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I am using a campervan 3 nights per week, 40 weeks per year. I have a single gas powered hob (like most camping stoves), a sink with running water and am seeking advice to cook efficiently with as minimal cleaning as possible.

Caveat: I don't have a fridge/freezer but median temperature in the UK is extremely low (my olive oil froze today! haha)

  • Ingredients
  • Techniques for protecting the pan from cooked food residue
  • Efficient cooking and storage techniques without a fridge / freezer
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    One of my office mates used to have a small thermoelectric fridge that could run off of 12v. It looks like there's a few different brands that make them, but a significant percentage of online reviews mention early failure. – Joe Jan 26 '17 at 4:02
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    @Joe the TE fridges are really inefficient. They draw around 4A constantly (they don't have a thermostat and rely on running flat out, which end up too cold in the OP's case). If the OP is running a typical 100Ah leisure battery that means the battery would be discharged enough to shorten its life in a day, so only really suitable while driving or plugged in. I have a 12V compressor fridge with a thermostat. On average it draws about 1/4 of that on a hot day. But they're expensive. If you don't have electric hookup in a camper the best alternative is a gas fridge (usually 12V/gas/mains) – Chris H Jan 26 '17 at 7:37
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    I know nothing about your work situation but if (like here) you have access to a freezer and shops, you could easily go old-school and use ice packs plus a cool box/bag or two. Or daily shopping of course. Exact approach would vary depending on how you get from the pitch to work (in my case it was 7+ miles by bike). – Chris H Jan 26 '17 at 11:58
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    I have water, fridge and cleaning facilities at work. At present I am pitching in the gym car park (member). The routine is *Up, *Coffee, *WorkOut, *Shower, *Breakfast of Porridge/Protein,*Drive to Work, *Work, *CleanUp pots etc at work, *Drive to Climbing Wall, *Climbing Wall, *Snack, *Drive to Pitch/Gym, *Work Out, *Shower, *Evening Meal, *Sleep, *Repeat. – Venture2099 Jan 26 '17 at 12:03
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    You have a couple of factors that you can use to your advantage by the sounds of it: Dinners can be stored in the work fridge until not long before cooking (at this time of year you probably don't even need a coolbox), you should get a battery top-up from the driving – Chris H Jan 26 '17 at 13:42
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I've done a lot a single ring camping cooking. My camper van has a bit more kitchen than yours but I still take a similar approach when staying in it and going to work. Here's a typical example that worked for me.

  • I cooked a curry at home and put a portion in the fridge (freezing is also an option).
  • When camping I boiled water and put it in a vacuum flask.
  • Then I heated the curry in my larger of two pans, with a lid on but stirring frequently. Heating gently meant it didn't stick.
  • Cooking the rice (using the recently boiled water, and an excess of it rather than measuring) took place in the smaller pan, using the larger as a lid to keep the sauce hot.
  • Then I drained the rice water into a mug or similar, added the sauce to the rice, and poured the cooking water into the sauce pan with some washing up liquid so it could soak while I ate and would be easy to wash up. (I used mess things to cook in and eat from when in the tent, it's easier with a few more containers).

The same thing works with pasta. Noodles (ramen) cook much quicker than spaghetti, saving fuel, and make a perfectly acceptable substitute. The principle of keeping one thing hot over the top of the other is key, as is a vacuum flask. Washing up in starchy water doesn't work very well, but soaking and prewashing do, allowing you to wash up in a minimum of water.

If you don't want to rely on taking home made ready meals there are plenty of books and blogs devoted to one-ring recipes (recipe requests are off topic here anyway).

Pasta, rice and noodles all work quite well, needing no preparation. Frying can be a pain if you're cooking in the van - it makes things greasy and the smell lingers, but in dry weather it works outside (if you can take the stove out). A canned (jar/packet etc. ) sauce can be used with something like tinned tuna if you don't have fridge space. Defrosting in a cool bag can take 24 hours or more and it uses a lot of gas to defrost on the stove.

  • This is the exact kind of answer I was looking for. Much appreciated Chris. Especially the tips on defrosting. – Venture2099 Jan 25 '17 at 14:55
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Good answer above. I would respectfully add that the pot that you use for cooking is of great importance. The very best pots have a "flux ring" attached to the bottom of the pot around the outside edge. This ring captures any heat that would have escaped around the bottom of the pot and transfers that heat to your food. There are several flux ring pots on the market. And more coming. The ones I use are made by JetBoil. I have the stew pot, the frypan and the original boiler. All of these make efficient use of your fuel.

  • One should be cautious of using heat exchangers in enclosed spaces. There are reports of the HEs being so efficient they cause insufficient burning due to the flame temperature being reduced, leading to higher carbon monoxide production. – RoboKaren Jan 27 '17 at 9:13
  • Thanks for the heads up. This thought had never occurred to me. I would love to learn more about this phenomenon. – SolarJimmy Jan 29 '17 at 4:00

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