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Cook Outside: Alternatives to the RV Kitchen

It’s notoriously difficult to cook in an RV kitchen, and the popularity of tiny campers with cramped kitchen areas has only made it more unpleasant. While outside kitchens are a popular addition to many RVs, there are plenty of other ways to cook outside. Prep your meals in the outdoors with plenty of room to stretch and talk with your fellow campers with these outdoor cooking methods.

Campfire Dutch Oven

One of the most popular ways for campers to cook outside is with a Dutch oven. They’re versatile; used for baking, braising, simmering and more. Most Dutch ovens are designed to be heated from the top and bottom. This is done by placing hot coals or wood embers both below the oven and on top of the lid.

People cook outside with a Dutch oven suspended over a campfire.

They can also be hung over a campfire and heated from below. You can suspend them over the campfire with a tripod setup, place them directly on a small fire or embers, or on top of a cooking grate over the fire. Whether you use charcoal or wood embers, there are hundreds of Dutch oven recipes to try out.

In-Ground Cooking

Earth oven, ground oven, Hāngī: whatever you want to call it, in-ground cooking is a fun way to cook large meals, particularly pieces of meat, outside. Ground ovens are an ancient method used to cook outside by sealing meat and veggies in the ground over hot coals or rocks. Though this method is more work-intensive than the others, it’s definitely a fun experiment to try out on a camping trip. Especially if your Thanksgiving turkey isn’t going to fit in the tiny camper’s RV oven!

Ground ovens are constructed by digging a pit in the ground and lining it with flat rocks. Gather your kindling and light a fire over the rocks to heat them up. Once the fire has dwindled out and you have smoldering coals left behind you can clear them out and get ready to cook.

Now that your hot rocks are cleaned, you should add a layer of traditional edible foliage, or a layer of tin foil if you prefer, over the base. Add your meat and another layer of insulation, leafy or otherwise, over the top and pour a cup of water in to create steam. Place a layer of plywood, carpeting, or even traditional cowhide over everything to protect your dish from the dirt. Finally, bury the entire thing in a few inches of soil.

After three or so hours, come back to uncover a traditionally prepared meal made entirely in the earth. This is a practice-makes-perfect situation, as many of our alternative methods to cook outside are. However, this is a fun experiment to try just once or twice on your next few camping trips. 

Campfire Foil Packs

Foil pack recipes are another fun way to cook outside. Aside from being an entertaining way to cook on the campfire as a family, foil packs are particularly convenient. Most campfire foil pack recipes consist of the entire meal wrapped in one piece of foil.

Foil pack cooking is, essentially, exactly what it sounds like. Chop up your favorite veggies and a bit of meat, coat them with your favorite seasonings and wrap them up in aluminum foil. Then, place these foil packets over the campfire and wait. Soon enough you’ll have a full meal warm and ready and perfectly portioned for each camper.

A set of foil pack meals cook on a metal grate over a campfire.

Outdoor Grills

None of these more experimental methods interest you? There’s normally a grill available at the campsite or attached as part of your RV’s outdoor kitchen. Even if you don’t have a traditional grill on-hand, portable electric grills are not hard to come by.

These can simply be plugged into a power source and used to grill any dish you might have on your at-home grill. Some campers also spin-off the campfire foil packs by heating them on a grill instead. Use the same basic meal prep method of wrapping your ingredients in aluminum foil, but place the packet on the grill rather than the campfire. You’ll still come out with a perfectly prepared, pre-portioned meal for every camper.

If you choose to cook outside with one of these alternative methods, make sure to share it with us! You can find us on Facebook where you can tag us in your experimental cooking photos. We’d love to see you try these out!

Outdoor cooking not your thing? That’s no problem! We have tons of RVs for sale with beautiful, large kitchens – including islands and residential refrigerators – to choose from at Juniata Valley RV. On the other end, we have a huge inventory of tiny campers that have small cooking spaces or outdoor kitchens. Whatever you’re looking for, let our team help find the right RV for you!

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