You don’t have to drive a customized rig to crush it at campervan cooking while on the road. In fact, some of the best setups are as old-school as you can get, utilizing just a bonfire and a cast iron pan. Whether you’re looking to have things ready for occasional weekend adventures, or you’re hoping to go all out and move into your campervan in the near future, our travel cooking tips can make the meal prep experience easier.
Read on for some campervan cooking tips to get you started on the basics. This includes setting up the best road kitchen, selecting the right gear for your ride, and creating some seriously tasty recipes.
Intro to Campervan Cooking Tips
Campervan Kitchen Must-Haves
In a campervan or adventure rig, every square inch of space is important. That means creatively storing everything and purchasing multi-purpose items is important.
Look into cooking systems that stack. Think a cup that fits inside a bowl that fits inside a pot–or a similar setup. Collapsible pots and dinnerware as well as utensils that fold out to full size for easy storage are also great options to save space. There are even collapsible water containers available on the market.
Stove, Bonfire, or Oven
Deciding how to cook is one of the biggest factors when making food on the road. Your setup will depend on the weather as well as your personal preferences. On clear days, you may dig campfires for their intense heat and delicious smokey flavor. You might have a camp stove you love like a small pocket rocket or a double-burner that you can use within the confines of your van if the weather isn’t great. (Camp cooking tips: be sure you have ample ventilation to use a stove safely, and beware of fire dangers.)
Small gas stoves work great when you want a meal quickly or if you just need to boil water for a quick cup of coffee and a dehydrated backpacking meal. If you frequently travel well above sea level or in cold places it is a good idea to opt for a stove that uses liquid fuel as they’re better suited for the thin air. People who love to bake and want to really upgrade their van kitchen can also install an oven. This will expand your cooking capabilities. If you’re not ready for that (it is a big investment) then a dutch oven can also prove useful with a bonfire or a stove.
Where will you get food while you’re on the road? For some backcountry expeditions, you’ll need to pack everything before you go and plan for chilled storage to prevent spoilage. On other trips, you will have access to grocery stores throughout your route, making it easy to resupply whenever you’re in need. In some places, you’ll be able to pick or purchase fresh produce, meats and fishes from local sources. Locales like New Zealand, for example, offer public roadside gardens where passersby can grab ingredients for their next meal. Take advantage of fresh, local options whenever possible.
Map out where you are headed and what you anticipate will be available as you make your plans. Also remember to factor in distance and storage when considering where to go and what food you’ll need for each trip.
It can take some practice to perfect a cup of joe on the road. Some campers prefer the large-volume, fast-boiling enamel percolator for their morning cuppa. Others take it slow with a kettle and a collapsible pourover set. With high-quality beans and a top-notch grinder on the correct setting, you’ll be able to brew an awesome cup of coffee wherever you are.
You can also consider trying one of the many instant varieties available. Nature’s Coffee Kettle is a great option as it brews right in the bag. There is also Alpine Start and Starbucks Via. With all of the options you’re sure to find a roast you dig.
Awesome Recipe Resources
To get you started with your on the road cooking journey, there are many inspirational cooks to check out who focus specifically on cooking tips for the road.
Fresh Off the Grid – Michael van Vliet and Megan McDuffie began Fresh Off the Grid in 2015 when they had trouble finding sources of inspiration and information on outdoor cooking. The couple live in their vehicle and make easy-to-recreate recipes that are flavorful and doable over a camp stove or a bonfire. Check out their Dutch oven enchiladas, vegan Mexican tortilla soup and bacon & date campfire pizza recipes.
“The Great Outdoors” – This book written by Markus Sammer, a top German chef and outdoor enthusiast, is chock-full of gorgeous images of fireside meals that’ll make you want to get cooking immediately. Inside you’ll find 120 recipes for everything from vegetable antipasti to fire barrel cheese fondue.
“Dirty Gourmet” – This site was created by mom and food science guru Aimee, kitchen experimentee Mai-Yan and outdoor store manager Emily. The trio believes that people need to be outside and creating incredible food can help enhance outdoor experiences. Dirty Gourmet features sections for picnics, day trips, car camping, bike touring and backpacking recipes. They’ve even written a cookbook published by Mountaineers Books. Check out their Dutch oven stuffed peppers, yellow curry and spiked Mexican hot cocoa recipes.
Extra Cooking Tips
Minimize Cleanup Time
Bearfoot Theory’s Kristen Bor recommends using a grease screen to cook foods like bacon. This handy device prevents grease from splattering all over your mobile home.
Don’t forget the spices
Just about everyone has made this mistake on a backpacking or hiking trip, and regretted not having salt and pepper at the minimum. Consider creating a vanlife spice kit with your most-used options so you’re prepared to make whatever you want wherever you travel.
Cook like you’re at home
Too many people feel like they have to cook camping-specific meals while on the road. In reality, so long as you plan ahead, you can make food just like you would in your regular kitchen.
How many people have forgotten utensils at least once and had to run to a gas station for flimsy, environmentally-terrible plastic ones? I know I have. Make sure to keep your sporks with your camp stove so that you’ll bring both every time. Also, take a sharp knife or two and a large stirring spoon and spatula to make your cooking endeavors easier.
Also Keep in Mind
You don’t have to have the newest gadgets, like the lightest stove or the most rust-resistant knife, to create a delicious meal out of a van. With a little forethought about storage, ingredients, heat, and other camping tips, you can easily make memorable meals on the go. After all, everything tastes better outside.