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Strategies for cooking when traveling


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I spend a few weeks a year in the London area, and much as I like to dine out, given the ingredient options available at places like the Borough Market I do a fair bit of cooking as well. Last year I thought I was going to lose a finger and my hearing to their awful knives and glass(!) cutting board. I travel carry-on only, so I can't bring a knife, but I think I'm just going to buy one when I get there and leave it. Cutting boards are cheap, I'll do the same there. What other strategies do you all have for cooking in a poorly-appointed kitchen?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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For the last eight years, we have done a road trip that involves renting a log cabin in a nicely remote area in northern Arkansas. The kitchen is equipped but most of the utensils and pots and pans are not to our liking, so we have the following in our camp box:

 

Dry goods, utensils, paper products:
Paper towels
Puffs
Baggies
Knife
Cutting board
Cheese slicer
Wine bottle opener and cork
Fry pan
Foil
Wax paper
Cling wrap
Charcoal
Chip clips
Chill pack
Coozies
Wine and brandy glasses
Edited by robirdstx (log)
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But wait... He is going to London with carry-on luggage only.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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When we spent three months living in Belgium, we augmented the kitchen with a sharp knife for each of us, purchased locally. (Our cutting board was OK.) With access to a decent knife (and some way to keep it reasonably sharp; don't discount using the underside of a ceramic bowl or plate as a makeshift steel!) and cutting board, a pot, and a stove with at least one functioning burner, you can do an amazing amount of cooking. If you have a microwave, you have even more options. We found that Rubbermaid-style storage containers (the ones that can be reused but you wouldn't hesitate to give them away and not get them back) were a godsend, for storing leftovers, as prep bowls, to hold the cooked spaghetti sauce when you take it out of the one large pot so you can cook the spaghetti in that pot, for microwaving, for using the lid as a quickie plate to hold something, or even to seal up stuff that you wanted to throw in your suitcase and bring home without worrying about leaks.

 

You may need to invest in a can opener, depending on what you're cooking and how it comes packaged. It's OK to use convenience foods such as precut veg, especially if your prep space and time are limited.

 

If you're looking for a couple of things to make a kitchen bearable, don't overlook IKEA.

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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14 minutes ago, robirdstx said:

 

Is this topic restricted to traveling by air only?

 Sorry but I was taken aback.   Chris had after all said he was going to London and that he was only taking carry-on luggage. If it's open to any cooking while travelling then, sure, pile it on. :)

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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My sister did nine days in London with just her purse and a carry-on. Her travel companion brought a purse, backpack, carry-on and two checked bags, and went home with four. :P

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I was trying to recall all the items in my travel bag (which is not yet unpacked after my return from Saskatoon late last night) - and had a flashback to having mentioned it on eG way,way back. A little research led me to this thread

 

So my little zippered bag hasn't changed - still has cutting board, paring knife, serrated knife, forks, spoons, pepper grinder, corkscrew and can opener. And I bring teapot, cup, water boiler - this trip I brought a bag of milk in an insulated lunch bag. Hotel had a great little kettle so boiler stayed in suitcase.

 

My suitcase has Ziplock bags in it all the time.

 

A trip that involves chocolate has a much bigger list. 

Edited by Kerry Beal (log)
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My "cooking while traveling", which I haven't done in a few years, was limited to what would fit in the back of a whitewater kayak. That was the only traveling I did much of where I had any interest (actually, more a need) in cooking while on the trip. When we traveled to paddle a river, our poorly-appointed kitchen was whatever we managed to fit in the boats (for the uninitiated, were talking about 7' or smaller whitewater boats, so there's not much room in there) and a campfire. So I'm guessing I don't have much to suggest that would be of interest to your travel situation. But we usually wound up with some pretty good meals despite the handicaps.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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5 hours ago, MelissaH said:

We found that Rubbermaid-style storage containers (the ones that can be reused but you wouldn't hesitate to give them away and not get them back) were a godsend

Yeah, that's a great idea. While obviously for some travels I can pack things to bring, for this particular trip everything needs to be purchased in situ or improvised.

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Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I've learned that a purse or backpack and one bag are all I can stand to drag around. For more than a three week trip I might take a larger bag than a carry on, but I hate that. I might buy a ceramic knife when I got there; they are cheap, and can do without sharpening for weeks. My way of dealing with the situation would be to adapt to the lousy minimal supplies, make one-pot meals, etc. Being me I would probably make large pots of something that I could have as leftovers if I didn't want to go out. I would be pretty irritated if I didn't have a toaster, though, but good sandwiches can be made with just a skillet, especially if you pick up some interesting artisan British pickles to add to a curried chicken sandwich. And right now I wish I had some great cheddar so I could make a grilled cheese sandwich. The options, including great cheeses and yummy breads, must be fantastic at the Borough market. If anyone can be creative with limited pots and pans it's gotta be you, Chris. I'm so envious!  

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1 hour ago, gfweb said:

You might order stuff on Amazon and send it ahead of you to the apartment. More control that way.

Good idea. Can't do it with a knife (signature required on blades), but for other stuff it will work. Suggestions for cheap things I can just leave in the apartment when I am done? A cutting board, of course, but what else should I be considering?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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1 minute ago, Chris Hennes said:

Good idea. Can't do it with a knife (signature required on blades), but for other stuff it will work. Suggestions for cheap things I can just leave in the apartment when I am done? A cutting board, of course, but what else should I be considering?

Whisk, mixing bowl, measuring cup, measuring spoons, 

 

spices

 

I use deli cups for everything

 

1/4 sheet pan

 

wooden spoons...fish/all purpose spatula

 

Cheap teflon omelet  pan

 

cheap scale?

 

and throw your SV machine in the carry-on

 

outside of the spices, I bet that's well under $50 with no VAT

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3 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

Good idea. Can't do it with a knife (signature required on blades), but for other stuff it will work. Suggestions for cheap things I can just leave in the apartment when I am done? A cutting board, of course, but what else should I be considering?

 

I had to read this a few times over.  I was thinking the knife master's signature on the blade.

 

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6 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

A cutting board, of course, but what else should I be considering?


You should be considering the tools you like to use when you cook and then search for the least expensive versions of those items you can get if you're just going to leave them behind. You're wanting to buy throwaway tools just so you can cook for a few days while on a trip. I'm thinking someone that dedicated to cooking would have a pretty good idea of the kitchen basics they like to work with.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Unless I expect to get seasonings more cheaply at my destination than at home, I load a few small packets of the herbs and spices I use most often into Ziplock bags, plastic bottles or the like. I don't know what the bulk spice scene is like in London. In Eqypt I'd plan to pick them up in the spice market, and have fun doing it, so I wouldn't use valuable luggage space on the way out. I might consider bringing small bottles or bags, empty, to bring some back.

 

Among the difficult-to-find and expensive items I can imagine you needing would be some modernist ingredients.  Are you likely to want, say, xanthan gum while there?  A gelling agent? If so, you might also need a small kitchen scale.

 

I'd bring an instant-read thermometer, and possibly a reliable baker's (oven) thermometer.

 

A backpacker's camping pan with a folding handle (for compactness) can ensure that you have a reliable pan with a truly nonstick surface, if that's something you value.

 

I'd consider bringing a silicone lid cover that is heat-resistant, like these Charles Viancin silicone lidsir?t=egulletcom-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00C2UF92. (There are many sizes and styles, and other brands available.) Those serve as lids on the stovetop, lids in the microwave, lids for leftovers in the refrigerator. I find them almost as massively useful as Ford Prefect's towel.

 

Is parchment paper easy to find there?  If not, a roll of parchment paper or a Silpat-style baking liner might be useful.

Edited by Smithy
Added the thermometers and scale. Sorry, liuzhou, that you've already quoted this. (log)
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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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10 minutes ago, Smithy said:

Unless I expect to get seasonings more cheaply at my destination than at home, I load a few small packets of the herbs and spices I use most often into Ziplock bags, plastic bottles or the like. I don't know what the bulk spice scene is like in London. In Eqypt I'd plan to pick them up in the spice market, and have fun doing it, so I wouldn't use valuable luggage space on the way out. I might consider bringing small bottles or bags, empty, to bring some back.

 

Among the difficult-to-find and expensive items I can imagine you needing would be some modernist ingredients.  Are you likely to want, say, xanthan gum while there?  A gelling agent?

 

A backpacker's camping pan with a folding handle (for compactness) can ensure that you have a reliable pan with a truly nonstick surface, if that's something you value.

 

I'd consider bringing a silicone lid cover that is heat-resistant, like these Charles Viancin silicone lidsir?t=egulletcom-20&l=am2&o=1&a=B00C2UF92. (There are many sizes and styles, and other brands available.) Those serve as lids on the stovetop, lids in the microwave, lids for leftovers in the refrigerator. I find them almost as massively useful as Ford Prefect's towel.

 

Is parchment paper easy to find there?  If not, a roll of parchment paper or a Silpat-style baking liner might be useful.

 

Everything you mention is easily findable in London. And much more. It is a major world city, after all! :)

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Silicone lid - brilliant idea. Useful in so many ways - I'm going slip one in my travel bag. The Viancin ones are expensive (though Anna N and I found a collection of them in a clearance bin recently and added a few sizes to our collections) so I'd rather take along than try to buy when there.

 

I have a little IR thermometer in my purse already. 

 

I've been in the habit of hitting thrift stores to get things that I want to use while away and leave behind. That might include tea pots, cups, knives, cheap cutting boards, pots and pans, real knives and forks so I don't need to use plastic in my room.

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I hadn't really thought about a scale. I probably won't be using any recipes while there, but I hadn't really considered anything Modernist. A cheap restaurant supply skillet might be a worthwhile purchase, the one in the apartment is usually pretty beat up. What kind of store will I find a silicone lid in? 

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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