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Cooking in a campervan: a guide to stoves, hobs & barbeques

cooking in a campervan
Cooking in a campervan

Cooking in a campervan can be quite challenging at times, especially if you try and cook the same as you do at home. Having the right equipment, and eating simple to cook foods is the key to making meal times a pleasant, stress-free experience.

In this article I’ll be looking at what cooking equipment is available for the campervan owner, from basic gas stoves to electric induction hobs and not forgetting the good old barbeque.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

Campervan cooking equipment

Cooking with gas

campervan cooking with gas
Cooking with gas

Cooking with gas is the most obvious way to cook in a campervan. All but the most basic campervans will usually have some form of gas cooking equipment, even if it’s just a single gas ring. It may be tricky to cook a meal for two on one gas ring but it’s certainly not impossible. Using one gas ring you can boil a kettle to make tea and coffee or use the hot water to make a cup-a-soup or Pot Noodle (one of my favourites).

One main advantage of cooking with gas is that you can do it pretty much anywhere and there’s no need for electric hook-up.

What If your vehicle isn’t fitted with any form of cooking equipment?

No cooker? No problem. There are plenty of options available – for example:

PORTABLE CAMPING GAS STOVES

Let’s take a look what is available…

Single burner portable gas stove:

The cheapest and simplest option for cooking in a campervan is probably going to be a portable camping gas stove. The most basic form being a single ring hob which uses aerosol sized gas canisters, like this one on Amazon.

These little stoves are surprisingly good. We have one at home and have used it on a number of occasions as we are prone to power cuts and have no gas. I’ve managed to cook a pretty decent curry on a single burner stove. (Instead of rice, I use bulgar wheat which is much easier to cook. Just add twice as much stock water as bulgar, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. The bulgar then soaks up the water and doubles in size in around 15 minutes. Whilst the bulgar wheat is doing its stuff, I wilt some spinach in another pan, empty in a tikka curry sauce and a tin of either chick peas or kidney beans. By the time it’s cooked, the bulgar wheat is ready.)

Specification:

  • Single burner
  • Tough plastic carry case
  • Matchless ignition system
  • 2 gas canisters included
  • Long burn time
  • Super portable

For under £15, cooking in a campervan doesn’t get much cheaper than this! For this sort of money you just can’t go wrong, especially as 2 gas canisters are thrown in for good measure. What a bargain.

Twin burner with grill portable gas stove:

If a single burner is not enough for you, then how about a twin burner stove with grill, such as this popular Campingaz Camping Chef Folding Stove? The Camping Chef is portable, compact and lightweight, and comes with an easy to start Piezo matchless ignition system.

The Camping Chef runs off the larger refillable 904 or 907 gas canisters, which are more practical for this size of cooker as they last longer. Calor gas bottles (propane or butane) can also be used. You will need to purchase a suitable gas regulator and hose as these are not included.

When not in use, the Camping Chef packs away into a neat easy to carry unit. The lid protects the burners from any damage. When the lid is opened it also acts as a wind shield.

Specifications:

  • Two 1.5KW Stainless steel burners
  • 1.2KW Grill
  • Piezo matchless ignition system
  • Foldable design with carrying handle

Dimensions:

  • Size closed – 59.5cm x 32.5cm x 8.5cm
  • Size open – 60cm x 40cm x 35cm
  • Weight – 4Kg

Nice and portable and large enough to cook a decent meal on. I wouldn’t recommend that you use the Camper Chef inside a campervan but I do think that it offers a great solution for outdoor, off grid cooking.

Camper sink stove combo:

Dometic camper sink stove combo

Portable gas stoves (like the two mentioned previously) are an inexpensive and convenient cooking solution. For something a bit more stylish and permanent, how about a sink stove combo unit? This Dometic MO9222S Trough-Sink Glass combination unit is well worth considering if you’re building a campervan or looking to upgrade an existing unit.

The unit has two gas burners and a stainless steel sink. Two stylish, heat resistant safety glass lids, act as additional worktop space when closed. The pan supports are detachable, to make cleaning easier. Lighting the burners is no hassle as the unit has a built-in 12v electronic gas ignition system.

Specifications:

  • Two burner gas hob
  • Detachable enamelled pan supports
  • Heat resistant safety glass lids
  • 12v Piezo ignition system
  • Sink

Dimensions:

  • Size – 900mm x 152mm x 370mm
  • Installation dimensions – 793mm x 307mm
  • Weight 5.8Kg
  • Gas connection 30 mbar

Installation of the Dometic MO922S will need careful planning (a case of measure twice, cut once) as the unit doesn’t come with a template for cutting the hole in the worktop. A plug for the sink is included but unfortunately no tap.

All in all, I think that the Dometic MO922S is a great permanent campervan cooking solution. Offering practicality with a stylish professional look.


It goes without saying that care must be taken when using portable gas stoves. They need plenty of ventilation and must be kept away from flammable objects. If you’re going to use a portable gas cooker in an awning, ensure adaquate ventilation and make sure that the awning is made from flame retardant material. If in doubt, use the gas stove outdoors.

Read our article on campervan safety – tips for keeping you and your vehicle safe


Cooking with electric

campervan cooking with electric
Cooking with electric

Cooking electric is another option open to the campervan owner. To cook electric you’ll need to be plugged into mains hook-up. It’s just not practical using the vehicle’s leisure battery as a power source: even the smallest electric cooker will draw a large current. As an example, 2000 watt electric hob run through an inverter would completely flatten an 85 amp hour leisure battery in less than half an hour.

If you want to know more about power inverters we have an article on the subject here

The biggest consideration when choosing an electric campervan cooker is the input wattage of the appliance.

The input wattage is the amount of power the appliance draws from the power supply – the output wattage is the actual cooking power. On some appliance (such as microwave ovens) the input wattage is usually considerably more than the stated output wattage. If the input wattage is too high for the campsites electric hook-up, then it will trip the RCD unit. Not ideal in the middle of cooking your dinner.

To work out if an appliance can be used with the campsites hook-up, simply multiply the number of amps with the voltage (230V) of the appliance.

For example: If the campsite has 16 amp hook-up, multiply 16 x 230 which is 3680 watts

In the example above, as long as the appliances’ input wattage doesn’t exceed 3680 watts, it will not trip the campsites RCD unit. Bear in mind that 3680 watts is the maximum wattage, and will include any other items you have connected at the same time, phone charger, laptop, TV, fridge, etc.

Cooking by electric is generally safer than cooking by gas as there are no naked flames to contend with (or that the wind can blow out). Also, there’s no danger of running out of gas midway through cooking.

BEST ELECTRIC CAMPING COOKER

Electric hot plates & Induction hobs

An electric hot plate works by passing an electric current through a heating element to create the heat needed for cooking. An induction hob works very differently from this. It doesn’t actually create heat itself, it works by heating the pot or pan through magnetic induction.

Induction hobs are safer, faster, more energy-efficient and responsive than electric hot plates. It takes considerably less energy to create a magnetic field than it does to pass a current through a heating element. Combining this with the fact that induction hobs cool down very quickly, means that they make an ideal choice for cooking in a campervan.

There are a couple of downsides to an induction hob. 1: On some hobs, the cooking surface is made of glass so care must be taken not to break it. 2: Not all pots and pans will work on an induction hob (such as aluminium camping pans). A simple test to see if a pan will work on an induction hob is to use a magnet. If the magnet sticks to the bottom of the pan, it will work. Also, to work efficiently the pan needs to have a flat bottom in order to make full contact with the hob.

Electric hot plates are simple in their technology, which usually makes them cheaper to buy than an induction hob. They are also generally more robust. Any pot, pan, or stove kettle that can be used on a conventional cooker, can also be used on a hot plate.

Campervan induction hob:

A purpose built campervan induction hob (like the Thetford Topline 902) can cost over £600. If this is more than you want to spend, then there is an alternative that costs way less – a portable induction hob.

One of the most popular portable induction hobs available on Amazon (advertised as being suitable for use in a campervan) is the VonShef portable induction hob. The VonShef comes in two versions, a single 2000 watt hob, or a 2800 watt twin hob.

The VonShef uses ceramic rather than glass plates, which are scratch resistant and easy to clean, and less likely to break. There’s a 0 to 3 hour timer with an LCD display. The hob has 10 temperature settings ranging from 60C to 240C.

Single hob version specifications:

  • Power – 2000 Watts (8.7 amps)
  • Size – 29cm x 36cm x 6.5cm
  • Weight – 2.2Kg

Twin hob version specifications:

  • Power – 2800 Watts (9.3 amps)
  • Size – 65.5cm x 44cm x 11cm
  • Weight – 3.6Kg

Portable induction hobs are a relatively inexpensive solution for cooking in a campervan. Generally safer and cleaner than gas. The only real disadvantages I can see, are using one on campsites with lower than 16 amp hookup, and they only work with suitable induction pots and pans.

Still, well worth considering, don’t you think?

Electric hot plate:

If you don’t want to go down the induction hob route, then perhaps a simple, inexpensive, electric hot plate is what you’re looking for.

So how about this Duronic Hot Plate HP1BK? (available on Amazon).

It has a robust, cast iron, 1500W, single cooking ring. A temperature control knob, with an indicator light on the front which goes out when the correct temperature is reached. A large 187mm plate surface to accommodate a decent sized frying pan for those morning fry-ups. Two thermo insulated handles making it safe to carry when warm. Plus the unit stands on four non-slip rubber feet.

Specifications:

  • Power – 1500 Watts (6.5 amps)
  • Size – 31.8cm x 22.8cm x 10cm
  • Weight – 2.2Kg

You can use pretty much any pots and pans with this type of electric hot plate, so that’s a plus. Also, reading through the Amazon reviews, customers who have bought Duronic HP1BK for their campervan, love it!

Electric tabletop grill:

Last year a guy in a tent next to us was using a tabletop grill very similar to this VonShef Electric Tabletop Grill. I thought at the time that it was a great way to cook whilst camping, no setting up barbeques, no pots and pans, and (the bit I liked best) no washing up. Just a wipe round with some kitchen towel and you’re done.

Pretty much any food that can cook on a barbeque can also be cooked on this sort of grill. With the added bonus of foods like eggs, pancakes/crepes, etc.

Cooking on a tabletop grill is easy. Simply put a little oil on the Teflon coated grill and wipe it all over with some kitchen towel. Select the required temperature, which ranges from low to very high. Once the food is cooked, remove, then scrape off any of the remaining oil into the drip tray. Wipe the surface over with a damp cloth or piece of kitchen towel and the grill is ready for the next time you use it.

Specifications:

  • Power – 2000W
  • 6 temperature settings
  • Non stick Teflon coated
  • Detachable power cord
  • Cool touch handles
  • Cooking plate size – 43cm x 22cm
  • Package size 60.4cm x 28.8cm x 12.6cm
  • Weight – 3.5Kg

I personally think that an electric tabletop grill like the VonShef grill is well worth considering. It really does offer a cheap, easy to use, and hassle-free solution to cooking in a campervan.

What about using the grill on electric hook-up? Well, this is a 2000 watt grill, which is 8.7 amps, so well within the limits of a campsite that provides 16 amp hook-up.

Cooking in a campervan using a microwave oven

Last year we decided to buy a microwave oven for when we go travelling, and it has made cooking so much easier. Now my wife and I can cook foods that just weren’t possible before. One favourite is a jacket sweet potato. A great healthy form of complex carbs and very filling too!

cooking in a campervan
Jacket sweet potato

Now we very rarely use the gas cooker (just the grill really). Instead of pots and pans, we just take plastic microwavable dishes which are lighter and so much easier to clean. The only downside is that a microwave is quite a large item. We’re lucky we have a spare cupboard which is the perfect size to store it away in when we’re not using it.

Would I recommend a microwave for a campervan? Well, if you have the room for one, then yes definitely. To find out more about choosing the right microwave oven for a campervan (and which one I recommended buying), take a look at this article I wrote on the subject.


5 cooking in a campervan tips

  • Aluminium foil is your friend. Useful for keeping food fresh as well as for cooking. For example, wrap a potato in foil and throw it on a BBQ, you can even do the same with a banana (with the skin on) which caramelises, delicious!
  • Airtight plastic storage containers are very handy. Can be used to keep food fresh, prepare food in, and eat food out of. If they are microwave safe they can also be used to cook food in, such as oats, eggs or beans.
  • Take plenty of dried and tinned foods, such as oats, muesli, soups, noodles, tinned veg, etc. They provide quick and easy meals, and keep forever.
  • Use a protein shake shaker for mixing scrambled eggs, pancake mix, or salad dressings. I do this one, it works a treat.
  • Always keep food and scraps covered or better still in sealed containers, and never leave them outside. This will prevent flies or seagulls helping themselves to a free lunch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen newbie camper’s leave bin bags outside after a BBQ, only to wake the next morning with the contents of the bag strewn across the campsite.

Campervan barbecues

campervan barbeque
Campervan barbeque

Barbeques may not be suitable for cooking in a campervan, but they are synonymous with outdoor cooking, especially on campsites. We have a wide range to choose from, from the simplest form like a disposable barbecue to the all gas powered motherships designed to feed an army.

But what makes a good campervan barbecue? Well, I’ve selected 4 folding portable barbeques available on Amazon, that I think would be a good choice.

Notebook Folding Grill:

If storage space in your campervan is at a premium, then the Notebook portable BBQ would make an ideal choice as it measures less than 5cm high when folded flat. The Notebook may be compact, but when it’s opened out it has a generous cooking area of 45cm x 30cm. Big enough to cook food for up to four people, no problem.

Integral carrying handles and lightweight but sturdy construction also make the Notebook a great choice for a BBQ on the beach. Simple to use: just unfold the grill, fit the included wire rack, and you’re good to go.

What makes the Notebook folding grill stand out for me is its simple, space-saving and portable design. I’m not sure how well it would stand to continuous use, and it would benefit from some sort of storage bag, but at under £25 it’s still a great choice for a campervan barbeque.

Specifications:

  • Material – steel
  • Finish – black powder coated
  • Folded – 46cm x 43.5cm x 4.5cm
  • Open – 45cm x 30cm x 30cm
  • Cooking area – 45cm x 30cm
  • Cooking height – 30.5cm
  • Weight – 3kg

Esbit Stainless Steel Folding Barbeque:

Appreciate good quality and great design? Then check out the German made Esbit Stainless Steel Folding Barbeque available on Amazon.

As the Esbit is made of stainless steel there’s no need to worry about it going rusty after just a few uses. It comes with a wire mesh grill with a detachable handle which can be set at three different cooking heights, a very handy little feature.

A lined, charcoal storage bag is included, which fits nicely inside the main barbeque for easy transportation. There is also a storage bag with carrying handles for the barbeque itself. To increase the cooking height when using the BBQ an optional stand with storage bag is available.

Features:

  • Stainless steel construction
  • Three cooking heights
  • Good build quality
  • Charcoal bag
  • Storage bag
  • Super small

Dimensions:

  • length – 30.5cm
  • Width – 23cm
  • Height – 9cm

For those looking for a well thought out folding barbeque that’s designed to last, then look no further than the Esbit folding barbeque. The only downside I can see is that it’s only really big enough for cooking for a maximum of two people.

Still, a great little campervan barbeque.

La Hacienda 58106 Camping Firebowl with Grill:

Sometimes it’s nice to get back to basics and cook on an open fire. However, nowadays it’s rare to find a campsite that actually allows the use of open fires, which is understandable, I suppose. Well, this La Hacienda 58106 Camping Firebowl with Grill may be the next best thing.

Described as a portable fire pit, the La Hacienda 58106 offers that campfire cooking experience with the convenience and safety of a traditional BBQ. The firebowl has a chrome plated cooking grill and a mesh lid to stop any stray sparks that could potentially cause injury or fire. Three quick release foldable legs make for easy setup and dismantling, as well as raising the fire bowl off the ground. A practical storage bag adds to the firebowls portability.

Specifications:

  • Material – powder coated metal
  • Dimensions – 39cm x 39cm x 56cm
  • Cooking area – 56cm
  • Weight 5Kg

Reading through the Amazon reviews, a high percentage of customers who have bought the firebowl think it’s great.

Campingaz Party Grill 200 Camping Stove:

If you’re after a convenient way of cooking outdoors that also offers the portability needed when touring in a campervan, then how about this Campingaz Party Grill 400 Camping Stove?

Campingaz have been making camping stoves since 1949, and the compact and portable Campingaz Party Grill 400 Stove is their latest portable camping cooking innovation.

Incorporating a wide range of interchangeable cooking surfaces from a stovetop to non-stick grill/griddle, plancha – and even a lid that can also be used as a wok (now that’s a good idea)! All of which fit neatly inside the main unit, which itself packs away into a carry/storage bag.

It’s no surprise that the Party Grill 400 runs on gas. Either Campingaz R907 and R904 cylinders or standard propane or butane gas. You’ll need a suitable regulator and hose as these are not included. Whatever gas you use, lighting the grill is made easy by the Piezo matchless ignition system.

Specifications:

  • Non-stick grill/griddle
  • Adjustable heat settings
  • 2000W of power
  • Just over 6 minute boil time
  • Can be run on propane or butane
  • Carry bag included
  • Size – 36cm x 36cm x 42cm
  • Weight – 4.8Kg

Not as compact as the other 3 folding BBQs but certainly the swiss army knife of campervan barbeques in my opinion. Take a look at the demo video (left-hand side) and read through the reviews on the Amazon page. I’m sure you’ll agree that the Party Grill 400 is pretty impressive.

7 barbecuing tips whilst camping:

  • A lid on a barbeque will protect the BBQ from the wind and help to keep the food warm.
  • If the BBQ doesn’t have a lid then use a windbreak to help protect it from the wind. A windbreak can also help protect small children and/or dogs from any accidents.
  • Smear a little cooking oil on the grill to prevent food sticking.
  • Place a pan of water or a kettle on the BBQ when you’ve finished cooking. The hot water will be useful for washing up or making tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.
  • Never use a barbeque in an awning, not only is there a danger of fire, but also a lit barbeque will produce carbon monoxide which can be lethal. Take a look at our article on campervan safety for tips on keeping you and your family safe.
  • Make sure you have access to a fire extinguisher.
  • Not all campsites permit the use of barbeques, so check first before using one

Cooking in a campervan has never been so easy!

As you can see, nowaday’s we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to the array of different cooking appliances available to the campervan owner, and most are very affordable too. I hope that this article has given you some useful ideas, I know it has me. That’s one good thing about writing these articles, you always learn something new.

We have a couple of other articles related to cooking in a campervan, one about what’s the best fridge for a campervan, and the other about campervan crockery. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, why not have a read?

See you on the road 🙂

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