“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?