Baking When It’s Hot?
As things are starting to warm up in Florida and points south, I’m getting questions from those who know we cruised full-time in the Sea of Cortez . . . without returning “home” during the hot months. They’re asking, “How do you cope with the heat and still have decent meals? Do you even think about baking?”
Two Schools of Thought
Basically, there are two schools of thought on the whole cooking when it’s hot issue (I’m assuming that you don’t have air conditioning aboard). Boats with good ventilation, such as ours, often tend to simply cook as usual, eat in the cockpit,and rely on wind scoops and fans to get the extra heat out of the boat fairly quickly.
Boats without a number of opening ports and hatches, as well as those in rainy climates where they frequently can’t open them, tend to go the route of trying to keep cooking heat out of the boat in the first place.
Cook as Usual
I’m one of the “cook as usual” types, but I will admit that it’s because Que Tal had great ventilation possibilities (we lucked into this; Que Tal was our first cruising boat and we didn’t know to really LOOK at the ventilation when evaluating boats). My strategies:
- We were primarily in an area with little rain and few bugs. So we left the hatches and ports open all the time and removed the screens from them (screens cut down on air flow considerably).
- A 4-way wind scoop over the v-berth brought fresh, relatively cool air down below (read about 4-way wind scoops and find out where the best deal on them is, it’s a cruiser-owned company)
- We acclimated ourselves to the heat . . . and the fact that we’re from the Midwest with hot, humid summers probably helps. This means staying active in the middle of the day, year-around. As the weather warmed up day to day, we naturally adjusted.
- Fans. Lots of fans. Read about my favorite 12-volt fans and also a good exhaust fan (again, made by cruisers) that just slips into place with no installation required.
- Plenty of power (for us, solar — read about our solar installation here) to power the fans, the refrigerator for cold drinks and the watermaker. Running your engine to supply puts a lot of heat into the boat. Having alternate ways to provide power — solar, wind or a generator — makes a tremendous difference.
- Contrary to many other boats, we didn’t use big canvas shades over the boat (other than the bimini and dodger) . . . the boat had come with custom canvas shades, but after using them a few times we felt that they just cut down on the air flow too much and the boat ended up being hotter.
Two other factors probably played into our style . . . first, we’ve never been big grillers, so it was natural for me to cook on the stove. And I’ve always done a fair amount of baking and as long as I could get the extra heat out of the boat fairly quickly, I was fine with using the oven. Maybe I didn’t cook as much stuff with long slow cooking as in the winter when I was trying to warm the boat up (we naturally eat somewhat lighter in the heat), but I didn’t consciously think about not heating the boat up when planning meals.
Basically, when it was hot out, we didn’t spend a lot of time below except to sleep. And with the wind scoop over the bed and two fans pointed at us, heat in the galley just never affected us. And since I only spent time near the galley when I was actually cooking, it didn’t bother me.
Keep Heat Out of the Boat
If you don’t have great ventilation — or are in a spot with lots of rain or where you have to use no-see-um netting which almost totally blocks air flow — the other option is to keep heat out of the boat in the first place. Strategies for this:
- Never using the oven and using the stove as little as possible. Make sun tea instead of using boiling water, cold cereal for breakfast, etc.
- Grill meats when you can (rainy or buggy conditions can prevent this at times, though)
- Lots of salad meals, either meatless or using canned meats that don’t need to be heated
- Thermos cooking for rice and beans (read how to do this)
- No-bake cookies and bars (see recipes for one that cooks a few minutes on the stove and one with no cooking at all)
- If you really get a hankering for something baked, use a muffin tin to cut the baking time considerably (read more). And think about whether you really need to preheat the oven (read more). You can also use an Omnia Stove Top Oven to bake on the grill.
How About You?
Do you still bake and “cook as usual” when it’s hot out? Got any more tips for beating the heat?