Don and his wife love to cook. They enjoy new and different recipes and experimenting with interesting combinations of ingredients.
Cook for Two in Your RV
Sure, there are thousands of RV owners who carry their families and even their friends with them on their camping trips.
But most of the time, your RV travels will include just the two of you. The friends are only occasional fellow travelers, and even your kids will eventually tire of camping with their parents, and as they get older, they will start begging off of going on trips with you.
More and more often, the two of you will be cooking your favorite meals together in your RV. You may have to learn how to cook in an RV kitchen as opposed to the nice kitchen in your home.
Read on to learn about the differences between an RV kitchen and a home kitchen, and how you can easily adapt your favorite recipes to this new kitchen.
Four Types of Meals on the Road
Not every meal requires the same level of effort. The meals you eat while traveling in your RV can be placed into four different categories.
1. Dining Out
Face it, every camping trip is a kind of vacation for regular travelers and they are going to eat out at local restaurants much more often than when they are at their home.
In fact having the freedom to travel and sample local cuisines is very important to many people.
For instance, Cajun food is best in Cajun country, seafood is best fresh caught in nearby waters, and Texas barbecue is best when sampled right at the barbecue pit in Texas.
So, as you travel around our country in your RV, you will inherently look for these special restaurants where you can enjoy the fantastic local flavors.
2. Cooking Out
Another popular style of eating for campers is cooking outside your RV on your grill.
Camping is a social event, and it is not uncommon for a couple or family to invite their campground neighbors over for a meal of burgers, hot dogs, ribs or other meals that can be prepared easily on an outdoor grill.
Also, your grill is a great tool for warming up leftovers cheaply and getting something to eat on the table with a minimal amount of work.
In fact, your grill is the best tool you can have for saving money on a camping trip. It uses very little energy to prepare a meal, there are hundreds of popular dishes that you can prepare on a grill, and of course, the freedom of sitting outside at your campsite, enjoying the weather, and cooking a meal for yourselves is always a treat.
3. Eating In
Much of the time the two of you will be just relaxing in your RV and preparing your favorite meals, often the same ones you eat at home, but you'll now be cooking for two and cooking more efficiently than you do at home, with less space and simpler equipment.
4. Meals While Driving
There is one other type of meal that every RV owner will become proficient at: dining on the road. Many times, your next daily trip up the road will be long enough that you will have to stop somewhere for a rest—a rest stop, or a business parking lot—and that stop will be meal time.
The smart cook will also prepare food for these meals. The meal can be as a simple as a sandwich and a cola, as tasty as warmed up leftovers from the fridge, or even a frozen meal in your freezer that can be microwaved quickly.
Regardless of the meal, planning for a nice lunch in your RV, as you rest from your days driving, can make you a hero to the driver every time.
Even the Best Kitchens in RVs are Different
Whether your RV is a small pop-up camper or Class-A motorhome, the kitchen area is going to be the biggest limitation that a good cook will run into when they want to prepare a meal.
The smart cook will need to rethink their favorite recipes and make small changes to adapt them to the equipment and appliances they have on hand in their RV.
RV kitchens generally have all of the necessary tools to cook pretty much anything, but the appliances are simpler designs than those beautiful appliances that builders typically put into conventional homes.
Limitations of Typical RV Equipment
Here are some ways RV equipment will differ from what you have in your home.
The RV Fridge
An RV might have a commercial, 4-door home fridge like the one you have at home, but often it will be a small "2-way" fridge operating on either 110-volt AC or propane. Up until the last decade or so, this was the default fridge design used in RVs of all types.
A major complaint from most RV owners is the limited amount of fridge and freezer storage space. The smart cook will carefully plan what they buy that has to be refrigerated, and they will plan their meals to produce very little leftover food that will clutter their storage space.
A Portable Cooler
Because of this common storage space limitation in your fridge, the smart cook will utilize a good portable cooler to store the things that can be kept cold and consumed most often, such as beverages, fresh vegetables, desserts, even leftovers and other short-lived foods.
The RV Range
An RV range will typically operate on propane. It can be a small one-burner range in a pop-up, or a three- or four-burner range such as you will find in the larger Class-A motorhomes. If you're already used to cooking on a gas range then you should see no difference in your cooking methods or times, and even if you're used to cooking on an electric range, the differences should be slight.
Propane Gas Oven Versus Convection Microwave
Older RVs might have a propane oven, but most RV manufacturers went away from these ovens and installed nice convection microwave ovens decades ago. The old propane ovens never did heat as evenly as a home oven, and the conversion to a convection oven was welcomed by all.
If you have used a convection oven in the past then you know that you can get the same quality baking done as you would in a standard electric oven at home.
And a convection oven uses significantly less electricity than a standard home electric oven whether it is used as a microwave or as a convection oven.
Probably the thing in an RVs kitchen that people complain the most about is the limited counter space. But eventually, going through the process of preparing a meal, the smart cook will get creative and prepare their meals efficiently while using the space they actually have.
Other RV Limitations a Cook Needs to Work With
Several other things are unique to cooking in an RV and can be a problem for the new RV cook. For example:
Fresh Water Supply
An RV has a limited fresh water supply in its holding tank, and the cook must ration its usage while preparing a meal.
Hot Water Heater
The hot water heater in an RV typically has a 5- or 10-gallon storage tank, so the cook must make sure they are rationing their use of the hot water available to them as they prepare and clean up after a meal.
Gray Water Holding Tank
Just as you should limit your cold and hot water usage while cooking a meal, you should also keep in mind that all of that water you are using is going into your gray water holding tank.
With normal meal preparation this is no problem, but you just cannot run water constantly as you wash vegetables and dishes. The smart cook will keep an eye on the level in the gray water tank to avoid overfilling it.
If you are cooking something that requires special pots or cooking utensils, then you will have to remember to bring them with you. Most RVs do not have very much kitchen storage space, and you will end up leaving certain cooking equipment at home.
Making a quick inventory before you start cooking can save you the embarrassment of not being able to prepare a special dish you had planned on serving.
It Can Be Done
Over the years, my wife and I have prepared some really fantastic meals in the different RVs we have owned, and the size and type of equipment we had in our RV kitchen never harmed the quality of the meals we prepared in them.
You will quickly fall into the habits necessary for preparing just enough food in your RV for the two of you and enjoying every bite.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Don Bobbitt
Liz Westwood from UK on October 20, 2020:
This is a very interesting and helpful article. You cover so many areas and offer good advice.