Cooking – Which Fuel
First off, you need to decide how you want to cook things. You can generally divide your options into four:
Clean and easy, your main problem is in finding somebody to fill your cylinder, unless you use disposable Gaz-type canisters which are available pretty much everywhere. The smallest of the refillable types are bulky, so look at permanently plumbing in your stove – the drawer type arrangements that fit between the wheel arches of a Defender may lend themselves to this sort of set-up. Avoid the tedium of having to plumb in the stove each time. If Africa is your destination don’t buy an expensive Gaz refillable canister – they are a tenth of the price in Morocco
There are various petrol and spirit stoves about – they can be both expensive and temperamental. Spirit will not be readily available along the way, and petrol stoves can clog, and the fuel mix may blacken your pots. Some surplus army petrol stoves can be particularly dangerous in untrained hands.
Much underrated – you can get it cheaply anywhere. It’s messy to handle and slow to get hot, but you can keep it in a cheaply purchased metal bin along with your Moroccan burner that costs next to nothing. Buying charcoal supports the local economy, it’s clean to cook on so washing pots isn’t a problem – and you can get quite clever if you find a cast iron pot know to South Africans as a poikey which allows you to oven-cook.
Free; assuming you are bush camping away from population centres you will find wood is rarely a problem – but there are exceptions – ‘desert absolut’, in towns, etc. Fix your grill to the outside of your sand ladders to keep the soot out of the car. Like charcoal – you have to wait for the embers if you don’t want to blacken pots, but this method of cooking is very popular with overlanders – and if you are camping you may be building a fire anyway so why not cook on it too.
What you take to cook with and eat off is largely a matter of personal preference, but experience will undoubtedly shape your choices. Here are some suggestions based on feedback from our customers:
Plastic is light and durable, but will inevitably get scratched and then breed interesting bacteria. Stainless steel plates and cups which are cheap to buy in Africa, are an excellent alternative, and can be washed in sand, though plastic mugs for coffee stop you burning your lips.
Purchase some cheap stainless steel cutlery – Ikea have some good sets. Add a couple of kitchen knives, peelers, corkscrews, etc. These are best kept in a Tupperware box unless you want to invest in a custom designed kitchen bag with slots for cutlery, which are widely available in South Africa.
Pots and Pans
If you are cooking on charcoal or wood you will need thicker (and heavier) pots – thin pans are great for gas and fuel stoves. The nested sets of thin pots which have a sort of grip-on handle are difficult to use and will result in many burnt fingers before you learn by experience – fixed handles don’t store as easily but are far easier to use, and result in less meals that you eat off the sand. Carrying at least one good thick pot for stews.
A squarish bowl has many uses – but don’t use it to change the oil. Include a scourer sponge, washing up brush, and fairly liquid. You can also soak washing up in Milton tablets, something that is particularly recommended for large groups as a final rinse through.
Try to keep the kitchen equipment all in one box. Packing is an art that is quickly learnt on the road, and constantly revised as your packing needs changed.
Don’t forget the kettle…
A 12 volt kettle that I use for your morning coffee is worth its weight in gold. Keep it close to the passenger seat, along with mugs, and the brew of your choice. You can pack up your tent, drive for ten minutes, and then have a coffee without stopping for breakfast until later in the day.
Kitchen Checklist (2-4 people)
- 6 x knives, forks, spoons, tea-spoons (stainless steel)
- 1 x big kitchen knife, 1 x small kitchen knife,
- potato peeler
- bottle opener/corkscrew
- can opener
- 4 x stainless steel plates – like sort of shallow soup bowls for stews
- 4 x stainless steel cups (no handles)
- 4 x plastic mugs
- 4 x stainless steel dessert-type bowls
- 1 x heavy steel pot and lid
- 2 x cooking pots/pans or 2 x nested thin steel pots with lid and handle (camping set)
- 12 volt kettle
- plastic measuring jug
- plastic colander – for the pasta!
- plastic chopping board
- washing bowl
- washing brush
- washing sponge/scourer
- washing up liquid
- 2 x Gaz stoves, with replacement disposable cartridges
- - or twin burner gas stove and refillable bottle
- - and/or 2 x charcoal burner
- lighter -look for one that uses a disposable lighter with a tube to extend the flame.
- grille for open fires
- Storage box, possibly with a Greenspan camping kitchen liner for easy organisation