Forums » In the Kitchen

Ideas needed for cooking in a minimalist outdoor kitchen

    • 1210 posts
    June 18, 2014 11:46 AM PDT

    So, I'm moving into a camper over the next couple of weeks.  The camper has been on my land for a few weeks but oral surgery meant I couldn't clean out the mouse droppings or haul the blocks to put under it and etc.   I should be cleared for heavy/dirty labor on Friday!   I will have to change much of the way I cook.  There is no electricity and no running water.  I'll be hauling water in gallon jugs.   I WILL have a really nice propane stove with 2 burners, on a sturdy table.

    I've invited my bookclub (they were warned!) to meet there on June 28th and am wondering what impressive but easy to make and easy to clean up dish I can serve as the main entree'. People will bring sides and dessert and drinks.   We have the usual issues you get with any group these vegan, 2 paleos, 1 non-dairy, a vegetarian


    • 2792 posts
    June 18, 2014 10:24 PM PDT

    Maggie- do you have a propane grill (barbecue)?  You could do a fix your own Pizza with  toppings they could choose from themselves.  Only idea I have.


    • 1331 posts
    June 19, 2014 9:51 AM PDT

    The paleos really throw me for a loop...I know very little about the paleo diet.  Could you make a base salad or greens and veggies, then mix up something like chicken salad and tuna salad along with other "toppings" (bacon, shredded cheese, boiled eggs etc.) so people can build their own entree salad to suit their dietary restrictions?

    • 1210 posts
    June 19, 2014 12:38 PM PDT

    no gril...just the propane burner stovetop for now.  

    The salad bar might  work well! 

    Having paleos and vegans together means that more than once I've brought spiced of the only areas where their diets overlap.

    • 3299 posts
    June 30, 2014 8:18 AM PDT

    How did this group meal go?

    I hope we can get more ideas for you for the next time and for your overall meal planning in future days.



    • 1210 posts
    June 30, 2014 1:36 PM PDT

    The meal went well!  I decided to do something I could just "heat up" and everything else was basically shelf stable.  I got clearance from the oral surgeon to clean out the mouse poo well ahead of the event, but not to lift heavy things so no outdoor kitchen construction.  Only the very small camper stove, and zero counter space, to work with.  So, I went to the farmer's market and got free-range organic brats that were fully cooked (hot smoked) and frozen solid.  I also got some vegan keilbasa for the vegan.  I supplemented these with nice brat buns from the food co-op, 5 types of my own homemade mustard, and some of my homemade sauerkraut (I'd used red cabbage so it was quite colorful).  Others brought the sides and desserts.  We had 2 bean salads, grain-free vegan scones (surprisingly good for having most of the ingredients substituted for others), chips and salsa, and various chocolate treats.

    Frieneds had come over and cleared out and area under a spruce tree leaving branches hanging nearly to the ground, but with enough headroom to stand up.  This is right next to the camper (like 2 feet from the door).  I put the camper dining table on saw horses outside for the serving area (the table had pulled out of the deteriorating wall and I only use that area for a bed anyway) and the top from a folding table over 2 plastic storage bins (used to transport the food and utensils and things) to the site.   A few embroidered dish towels made a reasonable table cloth.

    They were pretty happy with the set up.  We'd read "The Little Prince" and had a nice chat about it in my tiny world.

    • 358 posts
    June 30, 2014 6:36 PM PDT

    Maggie, I wonder if you have heard about this product called the Wonderbag?  Its a little expensive, but there are some DIY instructions on-line on how to make your own if you can sew.

    Here's a site with the DIY tutorial:

    The Wonderbag is a heat retention bag that essentially slowcooks your food without electricity and has been utilized in Africa and places where fuel is scarce.  You basically bring your food up to a boil for about 20 minutes and then stick it in the bag to cook for several hours.  Might be useful when you're living off a camp stove!


    • 1331 posts
    June 30, 2014 7:48 PM PDT

    I've read about the Wonderbag and I'm pretty curious about it.  I know that there's a lot of concern about it actually staying at a food safe temperature, but I think it's one of those things where you just don't really know until you give it a try and take the temp yourself when you're ready to eat.  It's definitely interesting! I'd love to try it myself but not willing to pay for one. Even on Amazon they're pricey.

    • 1210 posts
    July 2, 2014 5:57 PM PDT

    MrsO,  I have seen the wonderbag.  It's a great thing but the reviews were tepid.  I thought I'd go even lower tech and do an old fashioned hay box.  Same theory, and I can form it to fit my cast iron dutch oven, or any pan I like really.  Since I live in a hay field now...might as well use what I have. Also, I can't sew a stitch.  I can however stuff hay in a least I hope I can.  I have an old steel ammunition box from either WWI or WWII that should work well.  If I paint it black and set it in the sun this summer, it will help it stay hot.  ...oh my gosh!  I just realized that I could totally make a solar oven out of that thing!  It's insulated already (I guess the ammunition had to stay stable or something).  It is super heavy though. 

    • 358 posts
    July 2, 2014 6:06 PM PDT

    Maggie, might be a good time to learn how to dutch oven cook too!  I'd love to dig a hole, throw in some coals and make a big pot of beans!  We have relatives that compete in chuck wagon competitions and it looks so fun!

    • 1210 posts
    July 3, 2014 1:12 PM PDT

    That would be fun!  And wouldn't heat up the camper.

    • 54 posts
    July 14, 2014 3:59 PM PDT

    This might save you a few bucks on propane. Also, check out online plans for rocket stoves.
    I totally envy you the solar cooker.
    • 1210 posts
    July 16, 2014 6:44 PM PDT
    Thanks for the link!
    • 3299 posts
    July 17, 2014 4:46 AM PDT

    How are things going, Maggie?

    • 1210 posts
    July 17, 2014 9:49 AM PDT
    It's been fun! The biggest challenge is downsizing. This week & weekend are all about shredding old paperwork. Furniture is in storage. Wardrobe will get 1 last cull then winter clothes into storage. I found a table to put the propane stove on & will use an old desk for the solar cooker so the outdoor kitchen is getting there.
    • 3299 posts
    July 20, 2014 9:08 AM PDT

    Glad to hear that it's coming along!


    • 54 posts
    July 29, 2014 9:26 AM PDT
    This hint's a little more expensive but it will save fuel and time. Get a Nissan Thermos wide-mouth all stainless steel model. You can cook lentils in it or boil soaked white, mayocoba, adzukis etc 30 minutes and pour into the preheated thermos where they will finish cooking. Makes enough for 2 or 3 days for a single.
    • 1210 posts
    July 29, 2014 12:29 PM PDT

    Great!  thanks.  I've got a "Stanley" brand wide-mought food bottle so I'll give that a try.  I also decided to bring all my beverage thermoses (thermosi?)  to the camper.  That way when I make a pot of water for tea, I can pour the rest of the hot water in a thermos and it will be ready for tea, washing up, or a morning face wash before I get the sunshower going or go into the gym before work.    I've got a pint, quart and 2 quart thermoses. 


    I stayed out there last night.  it was SO QUIET even with the highway next door.  No street lights shining in the windows was wonderful too.  I did learn that you can only drop cheapo LED lights a few times before they are done.  I still have a couple left.  There is enough light from the milkyway that I didn't need a flashlight to get to the composting toilet in the middle of the night.  Living in town i forget about starlight.