I have been cooking up a storm today. My mother-in-law had minor surgery and is getting out of the hospital tomorrow and I am cooking some meals for her that she can freeze so she won’t have to cook while she recovers. It has been quite a day. I slow cooked a pork loin roast with mushroom gravy, new potatoes, and Portobello mushrooms. This evening I cooked the filling for the chicken pot pie I am making tomorrow, some zipper peas with pork tasso, and Salisbury steak (in the crock pot). Tomorrow I am making bread as soon as I get up and will make my chicken noodle soup. I also have a few other things – she definitely won’t go hungry. My DC apartment had a nice sized kitchen. I am ashamed to say, I took it for granted. It wasn’t until I started trying to cook on the same scale in my tiny kitchen as I had in my big kitchen that I realized I hadn’t appreciated a good thing when I had it. When I cook, I like to spread out and that just isn’t possible in an RV kitchen (most of them anyway). Regular sized pans don’t even fit in many RV ovens! This can be so frustrating. Trust me. I know the struggle.
I am from the deep south, what can I say? I feed people.
Related Read: 10 Tips for Cooking in Your RV Oven (without burning everything)
All this activity got me thinking, though. I have a system that works well for me, but I have talked to other RV cooks and they say they have a lot of trouble cooking or maneuvering in their tiny kitchen.
So here are my tips for cooking in your RV kitchen without losing your patience – or your mind.
- Do all your regular chores first. If you have any regular kitchen duties like make lunches or set up the coffee pot for the next day, get it out of the way before you start cooking. That way it isn’t hanging over your head as yet another task you will have to do. I typically set up our coffee pot in the morning after my husband leaves for work. I tidy up the kitchen, make the bed, and set up the coffee pot. That way those chores are out of the way.
- Start with a clean kitchen. Wash all the dishes so you have a clear sink and clean off the counters. You don’t want to have to work around any clutter. You also don’t want to prepare food in a dirty kitchen; that’s just asking for a food borne illness. If you are going to be moving around the kitchen, make sure you have a clear path. For me, that means picking up all the dog toys and sweeping up the scattered kibble (he picks out the freeze-dried chicken and leaves the kibble – like a kid with a box of Lucky Charms). Make sure you can move about unencumbered.
- Supplement your refrigerator with coolers. Tiny kitchen, tiny oven, tiny fridge, space can be an issue. I cook from scratch, all fresh vegetables and meats so sometimes I just don’t have room in my RV fridge. I have a couple of coolers in various sizes that I can bring in and use to keep the overflow cool for a day or two. In all my cooking today the cooler has been a lifesaver. I used several ice packs my mother-in-law gave me from her freezer, but you can always use a bag of ice. You don’t even have to open the bag (as the ice melts the water can seep into your containers and your feed can become waterlogged).
- Gather everything you will need at arm’s reach. Before you get started get everything you need within arm’s reach (not hard to do in an RV kitchen). Get your ingredients, spices, oils, bowls, and utensils. Organization is key to successful tiny kitchen cooking. Make sure you have plenty of trivets, towels on hand too. I have several mixing bowls of varying sizes which is great except that they are metal. That can be very problematic, especially at night after my husband goes to sleep. I am in the kitchen trying to put them away after washing them and it sounds like I have a gong.
- Do all your chopping, slicing, and dicing before you get started. I use all fresh ingredients so I do a lot of chopping and such. I chop everything ahead of time and put it in bowls. If I am cooking the vegetables together I put them in the bowl together – except for onions. I usually keep the onion separate. Being organized takes a lot of stress off of trying to cook in a small area, especially if you aren’t accustomed to it.
- The crockpot is your friend. I love my crock pot. Learning how to use it effectively can make RV kitchen cooking super easy. Planning your menu ahead of time helps a lot, but if you can put everything in the crock pot and let it cook for a while you won’t be sorry. When I cook meat like a roast or pork loin I like to brown it first – sear it on high heat. Then I cook it on low for several hours. I will use a beef or vegetable broth, but mushroom broth is very nice too. Just toss and go. It makes cooking a breeze and cleanup is a snap.
What tips can you share for cooking in an RV kitchen?
- Clean up as you go along. Avoiding clutter is the name of the game so it really helps if you clean up as you go along. While the food is cooking, clean the bowls, cutting boards, and utensils. A clean kitchen is a stress-free kitchen, but it also is a healthy kitchen. I might wash the same bowl three or four times if I am cooking a lot of food because I keep using it. In the end though, I have very little to clean up. It also allows me to move around my kitchen much easier. It doesn’t take much to clutter up a tiny kitchen so the better you are at staying on top of it, the more relaxed you will be – and you’ll be better able to enjoy cooking.
- Reuse the same pan when you can. This is pretty easy to do if you are cleaning up as you go along. I don’t have a bunch of pans. I got rid of most of mine when we downsized. I have a large sauté pan that has multiple purposes, a couple of nonstick frying pans, one very small pot, two other medium sized pots, and a soup pot. I also have an electric steamer, rice cooker, and crock pot. That’s it. As I use a pot or pan I will let it cool down a bit (usually) and wash it. That way I can use it again if I need it – and if I don’t, that’s one less item to wash when I am finished.
- Have a place for everything. Again, organization in a tiny kitchen will save your sanity! Have a place for everything and as soon as you use it, put it up. When I am finished cooking, there is nothing left on the counter except for the pot, pan, or crock pot. As I finish with something I put it away. If it is a pot, pan, or utensil, I wash it, dry it, and put it away. You might have to make yourself do it at first, but soon it will become second nature. You will also find that you automatically go to the things you need without even thinking because you put things back in the exact same place every single time.
- Slow down and enjoy the process of your culinary creation. Cooking is an activity to be enjoyed. It is an art but it’s also a science. Cooking in an RV kitchen might be a challenge at first, but if you cultivate these habits you will find that tiny kitchen cooking is indeed a pleasure. So, take your time, enjoy the experience, and taste often.