Van Life For Dummies
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If you're planning to convert a vehicle for your van life adventure, you'll need to put together a cooking area, complete with a stove, cookware, and other supplies.

What do you need for van life cooking?

One of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is which type of stovetop (or burner) you’d like to use. Stovetops come in many different styles, types, and shapes. Here are three main types that I have used over my van life journey:
  • Single-burner portable stove with gas cartridge: For many people who just take their campers out on weekends or on short trips, a one-hob burner for warming up soup or packet meals might well be enough. I’ve always carried one of these around with me just in case my main gas bottle runs out, and it’s helped out when I’ve boiled up pasta a few times. My main gripe with the single burner is that if you want to cook a meal with multiple parts, everything ends up taking a lot longer, as each component will need a separate turn on the burner.
  • Two-burner gas stovetop with grill: The two-burner gas stovetop with grill system is a great all-around option. This was the first type of burner I had in my van, and it allowed me the freedom to whip up Bolognese on one hob and pasta on the other. (I do eat more types of food than pasta, I promise.) The grills on these burners can sometimes be a little hit and miss, so it pays to buy a reputable model from a company like Vango. I loved cooking sausages on my grill for breakfast on wintry Saturday mornings.
  • Three-burner stovetops: As you might have guessed by now, my personal preference is the three-burner stovetop. I need all the pan space I can get when I’m making meals, especially when the Omnia Oven (more about this below) is taking up the middle hob.

Gas drop-out vents: If you’ve got any type of gas bottle in your van — propane, butane, or LPG — then you need a gas drop-out vent as an extra and crucial safety measure. Because gas is heavier than air, if there is a leak, the gas will flow out through your gas drop-out vent and away from your van. I know it might seem like a little thing to overlook, but it’s so important if anything goes wrong with your gas setup.

Cooking like a pro on the road

Good workers never blame their tools, which is why I’m about to reveal some of the best gear for cooking on the go. The only thing you need to be blaming from now on is how tight your pants are after all the good food you’re going to be making and eating!
  • XL RidgeMonkey: The XL RidgeMonkey compact sandwich toaster is possibly the most versatile piece of cooking equipment I’ve ever used on my van life adventures. This little piece of genius was originally designed for fishermen to cook up their catch on a jet burner at the side of the river.
  • Omnia Oven: If you want to go one step further and bake bread and cakes, cook chicken thighs, or make incredible stews or roast potatoes, then you need an Omnia Oven. This doughnut-shaped stovetop oven changed everything for me, especially while living in a camper van during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. The Omnia Oven works through convection. Heat is drawn up from the hob through the middle of the oven and passes up and over the food inside, providing heat all the way around the oven and creating an even bake.
  • Nesting bowls: Mixing cakes and kneading bread can get a little messy when you’re trying to use pans and mugs. That’s why nesting bowls are such a great idea. Nesting bowls, as you might have gathered from the name, nest inside one another. Joseph Joseph makes a great set that includes a large mixing bowl, colander, sieve, smaller pouring bowl, and a set of cup measures all inside the largest bowl. The measuring cups are perfect for measuring (go figure) out baking ingredients, sushi rice, sauces, and much more.
  • Bialetti moka pot: This stovetop espresso maker is the perfect companion at breakfast time or before a long drive. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and stows away in a cupboard or drawer easily, providing budding adventurers with an energy boost boasting sumptuous flavors at the drop of a hat.
  • Handleless pans: You’ll have a hard time cooking without any pans, making them a bit of an essential item when it comes to stocking up your kitchen. The only problem is that they can be quite bulky, so grabbing a set of handleless pans that pack away neatly can really make cooking in a van a lot easier.

I stored all my pans in a pan hammock underneath my sink. It was a good way to use space that would have otherwise been wasted and freed up a drawer for more dry ingredients.

  • BioLite kettle set: This little piece of equipment can be used for both brewing up tea or cooking soups and stews, and is another genius space-saving utensil for tiny-home lovers. It also has an insulted handle to keep your hands scorch-free.
  • Knife set: No matter your dietary preferences, it pays to have a trusty knife set on board for preparing food. As you know, I’m all about making life easy for myself, so having a good bread knife as well as a sharp blade for slicing everything from tomatoes and tofu to chicken and chorizo is essential, especially when you love food as much as I do.
  • Handheld food processor: Zyliss makes a neat little manual food processor that is great for chopping up onions or making dips in your camper. It makes mincemeat (literally) of food prep and works your arm out at the same time. Just pull the hook and back like a miniature rowing machine, and you’re good to go!

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Seb Santabarbara is a writer and alternative living enthusiast. Seb established himself as a van life expert by living in a self-converted camper while helping others reach their alternative living goals as head of written content for an online van life media brand that reached five million readers. Keep up with Seb at

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