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RV Thanksgiving: Tiny Kitchen, Big Flavor!
Picture this.... your family and friends are gathered together, lazily watching the games and tossing around a football at halftime. Savory smells are wafting through the air in waves, and there's an undeniable cozy energy that just whispers...."holiday." It's Thanksgiving time! And you can celebrate with big flavors from your tiny RV kitchen!
When I first moved into my RV full-time, the teeny tiny oven gave me the assumption that Thanksgiving dinners would be a no-go. Wrong! With a pinch of planning and a dash of creative thinking, there's no reason you can't have a family feast in the RV. Don't get me wrong... you won't be cooking a 30 pound turkey in most RV ovens. (Although I've cooked a sliced turkey breast in there!) Here's a few tips to make a Thanksgiving meal happen!
1. Make your grill the star player!
Free up your kitchen by moving the bird outside on the grill! You'll start, of course, by removing the giblets and neck, draining the juice, and patting dry as usual. Don't stuff a turkey you plan on grilling-- but don't worry! We'll get to the stuffing later! If using a charcoal grill, set a drip pan in the center of the grate and place 25 to 30 charcoal briquettes along each side of the pan. Burn until your briquettes are covered with gray ash, which should take about half an hour. Place cooking grate in grill over coals and set your turkey, breast-up, on the grate after covering the entire bird with cooking or vegetable oil. Close the lid, open the vents, and wait for the magic to happen. (You'll need to add 5-10 briquettes every 45 minutes or so.) Ten to Sixteen-pound turkeys will take 2 to 3 hours to grill, but you can use a meat thermometer to ensure you're at 180° F in the thigh and 170° F in the breast.
Your turkey isn't the only thing you should delegate to the grill! If you can bake it inside, you can bake it outside! Using indirect heat with your gas or charcoal grill gives you an extra oven for all those extra sides and desserts! If you're baking a casserole or even a flaky pie, you won't be cooking directly over the flame, but instead having the flames off to the side. If using a gas grill, turn on the burners on one side of your grill and close the lid. After. a few minutes, the temperatures in your grill will be around 350° F, which is a perfect temperature for Thanksgiving baking! Place your dishes on the non-flame side, close the lid, and try not to peek too often to maintain a steady baking temperature. You will want to turn your dish halfway through for even heat distribution since one side of the grill is hotter than the other.
2. Kitchen Gadgets to the Rescue
When it comes to utilizing small space for big flavor, I consulted an expert! Louisiana Chef Julia Nelson from Cajun Affairs is a big proponent of having a butane grill on hand for easy cooking outdoors. "Using a butane burner lets me cook one-pot meals, sautee, fry, grill, make a rue or sauce, all from a portable source," she said. Portable single burners are inexpensive and double your cooking space. Sounds good to me!
Many RVers choose to have Crock Pots, Insta-pots, pressure cookers, toaster ovens, or roasters in their kitchens. Thanksgiving is their day to shine! You may want to set up a table outside and plug directly into the pedestal to not overload your rig and to keep the temperature cool in the kitchen. I've had my eye on a Ninja Foodi XL Grill and Oven, which flips up and out of the way when not in use. Employing these gadgets will free up your oven and stove for the rest!
3. Prepping Ahead
If we're planning on hosting anyone for dinner, I usually prep as much as I can ahead of time due to my small space. For a big holiday meal, I plan on prepping a few cold side dishes into large mason jars for easy storage. Add some twine around your jar and it can also be a cute serving option for your table. Here's a recipe for a fan-favorite side dish that preps well and is always a hit in this RV: Cowboy Caviar. This bean and veggie salad holds up well in the refrigerator for a few days and can be a side dish or a tasty appetizer. (I recommend grilling the corn first and then throwing in a few extra jalapenos and a few habanero peppers to spice it up!)
Tips for RV Kitchen Oddities
If you are new to cooking in an RV kitchen, you may be unfamiliar with the unevenly distributed heat in the propane oven. I'd highly recommend purchasing a baking stone and leaving it on top of your wire oven rack. Because RV ovens are so small, there isn't a lot of room for air circulations and hot/cold spots in relation to the propane burner will tend to burn items or cook them unevenly. Adding a stone helps to moderate the heat from the flame, which will help dissipate the hot spot in the center of your oven. The stone also adds some thermal mass, so as your propane burner cycles high and low, the oven temperature can remain more consistent. Here's a link to an inexpensive stone that fits ours and most standard RV ovens. Bonus Tip-- bring the stone out to the grill the next time you'd like to heat pizza!
Newbies to RV kitchens may also be shocked at the sensitivity to the kitchen smoke alarm. Mine often starts screaming when I am literally only boiling water. Although I'm very glad to have such a trusty safety device onboard.... it can be quite the drama queen and bring stress to days I am doing lots of cooking. On a day like Thanksgiving where your stove, oven, and other gadgets will be working overtime, I would highly suggest to invest in elastic bowl covers. Pop one of the smallest covers over your smoke alarm until the bulk of your cooking is completed, and then have the double-utility of having perfect covers for your leftover dishes!
Thanksgiving is undeniably a pretty excellent day full of family, friends, (football,) and great food. Don't assume you'll need to get takeout just because you're spending it in your RV! You've got this! Do you grill or deep fry your turkey instead of a traditional oven roasted bird? Do you have any RV kitchen hacks we should know about? We'd love to hear about your RV Thanksgiving traditions and tricks down below in the comments! Please consider subscribing below in the green box to stay up to date!
We are beyond thankful for YOU, happy campers! Happy Thanksgiving!
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