Whether you live in a van, small camper or even a Class A diesel pusher, one thing you’ll all have in common is is a desire to do most of your cooking outdoors. Even the biggest Class As are only about 400 square feet of living space and cooking odors and smoke will cloud your interior space in a hurry. You’ll also be cleaning grease and spatters continuously and setting a buffet for ants. Ants love campers, lots of hidey holes to nest. Unless you’re just heating something up in the microwave, you’ll want to take your cooking chores outside.
If you don’t have a canopy, I suggest getting a portable one at Harbor Freight. Watch for them to go on sale. The last one I bought there cost less than $60 and has lasted three times longer than the $200 Coleman canopy that broke the third time I used it. I prefer my cooking space to be out on the grass, away from the camper. That way, if I drip grease, I’m not doing it on the concrete pad or attracting scavengers to our doorstep at night.
You can also get a portable screen room…most full time RVers have those. Personally, I don’t like cooking in screen rooms because of the trouble of going in and out. But screen rooms are great for eating and entertaining and they’re on my usual list of RV accessories.
Okay, now that we have a dry space to cook, it’s time to get our outdoor cooking kit together. Propane or charcoal are your best options, with propane being the preferred choice for the convenience factor and versatility. An outdoor stove, like one of the Camp Chef series is a great choice. They have three burners and all you have to do is add a girdle and you can cook just about
anything in quantities to feed four or five people. Models like the Pro 90 are conveniently portable with its own legs and fold out table. The Tundra is available at our local Costco for right around $180.
The propane burners on those units are big enough that you can use a wok or other heavy steel or cast iron cooking pan. A good heavy steel wok is awesome for mobile cooking. It’s possible to use it as a frying pan, boiler, steamer or even deep fryer. Woks are easy to clean and you can use them for storage when not in use for cooking. Two billion Chinese people can’t be wrong.
Another gadget you’ll want that isn’t strictly for cooking is a portable ice maker. These units run right around $100 and they’re RV living lifesavers. Your freezer space is seriously limited. Most multi-power refrigerators have tiny freezers and there’s not enough space to give over to ice trays. A portable ice maker keeps a hopper full of ice all day and keeps making new batches on a continuous basis. If you
have an insulated ice bucket you can easily keep pace with enough ice for four people’s drinks.
Another accessory you’ll want are a set of bug screens for your food. That keeps insects out of your uncooked food and the flies at bay when you’re eating. That explains why some people prefer a screen room but they’re dangerous when it comes to cooking over open flames and I find the zipping and unzipping to go in and out a bit tedious.
The good news is you’ll learn to love outdoor cooking, especially when you’re cooking fish or anything else with an odor. With a dutch oven you can even bake over a propane burner.
Once you get used to it, it’s hard to go back to cooking indoors. It’s just not the same.