tempting to get yourself a full set of pots and pans for the RV. But, with the limited counter, stovetop, and storage space, you probably won’t end up using them all. Instead, prioritize for what you’ll use. One large cook pot for soups and stews, a large saucepan for stove-top casseroles and stir-frys, and two small frying pans for personal meals is a great place to start. For pasta lovers, don’t forget your strainer.
If you have an oven and plan to use it, a single cookie sheet and a baking dish should be all you need. Finally, pack a set of nesting Tupperware, zip-locks, and a full roll of foil for leftovers and campfire cooking.
Stocking the Larder
When deciding what to bring in terms of food, start with the capabilities of your fridge. Only pack raw meats and dairy if your refrigerator can stay cold during long hours on the road. Otherwise, and in most cases, you’ll want to prioritize things that store well as pantry items and don’t squish easily. From canned tuna and beans to canned tomato sauce and olive oil, many delicious key ingredients can be found in cans and bottles.
Box-mixes in which you only have to add meat and vegetables are a great way to store a lot of potential meals in a small non-perishable box. Plan your meals ahead of time, along with things to eat for breakfast. Bring snacks that are easy to store and prep like granola bars, oatmeal, dried fruit, and packaged snacks.
Many RV pros suggest prepping as many of your ingredients as possible in your home kitchen before launching off on your trip. When you have limited counter space, this makes RV cooking easier and allows you to store ingredients in handy ready-to-use baggies and boxes to save space. Chop up veggies into chunks and store them in Tupperware by-recipe for quick retrieval. One way to speed up breakfast and prevent broken eggs is to pre-scramble a whole dozen. Store them in a sealed pitcher or emptied creamer bottle, ready to pour. The same trick can be used for pancake mix.
Managing your spices can be a special challenge in an RV because keeping track of all those little bottles becomes a hassle. Many RV adventurers suggest switching to mix packets that can be used effectively in many recipes. This spares you the worry of creating a special balance of your own spices with each meal. However, if you’re a gourmet who loves to spice every dish individually, you can ditch the spice bottles and load up a labeled weekly pill-box with a different spice for each compartment. This quick and easy ‘spice rack’ stores efficiently, don’t risk spilling, and won’t roll around like a dozen individual bottles.
Leave Room for Local Purchases
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to pack everything you’ll eat on the trip right before you set out. Along the way, there will be local markets, roadside fruit stands, and at least one chain grocery store in every town you pass through. This means you will be able to restock on perishables like raw-meat without risking spoilage. Additionally, you might find delightful local options to augment your pantry diet. If, for instance, you find an opportunity to pick your own fresh fruit or come across a great farmer’s market on the road, you’ll also want to have a little room inside to store your finds.
Cooking in an RV can be cramped and anytime you use the stove or oven it will significantly head up the inside of your vehicle along with everyone inside. To account for both these concerns, you’ll want to plan for all-in-one meals like casseroles, soups, stews, and meals that require only one cooked element like tacos. There are some truly amazing RV recipes out there for skillet cooking and many RV owners suggest the use of a slow-cooker or crock-pot as long as you have a decent power supply. Your mixes are useful here, as you can whip up a tasty stir-fry or rice and meat dish in a single large saucepan and create enough to feed an entire family. For several single-serving dishes created all at once, consider making baked meals in a muffin pan in the oven. To avoid cooking entirely, consider a variety of ‘cold’ dishes. These can include meals like salad with canned chicken or cheese and cold sliced sausage.
Cook Once, Enjoy Leftovers
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of cooking you need to do is to make large meals and then eat efficiently packed leftovers (hence the spare Tupperware). Leftovers take a lot less heat to warm back up than cooking a whole new dish. And, many recipes are just as tasty cold as they were fresh and hot. The number of times a single meal can be eaten as leftovers depends on the number of people you’re feeding. For one or two people, consider halving your recipes. This allows you to rotate a few items through as leftovers so you don’t eat the same thing too many times in a row.
Camp and Cook over a Fire
Finally, if you feel cramped in your kitchen, consider cooking in the great outdoors instead. Plenty of campsites have a grill or, at the very least, a fire pit to cook on. Here’s where your roll of tin foil come in handy. Also, many of the things you packed can easily become delicious stewed foil packet meals. Or, use a simple metal grate for that wonderful flame-charred flavor.
Cooking in your RV can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. Everyone runs into one or two bumps on their first few trips. But, soon enough you’ll become a pro RV chef and contribute your own personal innovations to the community knowledge base. As a final tip, don’t forget your utensils and hot pads. Have fun cooking!