By Wolfe Rose
For many RVers, the idea of slow cooking a tender, delicious dinner is extremely appealing. Few things are better after a cool fall day of hiking than to sit down in a toasty RV to a hot bowl of fork-tender stew or a fall-apart pot roast.
The problem for many campers is that setting up the RV close enough to the great hike often involves camping without hookups, and it would be crazy to run a generator all day for a crock pot. Even if you have hookups or were willing to run your generator (or inverter from solar), this sort of long cooking can produce a lot of steam, which is almost never welcome in the confines of an RV. As good as dinner smells, dripping walls destroys the dinner ambiance!
The solution I’ve found to all of these culinary problems came in the form of an electric pressure cooker. This may seem entirely over-technical for “camping,” but there are many advantages that justify its precious space in the RV.
First, there’s the all-important run-time factor. Instead of running a generator all day, I can get the same tender results in only an hour. Instead of defrosting overnight or cooking a frozen brick of meat for substantially more generator time, local fresh veggies and the frozen meat go directly in the cooker 70 minutes before mealtime instead of 700 minutes for a standard crock pot. That 70 minutes is all it takes for 6 quarts and about 6 pounds of hard-frozen pot roast – enough to feed a crowd. Many dinners only require 20 minutes to cook once prepped. More delicate things like seafood are done almost as soon as they reach pressure!
Next most important, as mentioned above, is humidity management. A pressure cooker releases little if any steam while it’s operating because it only works by being sealed. Once dinner is cooked, I can let it rest, re-absorbing all the moisture into the food, or safely carry the cooker outside to let it vent au naturale – zero steam fogging my windows. I use a lot of onion and garlic in my stew, so it’s nice not gassing us out of the RV with unwanted fumes before it’s cooked.
HOW ABOUT DURABILITY AND CONVENIENCE? My pressure cooker is mostly plastic and aluminum, so unlike a ceramic crock pot, it won’t be reduced to shards after driving country roads. Then there is the convenience of modern electronics. Since my pressure cooker is digital, when I do have shore power I can even set it up to start itself while I’m returning from the day’s activities.
Common RV wisdom dictates that everything in the RV should serve multiple purposes, and this one does. My wife cooks a lot of rice dishes, which can be done in under 10 minutes with pressure. I do ribs in 15 minutes. When we do have shore power, the cooker can slow cook at lower heat and without pressurization, making great cream soups that wouldn’t normally tolerate pressure cooking. Again, no steam from boiling rice or simmering that soup.
Finally, there’s health and budget. Cooking “real” food quickly lets you cook more frozen meats and use local produce instead of eating processed meals to save time and space. Home cooking is better, right? Pressure makes it possible.