After my son was diagnosed with severe food allergies, I became something of an antisocial hermit. I hated to eat at other people’s places, I hated dining out, and I really hated having to travel–it inevitably meant that I’d have to do one or both other things, and several times in a row. My family, bless their souls, didn’t always get the reasoning for my loathing. At least, not until they had to spend a few hours in a grocery store reading labels.
Now I rent vacation homes when I’m on the road. This has saved us tons of stress. It’s also surprisingly frugal. I’ve become so good at packing a traveling kitchen that it’s earned me the nickname of Samwise Gamgee from my husband. Samwise is awesome; hubby’s a hater.
Why, you might ask, should you care about this post if you don’t use a vacation home? Because the essentials you should always pack for a vacation home are also perfect to pack for camping, although obviously you may have to pack a few extra gizmos like spatulas.
I’ve read some crazy lists about what people consider “essential” for their travelling kitchen. Some of the lists include things like microplaning tools, garlic peelers and fish spatulas. Those lists are crap. Sure, if you have extra space, microplane your cheese and garlic to your heart’s content.
OR… use a knife.
Here’s three non-food items you can’t live without when you pack your vacation home/camping travelling kitchen, like a boss:
The Perfect Frying Pan (Your Superhero)
The perfect frying pan is 10-12 inches, tall-sided, of good grade of stainless steel and has a fitted lid of metal, or at least tempered glass. Leave the cast iron and ceramic stuff at home. You will find a vacation rental has a crappy selection of cookware, almost without fail. At the very least, you’ll probably discover that the frying pan is Teflon and always looks like someone took a fork to it.
The perfect frying pan can cook your pancakes and bacon and eggs in the morning, do a nice risotto or grilled cheese for lunch, and be used to make a one-pot meal like Balsamic Chicken with Grains and Greens for supper. You can make bannock in it, or cornbread. It serves equally well on the stovetop, over a fire, or in the oven. You can use it for frying, poaching, baking, roasting, and braising. If you think it still needs to justify its existence more, well then consider that you can reduce the space it takes up to almost nothing because you can pack other things in it.
If you don’t own this frying pan yet, go buy it. This bad boy will be your go-to, and you will never have to touch someone else’s crappy garage-sale purchased vacation home cookware.
A Pill Sorter (AKA Your New Badass Spice Kit)
I don’t remember where I saw this concept… it was probably Pinterest. Nevertheless, the moment I did see it, I shouted “GENIUS!” And it truly is. Put salt in it, too. You can’t count on a vacation home having even the basics, much less your favourite seasonings. So unless you like robbing the local fast-food joint of paper packets of salt and pepper… I don’t really think I have to expand on this.
Aluminum Foil (The MacGuyver)
Oh the humble aluminum foil! So typically ignored as a household staple in this age of paper plates and plastic wrap. Is there anything it can’t do?
- You can wrap leftovers in it.
- You can cook in it or under it–great for anything on the grill. And protect those pie crusts!
- You can use it to keep messes in the oven to a minimum so you don’t have to do more cleanup before you leave.
- If certain kitchen things in the vacation house are deemed untouch-worthy, such as the racks in a toaster oven or the cookie sheets for the oven, you can cover them over with foil.
- You can use it as a bake liner.
- You can use used foil wadded in a ball like a steel-wool pad to clean cookware.
- You can even sharpen scissors and kitchen shears with it.
- If things are going poorly, you can always amuse the kids with it.
What sorts of other things do you consider an essential part of your camp kitchen?