Let me start by saying that I think you can make great meals with whatever gear you have. It’s possible to make good, tasty and nutritious meals with nothing more than a dented aluminum pot, a teaspoon and a pocket knife. I certainly don’t think you need a bunch of gadgets to cook well — but a few good pieces of equipment will make things a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Leaving out the “big stuff” like whether or not to have a refrigerator or a watermaker, and also assuming that you’ve got things like dishes, glasses, silverware, some pans and basic items like a can opener, what are some of the little things that I find myself using time after time — and happy that I have?
That was the question that Kirsten asked me by e-mail this past weekend. She’d been reading through many of the outfitting articles and was starting to feel a little overwhelmed. She wanted to know what she might not have really thought about in equipping her galley.
I could list 50 or more items, but I’ve narrowed down my list to just 5 “items” (some are multi-part) that maybe you haven’t thought of if you’re just moving aboard . . . or starting to plan for moving aboard. Titles in each link to my detailed article on the item (except for the food storage containers — I just realized I haven’t written much about them) and the photos link directly to the product on Amazon if you want to see it there.
Baking Stone — Due to their smaller size, boat ovens tend to have uneven heat and other problems. A baking stone will do more to help baking in a typical boat oven than almost anything else, helping to retain heat and evening out hot spots. Just leave it in the oven and use it for everything you bake. Make sure it’s at least 1/2″ thick so it’s not likely to crack or break with the motion of the boat. See also Using a Baking Stone.
If you don’t have an oven, forget about the baking stone and get an Omnia Stove Top Oven. They are fantastic and by far the best way to bake on the stove top!
Mixing Bowl and Spoon — While you can use almost any container and spoon to mix things up, a mixing bowl and spoon designed for hand mixing (assuming you don’t have an electric mixer aboard) make it so much easier. And if you’re thinking about making yeast breads, a high-quality plastic bowl makes it a lot easier to tell when you’ve added the right amount of flour and makes it easy to knead right in the bowl without adding too much flour (read more about Making Bread). It can be difficult to find a good hand mixing spoon these days since so few people use them — but a good one makes mixing heavy batters and dough much easier.
Knives — Good knives are indispensable as I find myself cutting and chopping far more foods than when living ashore. One good knife will do you more good than a big set of cheap ones, but the reality is that I really want 4 knives aboard: a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a serrated/bread knife and a fillet knife, plus a good cutting board (non-slip and made of a material that’s not going to dull my knives) and a knife sharpener. You also need a good way to store your knives so that they don’t become dangerous missiles in rough seas (or even if a jet ski passes by). I really like the BladeSafe discussed in my article on knives!
Thermos — I found a really good Thermos (or maybe I should say, several really good Thermos bottles) to be another item I truly treasured on Que Tal. I used them for the typical coffee and hot drinks, sure, but they really added value in allowing me to make my own yogurt and in Thermos cooking (the cruiser’s answer to a crockpot). I’ve learned that there are considerable differences in how well insulated different brands of Thermos bottles are — be sure to read the results of my Thermos testing. A found that the extra money I spent on buying a better Thermos was well worth it!
Plastic Food Storage containers — on a boat, using old butter containers and yogurt tubs just won’t cut it. Lids will pop off with the slightest motion of the boat. Buying good containers will save a lot of money and aggravation in the long run. If you buy cheap ones, stuff will spill and you’ll be a lot less than happy cleaning out the refrigerator or locker (not to mention the “critters” that might find the spills before you do) . . . and then you’ll go out and buy better ones. Buy good ones initially and save yourself the aggravation!
There are several good brands of containers with positively locking lids — I like Lock & Lock (pictured) because they have the squarest shape and straightest sides, thus resulting in little wasted space. I was absolutely amazed at how many containers I needed to store all my provisions . . . and how much money I spent on them (easily over one hundred dollars, and more as I later picked up additional containers)!
It was tough to narrow this down to just five items . . . I’m sure that various readers will have other ideas of what they’ve come to really treasure over the years but didn’t really think about prior to spending time in their galley. Leave a note about your favorites that might be overlooked!