Cooking On A Boat (No Oven, No Appliances)

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Many people ask us how we cook on board – isn’t the galley too small? Don’t we miss having electrical appliances? Not really! As I (Elena) mentioned in our post about what we eat on board Kittiwake, we have a varied diet, which includes risottos, fish and vegetables, Parmigiana, “tortizzas”, and more. Check out that blog post if you need some meal ideas.

In this post, we’ll talk about how we cook on board our small boat. Our only high tech appliances are a small fridge and a cooker. Ready? Here we go.

Baking, without an oven

We have a tiny oven on Kittiwake, but it’s so old, most of the heat escapes from the sides (it’s not insulated) and cooking a few sweet potato fries takes over an hour. We never use it – those sweet potato fries were the only thing we ever attempted to cook in it. How do we bake, then? By using a pan and lid, easy!

Fine, you can’t really bake bread in a normal frying pan, but we can make almost any meal in ours. We make “tortizzas” (a pizza with a tortilla base), rosemary and garlic flatbread, parmigiana, lasagna and more. We just use a high sided frying pan with a lid. All you need to do is to cook the whole meal at low heat with the lid on. Oh and use shredded cheese for ease of melting.

Once we’re ready for some real baking and fancy a bit of normal bread, traditional pizza, a nut roast, or cakes, we’ll get ourselves a nice Omnia oven (see it here). This is a portable “oven” – basically a baking tin with a cover that allows you to bake anything on a cooker. We heard lots of good things about it. I bet you can make a much nicer looking lasagna than mine in it!

Pizza cooking

Blending, without a blender

Lots of people dread having limited power supply because they think they’ll have to say goodbye to smoothies and homemade hummus. They couldn’t be more wrong. We cook all sorts of sauces (tzatiki, hummus and mayo to name just a few), smoothies and soups with a simple and very inexpensive (£20) manual blender. You simply pull on a string to get the blade into action and add water if your food needs a little help getting smooth. It’s a nice arm workout too.

This is the one we use; it’s small so it fits in our tiny galley, but it can make a decent quantity of hummus. If you cook for more than two, you may want to get this bigger one, which holds 1L – that’s what we’ll get on the new boat, as it has lots of great reviews on

Having a BBQ, without a barbecue

No space or cash for a BBQ? You don’t have to give up on your favourite BBQ meals. A cast iron grill pan like this one is a cheap and storage-efficient solution to keep having those prawn skewers. Just fire up your cooker and use the pan to create your favourite BBQ meals. Then of course, depending on where you cruise and whether it’s legal, you could have a nice fire on the beach and invite other cruisers to join you.

Now, if you have the money and space for a BBQ, our friends have recommended either the Magma (which you can mount on your railing) or the Cobb barbecues (which is completely portable), both in the gas option. Why? Because it’s usually much easier to pick up a few gas cartridges at the shops every now and then than to find and store charcoal or wood. This one is on our wish list for Christmas and something tells me (spoiler alert) it’ll come as a joint present for myself and Ryan from my family.

Slow cooking, without a slow cooker

Slow cookers have become super fashionable on land – everyone has one! No need to get those huge pots on a boat though (no space!) – just get yourself a pressure cooker. That’s what my mum has been using all her life to make stews and soups. Every cruiser swears by it. A pressure cooker keeps the heat in and maximises it, so it’s perfect for cooking in hot climates. It also saves gas, as you only need to have the gas on for a short time.

I have to say, we don’t own one yet, but we’ll definitely buy a pressure cooker for the new boat, as there should be space for one. Whichever pot you choose, go for a good brand like this one – you won’t want it to explode on your boat! It can be extremely dangerous, so make sure it’s a trusted brand and it closes and seals properly.

Oh and if you really want a slow cooker rather than a pressure cooker, you can opt for a non-electric portable slow cooker (like this one) – it’s basically an insulating blanket for a pot that has the same effect as a slow cooker.

mussel risotto

Barista coffee, without a coffee machine

Don’t get hung up on wanting to take the exact (electric) coffee machine you use at home onto the boat. Why waste money and fossil fuels on a generator or running the engine (noisy!) just because of an old habit? People have been drinking delicious coffee for centuries, without needing a silly machine. In fact, having a coffee machine at home has only become fashionable in the last ten years or so.

There are lots of great options to make good coffee on a boat. Here’s the main ones:

  • French press – just pour in some boiled water and place your favourite coffee at the bottom. See a boat-safe one here.
  • Moka – make your own espresso in the old school Italian machine. This is the real deal. See a proper Italian moka here.
  • Filter coffee – just use a pour-over coffee maker. See a cheap one here.

Oh and if what you really crave is a latte or a flat white, get one of these manual milk frothers (it’s worth going for a branded one). Pour the milk into the pot and warm it up. Just before it boils, make the froth by pushing the frother up and down. Tada! Your milk froth is ready to be poured into your homemade artisan coffee. Guess what? It tastes just as good as a barista one, if you buy high quality coffee.

My favourite method? Make coffee in my French press, then froth cold milk up by shaking the milk box up and down vigorously. That’s a simple and quick “latte” I can enjoy every morning. I’m no latte purist though!

Steaming, without a steamer

If you’re a big fan of steaming, you can keep going even on board. You don’t need an electrical steamer or even one of those expensive and huge steaming pot towers that would likely fall off the minute you put them on the stove in a rolly anchorage. A simple steaming plate that fits in your pot of choice (it needs to have a lid and be fairly high, so the plate and veggies can fit), a little water under it and a good lid will do the job. The water will boil under the food and the lid will keep the steam inside the pot, so the food gets steamed.

Get yourself a cheap steaming plate like this one and get steaming. Bonus tip: try not to wash the tray in salt water, dry it right after use and put it away in a drawer or vertical storage box to prevent rust.


I hope you found this post helpful. Do you have any other tricks for cooking on a boat without electrical appliances or oven? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!


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