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Cooking at sea... any tips?

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11 replies to this topic

#1 tukicook

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 09:25 AM

OK... it seems I may have taken on a job cooking on a fishing boat. After working as a chef for more than 20 years the only problem that presents itself is that I have never actually cooked on a boat or at sea before... Im sure there are plenty of do's and donts and handy tips around for undertaking such a task, would anybody like to share? I'll be at sea for around 3 months in tropical - subtropical conditions. Thanks in advance :biggrin:

" I'd rather a bottle in front of me than a frontal labotamy" - Tom Waits

#2 Jason Perlow

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 09:34 AM

There was an impomptu eGullet Q&A a bunch of years back with the head cook on the USS Virginia.

Jason Perlow
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#3 longroper

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 07:33 PM

No matter how nice the weather is, do not attempt to panfry anything requiring a substantial amount of oil.  I once spent half an hour holding an electric skillet full of frying chicken and hot oil in order to keep it from sloshing everywhere with the roll of the boat.  Because I am a masochist, I'd always wanted to try to fry chicken on the boat, and it was a nice day, pretty flat.  Of course by the time the chicken went into the pan, the wind had picked up and a nice slug of three-hundred-fifty-degree oil went all over the galley floor.  So I became a human gimbal until the chicken was done. 


Never overfill pots.


Always keep your pots secure on the stove.  Always make sure the oven door is latched. 


Eat your fresh vegetables quickly.


Don't cook as much when the weather's bad.


Know the closest place you can puke thats away from the food.


What kind of stove will you have?  Since you're tropical, I'm assuming it'll be something like a proper cookstove.  Where I live we use flat-top diesel stoves that also provide cabin heat.  They can be tricky to cook on. 


Is this a "fishing boat" as in a "commercial fishing boat" or as in a "charter fishing boat"?

#4 heidih

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 08:08 PM

As noted above the size of boat and how far out you will be at any given time is certainly a factor in any tip giving. That said I am a huge fan of the "home " cooking narrative in the 2 books written by Ann Vanderhooof as they sailed in the Caribbean and cooked well. Links: The Spice Necklace and An Embarrassment of Mangoes

#5 FeChef

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 09:57 PM

Bring plenty of chicken and beef.

#6 tukicook

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Posted 18 February 2013 - 11:07 PM

thanks guys, that should get me going. probably will be a small commercial trawler. havent secured the contract yet, still flirting with the idea... will keep u posted

" I'd rather a bottle in front of me than a frontal labotamy" - Tom Waits

#7 kryptos1

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:39 AM

My cousin did several small commercial fishing boats and they had a chef one time who had ready made meals in a pressurized jar (like gumbo) then beef/chicken in vaccume sealed with marinades.  They would eat up the fresh veggies/fruit first like mentioned before then canned veggies if needed.   Also came with rice (seasoned differently) or butter/garlic/olive oil noodles.  They were out like 2 weeks at a time and not picky eaters, so that seemed to work out.  I would think the glass may have been a risk to breaking but he didn't mention anything.  

#8 HungryC

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 08:45 AM

Remember that the captain's tastes rule, so do a little research beforehand.  You don't want to plan a bunch of menus to find out he/she hates X ingredient.  Also, the boat/owners may have a standing commissary order for groceries....you might not get to pick your ingredients, but may be working within a fixed-cost preset food allotment.  Brush up on your breakfast items, too.

#9 Easyezzy Foods

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 09:34 AM

Fried chicken would be a welcome surprise for the crew.  Use frozen chicken pieces and a pressure cooker.  No spillage problems and you get a nice juicy result.  Poor man's Henny Penny.

#10 Plantes Vertes

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 03:33 PM

You might have access to limited water, depending on the type of boat; that could necessitate some planning regarding the type of recipes you prepare and the order in which you use your utensils to reduce washing-up.
Do as much 'getting rid' as you can on land, to save space; throw out excess packaging, take meat off the bone etc.
Stack and store items (eg vegetables in a veg rack) closely packed to prevent them rolling around; you can use old newspapers to fill empty spaces.
Plan food options that can be used in either hot or cold preparations; using the oven will heat up the boat as well as the kitchen so it's best avoided in hot weather. If you get a cooler day, prep things in advance.

Put the lids on everything as soon as you've finished using it.
I guess the kitchen will already be properly fitted, but you could check these things:
Make sure the stove is gimballed (mounted on a pivot bracket) and learn how to balance and latch it.
Check that there are pot restraints (little pairs of arms that clamp pots on the stove). Use them in all conditions, even when it doesn't seem necessary.
Take a bunch of rubber mats to place pots, boards, utensils and plates on, to prevent them slipping. You can buy a roll of the stuff you put under carpets and just cut lengths off as needed. By the same token, don't stack plates in rough conditions. Don't put anything down unless it's secured by a non-slip surface.
Make sure there are lots of hooks in the kitchen to store things securely and if not consider getting a bar and some s-hooks you can hang on the top of a door.
Likewise, make sure all the cupboards have magnetic fastenings so they don't swing open and hit you in the face; you can fit the fastenings  inexpensively if not.
Get pouring spouts for your bottles to minimise spillage if anything topples over, and look out for a rack or frame to put them in securely.
Go for tupperware-type boxes rather than bowls for your mise en place, as they're less likely to fall over.
Use big pots half-full rather than small full pots, so they don't spill in rough weather.
Avoid utensils in glass and porcelain.

Use the pressure cooker wherever appropriate, as the lid latch will stop things spilling even when no pressure is needed.

Edited by Plantes Vertes, 14 April 2013 - 03:39 PM.

#11 Kerry Beal

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Posted 14 April 2013 - 05:04 PM

Fried chicken would be a welcome surprise for the crew.  Use frozen chicken pieces and a pressure cooker.  No spillage problems and you get a nice juicy result.  Poor man's Henny Penny.

Perhaps not a welcome surprise for the crew if you use a regular pressure cooker instead of one of the ones made specifically for hot oil.  

#12 Smithy

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Posted 17 April 2013 - 09:40 PM

Consider already-prepared boil-in-the-bag meals.  There's a lot of that around, of good quality.  It freezes well (and thaws in its own time) and is well-contained.


Depending on how long you'll be out, and the tastes and size of the crew, you might be interested in keeping dehydrated ingredients on board.


I spent time as the ship's cook, but it was for time on the order of days and a crew on the order of 6, and may not be helpful. More information as to time on board, size of crew and crew's preference would be helpful.


It's been a while since you posted on this topic.  Have you taken the job?  Got any more information?

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