Updated: Aug 21
Since we started RVing five years ago, I’ve learned some things about being creative and cooking healthy meals in a small kitchen. The stove top is a no brainer but that oven…it doesn’t have the temperature control that a house oven does. No setting to 350° and walking away. The small ovens in a camper are either a microwave / convection combo or a propane oven where the controls are 1, 2, 3, etc. So, you must figure out what number comes closest to the temperature you need. You may have to crack the oven door to cool it down a little. But with a little trial and error you’ll find that you can still cook delicious meals without burning them.
For my camper, I can put a cutting board between the sink and the stove, so it’s clean, chop and right into the pan. Efficient with limited movement and space. Figuring out how your kitchen will work best for you is key to making those healthy meals happen with little to no mess.
So, by learning your equipment and how to use your space to the maximum extent possible, those healthy meals and snacks are unlimited.
A lot of people assume that living full-time in an RV/camper is like camping except you never go home after the weekend away.
Even though that may be true about some things, it’s not true about cooking. No, we don’t eat hotdogs and s’mores all the time.
While weekend cooking may include those hamburgers, hotdogs and s’mores and a few spices that you’ve packed up in your ice chest, living permanently in your RV means you need a lot more to create those healthy meals…spices, certain cooking utensils and pans.
A huge adjustment is the space in an RV plus an even more important one: Smells!
The minute you walk through the door of a camper, you’ll be hit with garlic, onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms sautéing in your well-seasoned cast iron pan. My husband enjoys the smell of coffee first thing in the morning.
However, those smells lingering until the next day are not so pleasant. Especially if they’re lingering in your clean clothes. To combat this, you may want to take some of your foods and cook them outside on a grill, an electric oven, frypan, etc.
This is where outdoor kitchens are key. They usually come with a propane grill, cooktop, sink, bar fridge and cupboard space. Bacon, onions, boiling water, and grilling are good to do in an outdoor kitchen.
If your camper doesn’t have a built-in outdoor kitchen, then you can use certain tools that usable outside and can be stored either in your camper cellar or inside your RV. They are:
Here’s a thought – To Heat or Not to Heat up your RV
If you’re cooking in the middle of summer, then you don’t want to heat up your camper. Another tool to keeping your camper cool is an Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. Those you can use inside and won’t add extra heat that would make your AC work harder.
In the dead of winter, that extra heat could be heaven sent. That’s when you use your inside propane oven to bake those delicious, healthy meals and treats.
Space: Highly Valued in an RV Kitchen
Because space is tight in an RV camper, there are a few tips and tricks. One is an Instant Pot that you can cook everything in from the main dish to the sides. Soups, stews, rice, yogurt, beans, meats…you name it, and you can probably figure out a way to cook it in an Instant Pot in a few minutes on limited counter or table space.
When you’re permanent camping, you often take daily trips to visit state parks, museums, or other points of interest. If you have leftovers, you can add a couple ingredients and make a whole new meal for the next night or if you put it in the freezer, you can pull it out and heat it up on an especially busy day.
Small Oven Cooking
In my ovens, I’ve found that I can use a 13” x 9” pan IF it doesn’t have handles. The best baking pan that I’ve found to use is a straight sided pan. It’s a little more expensive but it cleans up easy-peasy and evenly bakes. Of course, there are other straight side baking pans to choose from and you can certainly find one that fits your needs. Just remember, to avoid having to return a pan, don’t get one with handles. They add an additional 2 – 4 inches in width and make it so the pan won’t fit in your oven.
In my pan, I’ve made oh, so good cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, oatmeal cake and other scrumptious treats. You could even roast a chicken, small turkey, beef, or pork roast in it along with a few potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.
Here’s One of the Best RV Camper Oven Tips!
Believe it or not, a pizza stone or grill stones on the rack (choose one that the size fits in your oven). It will even out and hold the heat! I personally prefer the rectangle stone. Just place your bakeware or casserole dish on top of the stone. If you’re traveling, you may want to wrap the stone in a towel to cushion it as it will break but even slightly broken ones can still help generate and maintain heat working as grill stones.
Here’s another tip that has really worked for me. I have all the pots and pans that I need that take up very little space. They’re stackable, nestable and made especially for camping or on a boat. Mine are Magma but there are numerous other nesting pots and pans on the market.
What should I cook in an RV?
The answer to that is you can prepare just about anything that sounds or tastes good to you that would cook in any house kitchen. You’ll just need to be creative in how you prep and cook the ingredients keeping space in mind.
To summarize the tips for RV cooking:
Whenever possible, cook your meals outside. This will save on unnecessary heat, smells, and moisture inside your camper. However, if you’re cold, crank up that inside RV oven and bake some food.
Prep meals in stages as counter space can be limited. Depending on the meal, in my camper I can wash and chop veggies and place them immediately into the pot – 1, 2, 3. Sometimes, depending on the recipe, I need to use the table as extra counter space. So, it’s good to make a mini plan before starting your prep.
Plan your meals. It's not only easy to figure out what you’re going to eat each day and using up leftovers, it also helps you save money on groceries and helps with storing food for the week.
Excellent, healthy recipes and meal options are unlimited!
You can cook everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner, a midnight snack in your camper or outside on a grill. Just work with your space restrictions and who you’re cooking for, i.e., two seniors or a family of five. With the internet, you can find a plethora of recipes that will make your taste buds water.