If you're more a liveaboard than cruiser, using a crock pot on the boat isn't really so crazy! Bonus: three non-electric slow cooker options for cruisers

A Crock Pot On Board?

I recently got an email asking what I thought of having a slow cooker (crock pot) on board.  The reader, Sharon, went on to explain that they were liveaboards and knew quite a few people in their community that used them.

I love this, as it points out the diversity of readers here on TBG.  Readers range from weekend trailer-sailors to those who spend vacations aboard near their home to part-time or commuter cruisers to those working their way around the world as well as those who live aboard full time but don’t necessarily cruise anywhere.  (There are also some who have RVs, tents or just a tiny kitchen.)  The common factor is that everyone has a galley of some type!

But all that diversity means that not every “answer” is applicable to everyone’s situation.  Tips that apply in one situation — say, someone who spends weekends on a 23′ trailerable boat — won’t necessarily be helpful to a family of 5 going around the world on a 60′ boat.

So, for someone who lives aboard but spends most or all of their time at the dock with shore power, my answer is that a crock pot can work well.  Just as well as it does for someone living ashore — put the food in the cooker in the morning, come home in the evening and dinner is ready.

The big concern here is if you’ve got the space to store  it.  In using it, be sure to wedge it in somewhere so that if a passing boat puts up a wake, it won’t slide off a counter.

However, if you’re not on shore power, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the power for a crock pot.

A slow cooker generally draws 1 to 2 amps on 120 AC power (depends on size and heat setting) — on 12-volt batteries, that’s 10 to 20 amps (plus some extra for losses in the inverter) and crock pots usually cook for 6 to 8 hours.  So if you’re running off batteries, that’s a minimum of 60 amp-hours to cook dinner, and probably more.  If you’re running a generator or motoring all day, you may have the power.

Most boats at anchor just don’t have that much power.  For them, I’ve talked about three other options that don’t take electricity: a Thermal Cooker, Thermos Cooking and the Wonderbag. All are forms of slow cooking that take a lot less heat and can be left unattended while you’re off doing other things.

A quick note on buying a slow cooker — be sure to get one with a removable crock for washing.  It’s horrible to have to wash one that you can’t immerse in water.  Size is important, too — it needs to be sized for what you’ll typically be cooking in it.  And read reviews to make sure that the “low” setting really is “low” — many are almost as hot as the high setting.

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50 Comments
  • Teresa Dennis
    Posted at 04 December 2012 Reply

    I love slow cooking at home, so for the boat I just got myself one of these:

    http://nb-wonderbag.com/

    Same theory as thermos cooking, and you can use it as a cushion when you aren’t using it. Haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but if it works the way it should it will be really handy.

    • Sharon
      Posted at 06 August 2013 Reply

      Looks interesting if it works and would have ability to use for larger items a thermos would not hold. Tried to see online to buy, however does not appear that I can from the US.

      • Carolyn Shearlock
        Posted at 06 August 2013 Reply

        Sharon — I just went to the buy page and yep, there’s no listing for the US. But if you go to the UK page — and maybe the others, I didn’t try all — they will ship to the US but it’s not cheap.

    • amy
      Posted at 04 October 2014 Reply

      I have used my wonder bag very successfully. Bring a soup or stew to boil, cover, then place the pot into the bag and seal it with the drawstring. Come back six hours later, and voila. They are available on amazon. Most importantly, for every wonder bag you purchase, one is donated to a poor family in Africa. This alleviates women from having to gather copious amounts of firewood, reduces deforestation and pollution, allows for the use of less expensive cuts of meat, and frees up a woman to work if she wants to instead of tending cook fires. http://amzn.to/1Q5k9QD

  • North South Nautical Group Inc. on Facebook
    Posted at 04 December 2012 Reply

    We agree!

  • Charles
    Posted at 15 December 2012 Reply

    A great alternative is the classic “hay box.” It’s essentially an insulated box or bag that you stuff your pot into. Same principle as thermos cooking.

    Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haybox
    Mother Earth News – http://www.motherearthnews.com/do-it-yourself/haybox-cooking-zmaz80jfzraw.aspx

    The wonderbag, mentioned previously, is one of many examples of the general type and theory. There are lots of old books on the subject. Look at Project Gutenberg, Google Books or Amazon for “thermal cooker,” “haybox cooking” and other variations.

    ~ Charles

  • Chris Skrotsky
    Posted at 31 May 2013 Reply

    Check out The Fast Slow Cooker by Breville. Sorry that I didn’t check the amps when I used it, but it is a true multi-tasker. It has a saute/sear mode for browning meats or onions before the next cooking step. It also has modes for slow cooking, pressure cooking, pressure steaming and warming. Included in the package are an interior steamer basket which can double as your colander, and a rack so that your meats don’t have to drown in broth for every recipe. It has a non-stick interior “crock” for cooking which was a snap to clean. We adore fresh artichokes, which were overcooked in 15 minutes in the pressure steam mode. It is large (14″ diameter at the handles, and 11/5″ diameter on the side without handles.) It fits nicely in my 12 x 14.5″ sink, because it is 17″ on the diagonal to fit the handles. Just tuck a towel in to protect the control pad. It is 10″ tall (without the lid) for stowing. The pressure regulator detaches from the lid, so I store it in a 1/2 cup Rubbermaid container. My only gripe is that the recipe section of the pressure steaming section is woefully inadequate (guidance for only 4 vegetables! Please!). I always made room for my Black & Decker steamer (veggies, hard cooked eggs, rice/grains) plus a Fagor pressure cooker. This device does all of that, except the eggs, plus much more. The artichokes used to take 45 minutes, and we had to use it in the cockpit with an extension cord in order to keep the steam out of the cabin. Now, I carry the cooker out to the cockpit and release the steam. The handles do not conduct heat, but I use my oven mitts anyway. The pressure valve is detachable from the lid, so I store it in the vessel in a 1/2 cup Rubbermaid container, to keep it safe. And I store the lid separately from the cooker to preserve the integrity of the O Ring seal. Hope this was helpful. Chris Skrotsky, Navicula (didn’t intend to mention the pressure valve twice, but this comment section is not user-friendly for editing)

  • Julie Sandler Lambert
    Posted at 05 August 2013 Reply

    I´m teaching a provisioning class this weekend. I had every intention of ordering a copy of your book to give away. Somehow this weekend just flew up on me! I plan to print the sample that you offered to show them why they need to pick up a copy for themselves if that is ok with you.

  • Jim Allen
    Posted at 05 August 2013 Reply

    I tried out the solar oven you did the article about. Worked great. Sort of like a solar crock pot!!

  • Frances Garrett
    Posted at 05 August 2013 Reply

    I’m lucky enough to live near my boat. There’s plenty of days I’ll start something in the crockpot at home and then take it to the boat to finish up. I’m lucky enough to have an old one that doesn’t get too hot. It’s great for starting ribs that we then finish on the barbeque.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 15 October 2013 Reply

    One of the advantages of a slow cooker for those plugged in is the low current draw. It is still well advised to check both ends of the shore power cord regularly, especially if you are running electric heat and staying near the capacity of your electrical system. Slow cookers are pretty gentle on the shore power system.

    We only use ours when plugged in at a dock. Part of planning when we do spend a day plugged in somewhere is to make up some chile and/or a pot roast in the slow cooker.

    As Carolyn notes, it isn’t for everyone and their cruising profile. For us, plugging in even once every six or eight weeks justifies the space for a slow cooker.

  • D and Don svsoutherncross
    Posted at 06 November 2013 Reply

    We found the slow cooker crock pot very useful while motoring through the Eric Canal and on the ICW. It fits very nicely in one half of our galley sink, leaving the other half for use. (a good reason to have two) It is extremely nice to have the wonderful aroma of your meal wafting up into the cock pit as you go along on a cool afternoon. Ours is 200 watts on high, so can actually can be operated on low from a small inverter. It will draw about 20 amps from the alternator. Not a big load if the engine is running anyway.

    D & Don

  • Dan
    Posted at 27 February 2014 Reply

    I got a wonderful gizmo from HSN that is under Emeril Lagasse’s brand name (and btw, when you consider he could get a million bucks just for agreeing to lend his name to a product I am continually impressed with his integrity and the really HIGH quality of everything I’ve ever gotten under his name–unlike some other celeb chefs–and this is no exception) They call it a “Multi-Cooker” and it combines different functions including a typical slow-cooker/crockpot with a rice cooker mode, a steamer for veggies (with a tray insert–you can even braise meats on the lower part and do the veggies above all at once) a baking mode (yes, you can make a cake in it!) and other variations. This is obviously great for a boat because one device taking up one device’s space, and it works wonderfully. I also like that, for example for pot roast, you can use it on the high heat setting to first sear the meat to seal in the flavor with a touch of oil or butter, then throw in the veggies and liquids and set it to slow-cook them all together, which saves you the extra pan and cleanup you’d need to use a skillet for the searing operation first. The Emeril “Multi-Cooker” is available from HSN off and on, usually when they’re doing a sale or he’s there to plug it with his other stuff, so watch for it and get one. One of the best cooking gizmo’s I’ve ever gotten. (NOTE: this is different from the pressure cooker that he also sells, which is great too, and looks similar so be sure you’re getting the one you want.)

  • Susan Kohler MacDonald
    Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

    I even used mine while we were motoring on the ICW. Put it in the galley sink so it wouldn’t slide around from passing wakes and we had dinner pretty much done when we got the anchor down.

  • Donna Cantwell
    Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

    WonderBag is great when power an issue! Crockpot, pressure cooker, wonder bag are friends of liveaboards whether working or not! Loved this cooking process on dirt….natural transition on board.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

      I’ve written about the Wonderbag and also about the Thermos Nissan Thermal Cooker (both are great), but some just wonder about having a traditional crock pot.

    • Kim Morse
      Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

      Whenever we are stuck motoring all day, there is nothing better than having that meal ready. Use the crock pot often in that situation. Have been able to convert many of my recipes to crock pot use.

  • Susan Leaf
    Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

    We have a small crock pot on board that we use underway and at anchor. Using an inverter and setting it on low works best. The solar panels keep the batteries charged enough to run it at anchor, as long as the sun cooperates!

  • June Stein Kelly
    Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

    I brought the crock pot on the boat a small one and it just used too much energy. Used it once and brought it back home.

  • Wayne Smith
    Posted at 19 June 2014 Reply

    EcoPot is the way to go. Uses no power an have slow cooked meals to die for. We love it.

  • Scott
    Posted at 22 June 2014 Reply

    I’ve seen a 12 volt crock pot in truck stops. It would be interesting if some one has used one and can give their opinion on it. It should be more efficient since it bypasses the inverter. The ones that I saw were small, so may be more efficient for one or 2 people.

  • Boater's Planet
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    One of the best things we use onboard.

  • Angela D Smith
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    I would rather go pressure cooker

  • Marta Crichlow
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    I am experimenting and appreciating my Saratoga Jack Thermal cooker

  • Jo-Anne Mason
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    I was going to ask you about the Instant Pot I see on Amazon. We can not use it because it matches our inverter but I was wondering if you have had any experience with it.

  • Josh Wilkinson
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    I’ve mastered crock pot lasagna.

    • Jan Bogart
      Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

      I make it in the microwave…20 minutes with uncooked noodles!

    • Jan Bogart
      Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

      also live at a dock now…lol

    • Josh Wilkinson
      Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

      I use uncooked noodles also. But I like the crockpot pot because my Denali has an inverter in it so I plug in the crockpot when I leave my house in DC area and by the time we reach the boat in Cape Hatteras wa la. Plus I like that I can throw anything but the kitchen sink in the crockpot and in a few hours it’s done.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

      YUM!

    • Jan Bogart
      Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

      My meat sauce is a two day production, always in the crockpot. hmmm, now itching for lasagna!!

    • Josh Wilkinson
      Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

      I do make my meat sauce a day or 2 ahead of time. Then I load up the layers in the crock pot a roll.

  • Bec Davey
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    For uk sailors Mr D’s Thermal cooker is the way to go. No power after initial boil…keeps warm for hours..and can do a beef brisket! And gives plenty of time for the G and T before dinner..its as if someone else has done the cooking!

  • Bonnie Gibson-Cunningham
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    Trawler friends fill the crockpot & put it in the sink every passage. We were jealous!

  • Love Sail Social Network And Online Dating
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    I’ve always wondered about this, thanks for posting, I’ll share,

  • Karin Drake
    Posted at 07 March 2017 Reply

    I made my own cooking bag and then a few for friends and family on land. I was able to make them to fit the pots they had. The bags are just amazing. you can settle them into a small space easily and your meals really are prepare and forget. even after 7 hours the pot is still almost too hot to touch. You do have to have your food cooking well on gas for about 20 minutes to get the cooking process started but once that’s done its easy peasy. For landlubbers on a budget it’s a great way of saving on the power bill too.

  • Terry Bogart
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    Love my crockpot. Think I’ll get it out and make something today to celebrate having electricity in PR!

  • Sharon Holmes
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    Penny Forbes show this to Jim

  • Susan Leaf
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    For the two of us, we have a 2 1/2 qt. crockpot. We can run it on low on an inverter while motoring to have a hot meal when we anchor. It can also run during sunny days using the power from our solar panels.

  • Samantha Kahn
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    I use mine all the time!

  • Nils Reuterdahl
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    Recommend the crockpot for liveaboard and cruisers. Look for one that will store inside your oven and small, maybe 200 watt power usage paired with similar size inverter. Use it on deck to keep the heat out of the galley! Never use shore power or gen

  • Brian Yates
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    Sixty to just do dinner would be a killer. We use about 85 Ah per day to run the boat at anchor. Includes fridge, freezer and everything else. We have 200W of solar with another 100 in process.

    We are coastal cruisers (newly retired) so the goal is to be as self sufficient as possible and only run the generator occasionally. Now if the water maker was only cheaper.

    We just bought a Captain Jack thermal cooker and cookbook. Now to work out the various recipes we like and provisioning. For them.

    Keep up the great work Carolyn.

    Brian
    S/V Hakuna Matata
    San Diego

  • Gena Beckett Olson
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    I have an Instant Pot, that is both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker! Love it!!

  • Mary Mackenburg-Mohn
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    We live aboard part of the year. This summer I took my Instant Pot and used it nearly every day. Between that and the grill, I did not use the stove once! So many advantages to it.

  • Laine Common
    Posted at 26 October 2017 Reply

    Thinking of replacing my crock and rice cooker with an instant pot… I’m just not sure. We have to have the gen running for all of them, and I’m hearing tales of how the instant pot isn’t really all that instant… I just don’t know.

    • Nicki Pendergast
      Posted at 28 October 2017 Reply

      While some things are not instant, it’s still waaaay faster than a crockpot. And then, a few things are just dang quick.
      Highly recommend Instant Pot.
      It’s an all in one!!!

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