Originally Published for online retailer TheClymb.com
The outdoor kitchen differs greatly from it’s indoor counterpart. Out here we do not have unlimited access to hot water, cleaning supplies, and a steady backup of dishes. Often times it’s only one plate/utensil/cup per person, if you are lucky. Eating notwithstanding, cooking can also be a challenge given your limited resources. But the cream always rises to the top; and a good cook can do with whatever they have on hand. But having the right type of cookware for the job will make your outoor cooking (and cleanup) much more enjoyable.
Please consider these guidelines when purchasing your outdoor kitchen – the different factors might mean the difference between a happy meal and a frustrating fiasco.
Material: The cooking surface is most important after the cooking is finished and the cleanup has begun. Depending on what you are cooking, you will want specific material to best suit the medium. Read on to find what that is.
Aluminum: This is the most affordable option – it is lightweight, but also very susceptible to wear and tear. Although it heats fast, it does not always distribute the heat evenly, staying hotter directly under the heat source. Aluminum cookware is best suited for people who cook irregularly. A good option is to get a copperized bottom, but you must also consider the fact that this adds weight to your pack.
Stainless Steel: Solid and rigid, it distributes heat quite well. It is much more easy to clean than aluminum, but for easily cooked food meeting high heat (take eggs, for example), it can be a bit of a pain to clean the caked-on mess.
Titanium: This is a lightweight, durable, easy to clean material. It is one of the more expensive options, but if you camp and cook often, this might be a worthwhile investment.
Weight: This will vary based on the material you are using, as well as the durability of the material. Titanium is the most lightweight option, followed by aluminum. Stainless Steel is on the heavy side of this comparison.
Depending on what you are cooking, and how many people for, you will want to make sure your cookware can handle what you are bringing it. The Base Diameter is the total distance across the bottom of your pot or pan. A single person can get away with a pan 4” in diameter, while a group of 8 might need something a bit larger. If the base distributes heat evenly, then you can get a pot or pan with a base much larger than the burner size. If not, then it is best to keep a diameter no larger than the burner itself.
Depth is important if you are boiling water or creating other liquid-based meals such as a soup or sauce. A shallow pan means less to cook – anything less than 2” might as well be considered a pan. But if you plan on cooking rice and boiling plenty of water, make sure the depth of your pan allows for at least 4 cups for a standard meal for 2 people.
Volume: This is simply how much space the cookware can contain. A good rule of thumb is that a plate of food is roughly 2 cups. This is very rough, and you have to consider if your food is dense (like a bean) or not dense (like popcorn) – from there you should be able to determine if your cookware’s volume is adequate to your needs.
Use: Cooking style is very important when buying cookware – if you aren’t using something in your outdoor kitchen, it’s just taking up space. Be sure to ask yourself what you will be cooking – if you are a raw foodist perhaps you simply need to boil water to make it clean and pure. On the other hand you might need five or six pots/pans to suit your family-style dinners.
Set or Individual – This again depends on what you are cooking. If you are only using one or two items, perhaps it is wise to purchase the items individually. However if you are one to experiment in the kitchen and keep things interesting, then you probably want to get a set. Alternatively if you are a culinary whiz and know exactly what you want, perhaps you are best suited to buy each item on it’s own.
Lifters – Some cookware kits, in an effort to reduce size and bulk, do not come with their own handles. In this case it is a wise idea to pick up (no pun intended) a pair of lifters – your precious fingers will thank you.