If you caught my last post on Tips for Cooking in your RV Kitchen (and some of my RV friendly recipes) then you know I do quite a bit of cooking. As a full timer that means learning how to use my RV oven.
If you have tried to cook in an RV oven, you know five things about them:
Don’t get me wrong, I love my little oven. It took me a while to get the hang of it, but I have figured it out and now I cook up a storm. Here are a few tips that might help you to get cookin’.
- They are SMALL. Most regular cooking pans aren’t going to fit. You might be able to fit a 9” X 13” pan in there but not anything larger.
- They use propane. Depending on what all your propane is attached to, this can mean that even with normal cooking you are burning through more propane than you like. It can get expensive.
- The heating element and the way an RV oven is designed is not ideal. The pilot sits in the rear of the oven. Once lit, the flame runs along a rod that extends the depth of the oven, from back to front. A thin metal plate sits just above the rod and is supposed to distribute the heat. Essentially, it is a bad design, quite ineffective.
- There is no thermometer or buzzer that alerts you when the oven is at a certain temp such as with preheating. You just have to figure it out.
- The pilot is way in the back so you have to bend down or practically stand on your head to reach into the oven and light it with a lighter. Personally, I don’t see why they can’t add the spark lighting option to the oven; they did it for the stove. It takes some interesting gymnastics to get my oven lit, especially since I am a 6-foot-tall woman. That’s pretty far down there.
- Get pans that fit. Most RV ovens cannot accommodate regular sized pans. If you are lucky you will be able to get a 9” X 13” in there. Before you go pan shopping, measure the inside of your oven and give yourself about an inch on either side for a little wriggle room. If you have a pan that just fits, meaning it brushes the sides of the oven when it is in there, how much fun are you going to have trying to get it out? When it is hot? When it is full of hot food? Get a pan that you can get in and out very easily.
- Preheat first. Preheating your oven is very important – even more so than preheating a regular oven in your house or apartment. In fact, you probably want to over preheat to make sure that you get it right. What I mean is, set it a few degrees higher than the cooking temp then back it down when you are ready to cook. Otherwise you will have some goofed up cooking times and will have to eyeball your dish to know when it is done.
- Outdoor temp can affect oven heat. An RV is a tiny space and RV ovens are on an outer wall, unlike many house ovens. This means that when it is cold outside it takes them longer to heat. It also means that when it is hot outside they heat faster. You just need to be aware of this and stay on top of it. Know that it will likely take a little longer for your roast to cook if it is 30 degrees outside.
- Get an oven thermometer. An oven thermometer can be a life saver. They don’t take up much room, but for the room they do take up, it is still worth it. The first thing you will probably discover is that your oven does not talk to the dial. If the dial says 3750, chances are that’s not what the actual temperature is. An oven thermometer will help you better understand your oven so you can compensate for the lack of communication.
- Rotate the pan. RV ovens are notorious for having very poor heat distribution. My first couple of loaves of bread were interesting because the heat was so uneven the loaf would come out golden brown on one end and pasty white on the other. Rotating the pan helps. My rule of thumb is, if you are cooking something under, say 30 or 45 minutes, then turning it at the halfway point is sufficient. If it is an hour or more, I turn at quarter intervals. But you have to find what works for you.
- Use a baking stone. I never got around to getting a baking stone and I do just fine, but I plan on putting something in there. Some people use unglazed tiles or some type of stoneware and I know of at least a couple of people who use an air bake cookie sheet. It should sit on the metal plate that is over the heating element, but don’t block the ventilation holes.
Cooking in your RV oven can be fun. It doesn’t have to be frustrating if you understand that it is definitely not a house oven and it is going to be different – and there really isn’t anything you can do to change it. Just take a deep breath and go with the flow. Learn to adapt to this very different little animal and you’ll be baking and roasting foodie magazine quality dishes in no time.
- Make sure your RV is level. Even if your RV is just a little off it can cause problems if you are cooking anything that is liquid. Your cakes will have an interesting slope and casseroles can drip or run right off the “low side.” If your rig isn’t level you will need to find a way to compensate. If you have been parked in the same place for a while, things can settle and you can slowly become unleveled without even realizing it – until you pull a cake out of the oven and it has a distinct slope.
- Raise your rack. Raising the wire rack in your oven will help with the heat distribution somewhat. I only needed to raise mine a little and I do just fine - only one set of biscuits with blackened bottoms. Try it at different levels and see what works.
- Get a feel for cooking times. When you first start using your RV oven, don’t start out with new recipes. Get a feel for how it works by using some of your tried and true recipes, the ones you could cook in your sleep. You are familiar with the temp you need, cooking time, and how the dish is supposed to look so it will be easier to learn your oven that way. Check the dish several times while cooking because the times will most likely be different. This will help you better understand your oven though and make the transition a little easier.
- Bakeware matters. The type of bakeware you use does matter. I use a lot of glass, clear glass, and I don’t have any problems. I never use cooking spray, but opt for olive oil instead. I do have some silver pans and they work well but not as great as my glass ones. I have not had good experiences with black pans. I also use some corning ware in my oven and it works great. My advice is to try a few things to see what works and, more importantly, what you are comfortable with.
What’s your favorite RV oven tip? Better yet, do you have any cool RV oven stories to share?