Campervans are wonderful creatures for numerous reasons. They provide epic road trips, your bed on wheels and you can cook wherever you fancy. Whether the shores of Milford Sound or simply a pub car park we loved the fact we could rock up anywhere and cook up a storm. Cooking in a campervan did provide a few issues however. We’d only two rings, two pans, usually no electricity and limited gas & water. WHY DID WE AGREE TO THIS CAMPERVAN COOKING CHAOS?!
We’re guessing you’re on this post because you already have an epic roadtrip planned, if you haven’t got one planned yet we cannot recommend New Zealand in a campervan enough! Our guide covers routes, costs, campsites and more if you’re looking for some van life inspiration!
Finally, after a few fails and an inedible mess or two we bring you our 10 top tips to ensure you too, will cope cooking in a campervan. Without further ado here’s our top tips for 5 Star dining on two rings…
1. STORE FOOD PROPERLY
Before you think Tupperware is reserved for middle aged mums, they’re gonna become your new best friend. Store food such as porridge oats, rice, pasta and so on in Tupperware boxes. This is to avoid a mice or ant invasion. It’s not just your Tim Tams you want kept safe, mice can also chew wires and potentially do some serious damage on your van!
2. SHOP MINDFULLY
When cooking in a campervan, stock up the essentials (like pop tarts) and non-perishable items in the city. These will be so much cheaper in larger supermarkets than the smaller corner shops on the road. Although keep an eye out for farmers stalls and local markets for fresh veg, eggs etc. as although at times more expensive, they are nearly always organic, fresh and you support local produce. Ensuring your cooking in a campervan will be even more tasty! That and the fact Loz always get’s carried away in big supermarkets…
3. COOKING IN A CAMPERVAN IS A COMMUNITY
On day two of our campervan adventure we received a knock on our back window, terrified we were parked in the wrong place or had ran over something we answered a little hastily. Instead to our surprise it was a fellow camper with an armful of food, explaining she was leaving for the airport the next day and didn’t want her meat/cheese/bread to go to waste. When we left our Cathy the campervan we did the same – any leftover food we gave to the campers next to us, who were equally delighted. We call it campervan cooking karma.
4. CLEAN-UP ASAP
As your water is limited, you have to be smart with the washing up. When the pan is still hot, add water and washing up liquid to it immediately. This saves a lot of water later on when your food has congealed and hardened to the pan. We stupidly left a porridge pan untouched, then had no hope of scraping off the cement like substance 2 hours later. Soak immediately and any residue will wipe right off with minimal water and effort! You can watch that hilarious porridge video here.
5. CAREFUL WHAT YOU PUT DOWN THE SINK
In relation to the point above, be very careful what you put down the sink! The odd pea, spoonful of scrambled egg and so on may slip through but when cooking in a campervan, bear in mind you will need to empty the water wastage later. Any food trapped in the sink pipe will cause almost immediate smell. The smell of last night’s rotten dinner is not what you want to wake up to the next day. We purchased a basin to avoid this although some campervans will come with plugs too.
6. FORAGING IS FREE – MEDICAL BILLS ARE NOT
We’ve all seen into the wild, so although you want to save a penny or two when cooking in a campervan ensure you are well informed before foraging. Whilst brambles and raspberries can be readily available at roadside, be careful if foraging mushrooms that you are well informed of how to prepare and cook them. If you do find plenty safe mushrooms, we have a quick & easy camping stroganoff recipe you might like!
7. EMPTY SPACE DOESN’T HOLD COLD
We were really surprised by this (physics ain’t our strong point) however, chances are if you’re staying in a free campsite/wild camping you won’t have electricity. If you need electricity for your fridge to work you may be tempted to empty it’s contents thinking the food will go off. Turns out, the more full your fridge is, the more cold it will hold. If it’s empty it will get warmer quicker. So fill it. Don’t go chucking food out because you won’t have a fridge for a few days, use that space wisely.
8. REMEMBER YOU COOK WHERE YOU SLEEP
We forgot this the day we made salmon risotto. We could smell salmon risotto for days afterwards! Don’t get us wrong, there are some amazing salmon farms near Mt Cook and in Akaroa in New Zealand however, think before cooking in a campervan. The same goes for curry. That smell clings to the curtains for days. To be fair, we love curry so I’d happy sleep surrounded by it’s stench. Salmon, not so much. For a stinky-free risotto, read the recipe on our vegetarian camping food.
9. LEFTOVERS ARE KING
Last night’s 5 bean chilli can be tomorrow’s sloppy joes. Re-use and rework your meals, ensuring you don’t waste a drop. Water, space, time and kitchenware is limited when cooking in a campervan so create meals that can be eaten the next day too without starting from scratch. Great leftover meals include curry, casseroles and risotto.
10. DON’T COOK IN A CAMPERVAN
Our final tip, is to in fact not cook in a campervan kitchen at all. Instead, use your campsite’s kitchen. The communal kitchens are a great way to meet other travellers, find recommendations of new destinations, share food and advice. The best part, they often have “free shelves” full of spices, pasta, tinned foot etc. for you to help yourself to. Similar to Point 3 – if you take from the free shelf, it’s good campervan cooking karma to give also. Similarly, we stumbled across numerous BBQ areas during our road trip, another ideal spot to cook those smelly smoky meats not in your van!