The RV Kitchen is small but it remains useful and cooking delicious meals is a cinch with a good system in place. While the oven will not fit a Thanksgiving turkey, preparing meals for individuals and groups is entirely possible. The biggest thing is recognizing a few key differences between the RV oven and a traditional kitchen while adjusting your approach slightly to accommodate for different cooking styles.
Level Out Your Rig
Before cooking anything, get good and level. It sounds simple enough but leveling out is extremely important, especially when using the oven. It’s the difference between and even, perfect pan of brownies and a sloped or humped batch. When it comes to cooking in oil, the level oven also allows the juices to cover the entire pan rather than one side. A sloped oven can lead to burned food and uneven cooking.
Pans and Utensils
Space is limited in the RV and clutter is the enemy. In terms of tools, a quality spatula, several knives and serving spoons do the trick for most meals. Pans are a big issue for RV cooking however as the oven is not a standard size. This limits cooking to smaller pans and many recipes require adjustments to the portions. For example, a quiche in a pan sized at half of normal will require half the ingredients. The exact size of RV ovens vary but make sure to measure before purchasing cookware.
Account for Altitude
The RV is often changing locations and altitude becomes a factor for cooking. Everything from baking bread to boiling noodles is influenced by changes in altitude. Higher altitudes require longer cook times. A quick web search for the nearest town will show the altitude. When traveling through mountain environments, this is an important consideration. Coastal areas like Rockport are easier to judge and standard cooking times are used.
Keep a high altitude baking chart handy as well. Even consider pinning one to the inside of a cabinet door for quick reference. A quality chart will show adjustments for yeast, sugar, baking powder, flour, oil, fat and even temperature for various types of foods. Breads, cakes, candy and anything that requires a rise is important for altitude. Altitude will also influence cooking times on the stove top but monitoring food in a pan or pot is much easier.
When it comes to cooking meat, a thermometer is the best way to reach the perfect internal temperature. The RV oven does not always hold a perfect temperature and manually monitoring the meat is better than relying no cook times. This is especially important for large pieces of meat that require a specific internal temperature for safe eating. Sectioning the meat into smaller pieces makes monitoring easy without a thermometer as well.
Also keep in mind that an RV is much different than a well insulated house. The external air temperature can influence the oven temps. When the weather is cold outside, your oven may require additional time or a higher heat setting to cook effectively. Preheat, start at the normal heat setting and increase gradually if needed.
While you can prepare just about anything in the RV oven, some meals will quickly become staples because they are both easy to cook and delicious. For example, pork chops or chicken thighs baked in olive oil with steamed vegetables is quick, simple and delicious. Baking vegetables is also an option if the oven offers multiple racks. While cooking, rotate the pan and stir more regularly than you would at home. The heat does not always distribute perfectly and moving things around is helpful to prevent burning or undercooking.
After using the oven for a few weeks, you will learn the quirks and understand when it needs more heat, less heat, etc. Practice with some easy recipes, bake some easy cookies and feel things out before jumping into more complex dishes and things like pies with homemade crusts. It’s much easier to burn something like premade cookie dough than a pie that was labored over all day long.
The RV oven is not a perfect system but it remains effective and once you learn how it reacts to different climates and altitudes, some great meals are in store. As a general rule, anything cooked slowly with low heat will turn out great. Cooking quickly comes with a higher consequence to burn or dry out meats. Recipes like easy egg bakes, stuffed peppers and easy egg bakes are perfect for RV ovens.