Do I Need an Oven?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2013 • all rights reserved

Wondering if you really care about having an oven on the boat? I can't answer for you, but I can give you some questions to ask yourself.

“We’re replacing the stove on our boat and trying to decide if we should get one with an oven.”

“The boat we’re thinking of buying doesn’t have an oven.  Is that going to be a problem?”

“Will I be happy with just an Omnia Stove Top Oven?”

I’ve gotten a few emails with variations on these questions, and also recently seen some discussions in forums.  Here are my thoughts and I’ll start by saying that there is no universal answer.

I’ve known cruisers on 43′ boat that replaced their stove/oven with just a cooktop because they had never used the oven in over three years of cruising and wanted the storage space.  I’ve also known people with a 25′ monohull that gave up the one large locker in their galley in order to put an oven in.

If you truly never use your oven ashore, then it’s pretty likely you won’t use one on the boat.  And you’re not going to care about stovetop baking options, either (and, frankly, you’re not the ones asking this question).

There are others who can’t conceive of not having a “normal” oven — and likewise, they’re not asking this question.

The gray area comes with people who do use the oven some, but wonder if it’s really worth giving up the storage space to have one on the boat.  And while they’ve heard of baking on the stove top, they wonder how feasible it is as their only way to bake.

If you don’t intend to ever roast a chicken, turkey or anything else that is particularly large, an Omnia Stove Top Oven works very well.  I absolutely love mine and use it quite a bit on camping trips.  Lately, I’ve even been using it most of the time at home as I’m working on writing an ebook with recipes and tips.

The Omnia does a very good job of baking once you get used to the whole concept of baking on the stove top, but it holds as much as an 8″ x 8″ pan.  If you want to bake larger quantities, you’ll have to do it in two batches.  And if you want to bake two things at once, you’ll have to have two of them.  Foods tend not to brown on the top and there is no broiler.

So, questions to ask yourself:

  • How often do I bake?  How often do I think I’ll bake on the boat?  If you’re a weekend boater, you may prefer to have quick meals to make the most of the other activities that boating allows.  Conversely, I know many full- or part-time cruisers who have taken up baking as they have retired, moved aboard the boat and have time.
  • How much time do I spend on the boat?  What can work for weekends and the occasional week aboard may not suffice if you’re living aboard full time.
  • Consider the storage space that you will be giving up or gaining and how important it is to you.  Remember that you can store some pans in the oven and that it’s a good place to put small electronics in case of a thunderstorm to protect them from a lightning strike (read more about this).
  • Using either a conventional oven or the Omnia puts heat into the boat, but the Omnia can also be used on the grill to keep heat out of the boat in hot weather (far easier with a gas grill than charcoal, however).
  • Will I want to bake things that are just too large for the Omnia?
  • Will I want to broil?  If you are only thinking of using the boiler to make toast, there are other options.  But if you want it for other things . . .
  • There is a learning curve with the Omnia — it’s just not what any of us are used to using.  It’s not horribly difficult, but it may take using it a few times before you get things to come out just how you want them.  If you’re the type that gets frustrated by this (and will never try again if you have poor results the first time), stick with a conventional oven.
  • Only you know if you’d consider baking on the stovetop just too much of a “camping” experience.  For some people, having “normal” kitchen appliances (think Mr. Coffee, a refrigerator and the ability to have ice) are musts.  Others are happy as long as the results are good.

If you are contemplating a new stove or a galley refit, another important consideration is what size stove/oven you could install.  If you only have room for a small one, carefully consider whether it will do what you are envisioning.  All ovens are not created equal.  NOTE:  The size oven is also important if you’re buying a boat.

You must have at least 1″ of airspace on all sides of a pan, and 2″ will give much better results:  what size pan can you put in the oven?  Smaller ovens tend to have far more problems with hot spots and with losing heat every time the door is opened.  If all you have room for is a stove with a tiny oven, you might be a lot happier with the Omnia and baking on top of the stove.

For me:  I bake quite a bit. My personal preference would be to have a good-sized 3-burner stove and oven.  But it’s not something that would be a deal killer if I didn’t as I know that I could do 95% of what I want to in the Omnia with good results.

For a weekend boat, particularly if it were smaller and storage space was a even bigger consideration, or if I couldn’t have an oven that would hold a 9″ x 13″ pan, I’d probably prefer the Omnia.  The only US/Canada retailer for the Omnia is Sea Dog Boating Solutions — see them here.

What are your thoughts?  Have you — or are you — made a choice one way or another? What was the deciding factor?

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Comments

  1. LOL A little difficult finding room for an oven on our Hartley ts16.Love your site,by the way.

  2. Omnia for sure. Captain has suggested I get one for home I use it that often

  3. When we buy our boat, I assumed we would want an oven. Between this Omnia, and a pressure cooker, I’m not so sure now. How is the Omnia for baking bread, rolls, biscuits etc.?

  4. Hi – I’m loving your site and am getting lots of great tips for when we start cruising full-time next month in NZ. We don’t have a stove on our current boat and I was just going to make do without. However, we’ll be looking to buy a new boat in the States next year and I have been thinking about what kind of galley set-up we want so this is a really timely post.

    I was also wondering if you had ever tried any of those thermal cookers – the kind where you start cooking something on the hob and then let it finish cooking in a thermal bag? If you have tried them or know of anyone who has, are they worth it and do they really work?

    Thanks!

  5. Okay. I have decided when we replace our stove I will choose the Omnia. We have been at dock for a few years, now, so we have had the luxury of a microwave and toaster oven. We intend to head south in the next year or two, and so now I must decide on a 2 or 3 burner stovetop and what about those btu’s…

  6. Derek Middleton says:

    we use a Hamilton Beach portable oven you can stow it just about anywhere and take out when needed. Can use outside and not heat up the boat too.

  7. I need to bake gluten ( and dairy) free so it would be an interesting experiment, as gluten free baking often gives mixed results even in a home oven.

  8. Love my oven!
    Glad my bbq has a lid though so I can roast outside when it is hot. But I love the oven for pizzas and bread making. I am spoilt. 🙂

  9. We’re buying a boat and it actually has a microwave/convection oven. I know how to use the microwave, however, I’m having difficulty finding cookbooks on the convection cooking. We haven’t been out on the boat yet (will pick it up in December). Is there anything I can find?

    • Our new(to us) boat has no oven, just combination microwave/convection unit. I would love some advice on how to use the convection oven..

  10. I read about the Omni oven and thought it sounded perfect. I bought one to try on land before we took off cruising. Loved it do much when we bought our boat that we had the old Dickenson diesel stove/oven replaced with a two burner stove only. Haven’t regretted it for s moment. I make meat loaf and muffins and also use it to reheat food. Between the Omni and s pressure cooker, we are all set. P.S. Any women sailors that I have met read and quote you faithfully. Thanks for your posts.

  11. I’m in the market for a used stove with oven, alcohol preferable … as previous owner ruined stove with kerosene …

  12. We bought an Omnia a few months ago after reading out it on your site. Can’t wait to try it out this season!

  13. Having a boat for over 15 years, both with or without.
    Oven rules. Just my humble opinion.

  14. Alcohol will not get hot enough.

  15. There is a lot of round food in the world, but I want my lasagna and brownies to be square or rectangular. I guess I’m funny that way.

    • I use smaller pans that I have found or created in my omnia oven if I want to make a different shape…it makes smaller portions of course but I agree that it is sometimes nice to get a different shape then the” bunt pan” look. I even make cupcakes in it too.

  16. We have two , a Rayburn for winter and one in the galley for summer , I would not be without eitherps the Rayburn is kerosene , it’s a Dom conversion my husband and brother in law put in,

  17. I LOVE my Omnia oven and practically use it every day…my only regret is that I don’t have two of them!

  18. LeMoine Jones says:

    Has anyone used the Nuwave convection cooktop? We have a live aboard friend who prefers it over her oven. Thanks for all the great info Carolyn!

  19. Is it made of stainless steel or cast iron?

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