How to Create an Outdoor Kitchen that is Just Right

We have perfected our outdoor kitchen over time.  Learn from our winning moves and missteps.

Some RV's come with an outdoor kitchen as part of the design.  But, there are quite a few that don't.  If you want an outdoor kitchen but the RV you own or one you are interested in purchasing doesn't have one, hold on.  You can create an outdoor kitchen set up that will be functional and just as good a pre-configured one.

We cooked outdoors on our little two-burner propane stove with Peggy Sue for more than 2 years.  I learned quite a bit from our outdoor kitchen then, and I have transferred this to our new RV.  May Belle, does not have an outdoor kitchen.  Instead, I created a kitchen set up from the purchased items I need to cook outdoors.

Outdoor Kitchen Tips

  1. Be practical and start small.  Begin with the necessities that you will need for basic meals.
  2. Start with a cooking and prep area.  Really explore your options before you delve in.
  3. Include a 2 burner camp stove.
  4. Choose practical cooking gear.  A griddle and skillet are my two most used items.
  5. Keep your cooking utensils in containers that you can move outdoors and back in easily.  
I have precious few cooking items for our RV.  These items include:
  • Cast iron griddle
  • Non-Stick Skillet
  • Dutch Oven
  • Pot for pasta, sauces, soups and more
  • Small Waffle Iron
  • Basic Cooking Utensils
You can stuff your RV like a clown car with pots, pans, crock pots, Instapots, dip warmers, waffle irons and every piece of gear known to man.  Just don't!  I watched a woman, earlier this year, pull stuff out of her outdoor kitchen that was bursting at the seams.  Each time she opened her storage, she was toppled with overhead items and was forcing other things from overstuffed drawers. And yet she wanted just one more dip warmer that she had sent her kids off to Walmart to purchase.  This scene gives me anxiety just thinking about it.  If this makes sense to you, go for it.  But I can't.  Think about how you cook.  Look for ways that items could serve double duty on the road.  You are not stocking a home kitchen.  Don't try to make it like one.  If you are a full-timer, maybe this is a different story.  But, I don't think even full-timers want to be overrun with clutter.

The Rio Brands Compact Table is just right for our Coleman Camp Stove and prep space.

Outdoor Kitchen Tables and Set-Ups

There are lots of outdoor kitchen setups out there that you can purchase.  Buyer beware!  Many of these are large and more than you will ever need.  We started with a Coleman Camp Kitchen.  It is just too much.  It is relatively lightweight and folds up.  It has a lot of flexibility.  But, it is difficult to set up and take down.  I don't really use all of the pieces.  Its really more wasted space than a practical use for me.  

We have recently tried the Rio Brands Compact Expandable Table.  This thing is a game-changer!  First, it fits into a really small zippered bag.  It can be 27 inches long or 48 inches long.  So I can make it the size that I need.  It is lightweight aluminum that will hold a grill or camp stove easily.   Plus the longer size allows for prep space.  If you didn't want to use it for cooking meals, this table could be set up under your awning for playing cards or eating a meal.  It is the jack of all trades for compact tables.  I recommend this option because it does so many things and takes up so little space.  This is a great option for pop up campers and tent campers too if you want more prep space or other outdoor options.  The heat resistant surface will allow you to use it with a camp stove or portable grill.

The Rio Brands Compact Table fits into this one zippered bag.

There are three easy pieces of the table.  The legs are one piece.  There are 2 tabletop pieces that are stored in accordion style.  You can have both of them on the table for the largest space.  One-piece will give you a smaller table.
The setup and take downtime for this expandable table is super quick.  My husband and I both agree that this is the best option for us.  I wish we had started with this!  Don't buy something large with too many bells and whistles.  Everything you purchase has to be stored somewhere.  If your table and prep space takes up a huge amount of room, you won't have space to take the cooking gear you need!

We have an additional table that came with our RV that we can use for more room to set up food and other items if we need more space or have a crowd at the campground.  We did the recently, and it was excellent!

The Coleman Camp Stove and cast iron griddle are perfect companions for cooking.

Cooking Gear

I do believe that a practical 2 burner camp stove is a necessity. I have an older Coleman Camp Stove that I purchased last summer.  I'm still learning little things about it.  But, it uses white gas that I can refill into the fuel compartment.  I feel better about this than using disposable cans.  This stove is a workhorse that will last for many years to come.  

Aside from a stove, you can build from here for the types of cooking and experiences you plan to have on the road.  A cast iron griddle will cook everything from pancakes to burgers to grilled cheese sandwhiches.  It's a no brainer on the road.  I use it on every trip.

Add a skillet of your choice and one pot, and you are in business for just about anything.  I don't have a lot of pots and pans, but I use the ones we own regularly.

The Camp Maid set for Dutch Ovens allow you to use your Dutch Oven in new ways.

Attach the lid lifter for more control when cooking.  
If you are looking to bake outside, you can always use a Dutch Oven.  This was my original oven, stewpot, roaster and all-purpose piece.  I still use it quite a bit.  We recently added a Camp Maid set to make dutch oven cooking easier.  It provides a lid lifter and the ability to control the heat underneath our cooking surface in new ways.

The Coleman Camp Stove is compact and gives you the ability to bake at the campground.

We also owned a Coleman Camp Oven.  We purchased this for our pop up camper.  It was a great alternative to baking in our Dutch Oven when I didn't want to heat up coals for cooking.  This portable oven folds flat for storage but expands into a metal cube for cooking.  It fits right over a propane burner and can be used to bake anything you would in a home oven.  You will need compact bakeware for this oven.  If you don't have an RV oven or just would prefer to cook outdoors, this is an expensive but excellent option.

I suggest a basic set of utensils for cooking.  You can see my Camp Kitchen Checklist with everything that I have included in ours.  But the final step to any outdoor kitchen is...

Make things Portable

I cook both indoors and outdoors now that I have an interior kitchen.  I keep my utensils in containers that I can grab and take outside to prepare a meal.  I also have trays in my RV that use to put a group of ingredients onto for taking outdoors to prep.  Everything is mobile so that I can move things as I need them.  

We love our ice maker.  It has been in heavy rotation all year.

Additional Pieces

What else do you need?  Some people want an outdoor fridge.  If you don't have one, set up a big cooler under a table and stock it with drinks or things you need.  We have a large Orca Cooler just for that.  It holds ice like a champ and can fit next to or underneath our table for storage.  

We also have an ice maker.  I keep this inside, but I know some families like to keep this outdoors too.  Just remember to keep it simple and basic.  What you need.  You can make do with more than you think.  And you won't miss as many extras as you think either.

Final Thoughts

Our outdoor kitchen has changed over time.  In our pop up, I had a little zippered shelf/cupboard that I used to keep all of our gear in next to my stove for cooking.  Food was always inside of our RV, but I kept our utensils, plates, pot holders and everything right there where I could use them.  The top of my cupboard was my prep station.  

Now, I go back and forth between my outdoor kitchen and inside one.  I keep most everything inside.  But, I transfer things outside as I need them.  I still prefer to cook outdoors.  I suppose that is what I know best and most while camping.    

What kind of outdoor set up do you have?  If you are looking for ways to improve your existing one or just want to create something for next season, there is no time the present to start grabbing those items you need.  

Until next time...

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