What are the best pots and pans for a boat or any small kitchen? Whatever cookware you get, this is something that you’ll use everyday and, outside of your galley appliances such as the refrigerator and stove, will probably be the most expensive bit of galley gear you’ll buy. You want to get it right the first time.
Magma Nestable Cookware
I have always used and recommended the Magma Nestable Cookware Sets (shown above). The “standard” set comes with 10 pieces (5 pans, 2 lids, 2 handles and a bungee) in several varieties: stainless, non-stick ceramic, non-stick Teflon and stainless that’s designed for induction stoves. Most of these have a stainless exterior although there is also a gorgeous blue exterior available on some. There is also a 7-piece stainless set.
More recently (October 2015), I saw a similar set from Galleyware. It appears to have similar heavy bottoms, nests and has good locking handles, but I have not used it. The prices are quite good and they throw in plastic storage lids for the sets. See them here.
I used an earlier non-stick version of the 10-piece Magma set for six years aboard Que Tal and loved it. It meets all my criteria for great boat cookware. That set stayed on the boat when we sold her. When we moved ashore and into a tiny house, I purchased the Magma 7-piece starter set which I also loved. I have not used the ceramic nonstick set — one reader reported that they got it and loved it. If you’re thinking of getting the stainless pans, read how you can make them nonstick here.
- Useful Pan Sizes. In 6 years, I never felt the need for another size pan. This set includes a 1-1/2-, 2-, and 3-quart size sauce pan, with a 5-quart stock pot and a 9-1/2 inch frying pan. For 2 people living aboard, and occasional guests and pitch in dinners, I never needed anything else. The two lids each work with several of the pans, and on the few occasions that I needed a third lid I just used a piece of aluminum foil. Another consideration is that these sizes of pans will fit in almost any pot restraints (if your stove is particularly small, you may want to measure).
- Easily Stowed. Pans can take an inordinate amount of space in a boat kitchen. These take up a space about 12 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches high, due to the nesting design and the fact that the handles are removable.
- Removable Handles. Those removable handles actually do several things for this set — they make it so that the pans nest together much more tightly so that they take less space; they make it so that the pans can be used in the oven as well as on the stovetop; and they make the pans more suitable for use as serving dishes (for example, the sauce pans make nice salad bowls if the handles aren’t attached). When needed, the handles attach securely, so that you’re not afraid of spilling hot food. Many cheaper sets have “fold down” handles that tend to “fall down” next to the burner and get VERY hot in use — I really don’t like those!
- Multi-Use Set. If your space is really limited (and whose isn’t in a galley), this set can serve as your mixing bowls, stovetop cookware, baking pans and serving dishes. For our first three years aboard Que Tal, this was my “one and only” set and it worked fine for everything I made — bread, casseroles, brownies and more. Eventually I added a few more baking pans and serving dishes, but this was a great starting point.
- High Quality Pans. Many nesting “camping” pans are thin metal, prone to hot spots that can scorch your food. These aren’t. They are heavy-duty stainless with triple-clad bottoms. There’s less chance of hot spots and the stainless won’t rust or react with acidic foods the way many cheaper aluminum pans will.
- Non-Stick or Not? I had the non-stick set on Que Tal and liked it because it was a snap to clean up. Now I have the regular set and I seasoned the pans so that they are almost non-stick. The Magma Non-Stick set is high-quality non-stick and very scratch resistant, but it’s a little harder to use them as your mixing bowls, as the silicone mixing spoons aren’t as satisfactory as heavier duty ones.
All the Magma sets are available on Amazon and they have the best prices that I know of. Sometimes there is more than one listing for an identical set; in that case, I tried to find the least expensive listing:
- Magma 10-piece stainless
- Magma 10-piece stainless for induction burners
- Magma 10-piece stainless with blue exterior
- Magma 10-piece stainless with blue exterior for induction burners
- Magma 7-piece stainless
- Magma 7-piece stainless for induction burners
- Magma 10-piece conventional non-stick
- Magma 10-piece ceramic non-stick
- See all Magma sets on Amazon — various acessories and spare parts, too
Whichever set you get, I think you’ll be happy!
A quick story. Years ago, I bought a cheap nesting pan set for camping — it cost about $20 and I figured I could live with it for a week at a time. And every trip we took, I was frustrated because my food would scorch, the pans dented easily and the handles weren’t really usable.
When we moved aboard Que Tal, I briefly thought of taking that set. We were spending money left and right to outfit the boat, and I already had those pans. I even went so far as to take the pans to the boat and use them for a week. That made up my mind. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I bought a better set. They really are worth it, particularly if you’re going to be spending more than just an occasional day on the boat.