Stove gimbals are an important safely feature on a marine stove. Tips on using them so they don't cause more problems than they solve.

Using Stove Gimbals

Together with pot restraints, stove gimbals are an important safety feature of any marine stove.  The first time I used the gimbal — on our first charter — I felt like a true “cruiser.”  In the years since then, it’s become common place to use a swinging stove.

The  gimbal is the second half of keeping your pans on the stove or level in the oven.  Basically, it’s a pivot point running fore and aft that lets your stove/oven stay level, even when the boat is heeled or rolling.

Generally, gimbaled stoves have a latch that keeps the stove from swinging when it’s not in use or not needed.  These are usually some form of barrel latch that you slide to release.  Once released, the stove will swing with the motion of the boat.  While I use my pot restraints all the time, I don’t always release the gimbal latch — if conditions are calm, particularly in anchorages, it’s easier to have a stove that stays in one place.

In using a gimbaled stove, there are two important points:

  • Most gimbal systems will let the stove swing 20 to 30 degrees, at which point it will crash against the back wall.  If it hits with any force, pans are likely to fly off the stove onto the floor or onto the cook.  While pot restraints keep pans from sliding, a sudden crash can bounce the pot right out of the restraints. It’s also not good for the stove to crash into the hull.
  • The gimbal is simply a balance point — if the weight on both sides isn’t equal, the stove will tilt towards the heavier side and won’t keep the cooking surface flat.

Thus, if conditions are rough, you need to check the swing of the stove before using it.  Release the latch and watch the stove swing for several minutes, preferably through the worst movement the boat is experiencing.  If the stove crashes into the wall , forget about cooking and find something cold to eat.

Second, you’ll have to equalize the weight on both sides of the pivot point.  For example, if you want to cook something on a front burner, fill the teakettle or a saucepan with water and set it on an unlit back burner (using its pot restraints).  Adjust the amount of water until the stove is approximately level.  This will also help keep the back of the stove from hitting the hull since the bottom of the stove won’t be jutting out to the back.

When you are finished cooking, latch the stove again so that if conditions worsen the stove won’t hit the hull.

One more tip for cooking in rough weather:  a pressure cooker makes a good pan to use since you can latch the lid, even if you don’t use the weights and pressure cook.  Food is far less likely to slosh out with the lid latched and — heaven forbid — if the pan does fly off the stove, there’s less chance that the (hot) contents will be flung everywhere.

  • Kate Bird on Facebook
    Posted at 02 July 2012 Reply

    We were hove to during a storm and I left a pan of spaghetti sauce on the stove top while we held on waiting for things to calm down. Those gimbles kept the pan from coming off the stove and spilling during that gale – it was amazing, I was sure I’d have to clean up a big mess.

  • Alex Kimball on Facebook
    Posted at 10 February 2013 Reply

    Use them every day? Got to when we sail do much.

  • Patty Alderson on Facebook
    Posted at 10 February 2013 Reply

    When offshore, all the time. In an anchorage, really depends on the conditions or traffic…

  • Claudia Davis Reshetiloff on Facebook
    Posted at 10 February 2013 Reply

    ha! I just took a picture on our last passage of the stove at a 45′ angle to the rest of the galley and food cooking on it….I think some people back home will be surprised…

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 10 February 2013 Reply

    Claudia – That’s a great boat if it can swing that far — someone was really thinking when they planned the galley! Mine could MAYBE go 30 degrees . . .

  • Anne Dunlop on Facebook
    Posted at 10 February 2013 Reply

    Everytime we go sailing – otherwise the contents of the oven fall out and all my pans go flying!!

  • Gretchen Hannsz Witzgall on Facebook
    Posted at 11 February 2013 Reply

    Last season when we went to the Bahamas whenever we were under way the stove was gimballed. I baked a homemade pizza underway in the middle of the Gulfstream 200 miles offshore on our way back from Abaco direct to Beaufort, N.C. – It was a bit of a struggle but I was determined – I love our Force10 – not sure what her full degree of gimball is at full capacity of gimball but she gets the job done.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 07 October 2013 Reply

    Carolyn makes many good points.

    Her point on weight balance is well taken. Two burner cookers are obviously much easier to keep balanced than three or four. The weighted kettle idea is a good one.

    The other consideration not mentioned is the oven door type. Some ovens have a door that slides down and under the cooker which is great from a balance perspective. Others, like my Eno, just open and tip the oven forward. Accordingly when using the oven at sea I latch the gimbal before opening the door to avoid a lap or floor full of lasagna or pizza.

  • Jim
    Posted at 18 April 2014 Reply

    Don’t forget to have a good way to secure the stove in case of a knockdown, throwing it on the galley deck and rupturing the gas line. Not all stoves have something to prevent the stove from sliding out of its V-bracket mountings. Jt

  • Becky
    Posted at 20 September 2014 Reply

    My stove gimballed sideways –but not fore and aft. Many times I had to quickly save a pot at a huge bow or stern wave… Have potholders ready, have pots twice as deep as you need, don’t use glass (esp. pie pans) and don’t fill pots more than halfway.

  • Eric Hendricks
    Posted at 21 September 2014 Reply

    always on gimbals if away from the dock.

  • Skylar Walker
    Posted at 21 September 2014 Reply

    more great advice

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