Do you need an OVEN in your van?
The short answer is no, the long answer is yes. The complicated answer is it depends!
A little backstory about why my need for an oven in my van started:
Go back to 2014, when myself and my partner were living full-time in a LWB VWT4. One hob, no standing room, limited space. After a week or so cooking becomes ‘not fun’ thanks to the one hob and backache.
But, this doesn’t mean bin one hob or anything like that (although it is now a requirement when converting a van into a motorhome in the UK to have two hobs now)! Before we delve into the van life ovens, I’m going to talk about some of the alternatives to an oven which take up space, more gas, and aren’t as cheap as a one/two hob.
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Massive thanks to Sarah from The Adventures of Sarah and James for bringing this amazing piece of kit into my life quite a few years ago now. Essentially two frying pans on top of each other to create an enclosed pan, this device allows you to cook pretty much anything. Fairly compact in size I recommend buying the XL or whatever the largest available version is. Items I’ve cooked in the humble ridge monkey:
English breakfast (veggie sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, hash browns, and mushrooms)
I once attempted a yorkshire pudding but I will blame the gluten-free flour for that disaster
And that’s just a few! There are numerous meals to cook in this device, and all it needs is a heat source: I’ve cooked with it on campfires as well as the hob. Even though I now have an oven with two hobs on the top, I still regularly use my ridge monkey.
Becoming a firm favourite amongst van lifers, the Omnia Stove Top Oven looks similar to a bundt cake tin and has plenty of recipe capabilities just like the ridge monkey – but on a grander scale.
Omnia describes it as a ‘bread baking and oven cooker’ which sounds like a great all-rounder (pardon the pun!), and is an item I would be fast to grab if i didn’t have my built-in oven already.
Omnia also provides a recipe book to give you a host of ideas for your stovetop oven. I’ve seen people cook up cakes, bread, roasted vegetables and pies in these which is only the top of the iceberg. I recommend checking out the #omniaoven tag on Instagram for some drool-worthy recipes too.
This has got to be my absolute favourite in regards to the limited use of resources needed to cook delicious food. Used for centuries, the hay box/hay bag is an insulation technique used to cook food over a number of hours, resulting in tender, slow-cooked dishes at the end, and the best bit? It requires NO POWER (practically)!
The only use of heat/gas is at the beginning when you cook up the meal in the pan, get it to the desired temperature, before taking it off the hob and placing it in the box/bag and letting it cook itself.
There are methods to make them yourself or grab a ready-made version. I especially like the Wonder Bag as they focus on assisting people around the world as well as the consumers with their product.
Solar ovens vary in efficiency and price, with DIY an option or shelling out a couple of hundred pounds for one it’s entirely up to you what to choose. Similar to the principle of the hay oven, a solar oven uses no power, only harnessing the heat from the sun (hence the use of the word solar) to cook up your food. A quick google search shows plenty of DIY options and different ready-made ones on the market, in various prices and sizes.
Reaching temps of up to 288°C, the Go Sun allows you to bake, steam, and roast a meal in under 20 minutes – according to their website. Relatively lightweight at 0.9kg it seems like a great alternative to cooking around a campfire, and also works on cloudy days.
And there you have it, four conventional oven alternatives.
BUT! You may still want an oven, like me. Here is the oven I use in my Sprinter van conversion:
Designed as a marine oven it is perfect for vans, being compact and efficient. There are a number of different types of camper van ovens on the market – I’ll link some others below – but the Voyager 4500 wins for both style and cost. At the time of writing this article it is £385 on eBay which isn’t too expensive compared to some other ovens designed for marine/campervans.
We use the two hob (one large rapid burner, the other a standard burner), grill and thermostatic controlled oven version as it is also available without a grill. In hindsight, I could have done without the grill, but it’s a useful spot to store my ridgemonkey. Our oven doesn’t come with an ignition which is an extra cost, I’m fine using a lighter. A fantastic feature is the flame failure safety cut-outs, which is important when cooking in a small space. The oven itself weighs in at 18.5Kg
As for efficiency? I use this every. single. day. I’d say our 11kg gas lasts well over a month at a time, with the cooker and oven being used, as I said, every single day. The gas situation in the van is LPG refillable has which costs between £6-9 to fill up depending where we are in the world, but the oven works with both propane and butane too (which is basically what LPG is a mixture of anyway).
450mm Wide × 505mm High × 420mm Depth
For me, having this oven has been a game-changer, it makes our small home feel even homelier.
And there you have it, I hope this article has been helpful for you and possibly swayed you to get an oven in your van 😉
More oven options for van life
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