Baking In The Tiny House

Several years ago, even before we built our tiny house, we had heard from RVers, folks in mobile homes, and a tiny house person or two, that cooking – let alone baking – in a tiny house was next to impossible. It was discouraging news as both my wife and I enjoy cooking. I like to bake and she is nothing short of an epicurean wiz! We had seen the photos of miniature tiny house kitchens but figured the lack of ovens and multiple burner stoves was because of lack of desire. We felt like a tiny house design should reflect the person who dwells within and if you enjoy cooking that should be a priority. We therefore designed our tiny house kitchen to reflect our love of the kitchen space and found that cooking and baking was quite easy if you prepared appropriately!

The above photo was of our first tiny house kitchen. ‘The Bungalow’ as we affectionately called it was our home from January 2011 until February 2012. It was where we lived, I worked, and our daughter was born. At just 180 sq.ft. it came with its challenges but we made the best of it and you can see from the image that we had a Suburban 3-burner stove and oven combo. More than a few meals were made in the oven and quite a few pots of grits were boiled on top. Fed by a propane gas line and using a push button ignitor it was a nice unit for us and for the space.

We we transitioned into our tiny house (240 sq.ft.) we continued on with our desire to have a wonderful kitchen but we decided that the RV style oven wasn’t for us. My wife had come across a beautiful Breville Smart Oven with Element IQ at one of the box stores. She fell in love instantly and with a 13″ cooking capacity (medium sized pizza or 6-slices of toast), 9 pre-set programs, a convection fan, and 1800 watts of cooking prowess (drawing just 16.5A on a 110VAC line), it was kind of a no-brainer. We would give ourselves more storage space in our kitchen cabinetry and use the Breville for cooking and baking using just a minimum of our generous countertop space. So we proceeded with the Breville oven (not shown in photo below) and a 2-burner, drop-in, gas cooktop by Suburban.

StoveBut how does this all prove that you can cook or bake in a tiny house? Well, it doesn’t really other than to say that with the right equipment, the right planning, and the right mental attitude, great dishes can, in fact, be yours for the eating in your tiny house. I don’t want to sound completely ‘raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens’. There are some downsides to cooking/baking in a tiny house.

  • SIZE – Ovens designed for recreational vehicles (often the go-to for tiny houses) are naturally smaller. A number of sticks ‘n bricks pans will be rendered useless. 99% of models are only 19″ deep and at most 21″ wide. You can definitely fit a 9×13 pan in there but you have to prepare if you want to cook two dishes at once. 
  • PROPANE – Just be aware. It is what it is.
  • HEATING ELEMENT –   For the oven to get hot the propane flame comes out from a steel bar that runs from the pilot light to the front of the oven. The bar gets incredibly hot but can make retrieving pans a little daring.
  • PREHEATING –   The oven itself is very analogue so there are no timers, buzzers, or beepers for anything. Therefore, don’t expect a preheating option. The propane runs through the bar, the oven heats. It is that simple.
  • LIGHT IT UP –   They do make electronic ignitors and even a battery ignitor model but 99% of the ovens fit for a tiny house have to be lit manually. In other words, you push the ignitor, lets gas fill up the alcove, hold your flame over the pilot light area, and wait for the bar to catch before your arm hairs do.

Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about a few tips that can help make the cooking/baking process a more enjoyable and more tasty one. Let me just say though that it has only been a few weeks since my wife and I successfully baked two pecan pies, one sweet potato soufflé, and a family size lasagna in our current setup.

Pie

  • Preheat the oven.  Unfortunately this act is seemingly a waste of propane. However, to get your cooking/baking right and to stick to your recipe you need to go through with it. We use the timer on the microwave oven or a simple kitchen timer and you can even add….well, next point.
  • Use an oven thermometer.  Coupled with a kitchen timer you can develop your own sense of preheating and how long it actually takes in your oven. Not to mention the dial on the oven itself is not historically accurate in my experience. Follow the thermometer and, again, you will develop your sense of cooking/baking times and temps.
  • Rotate your pan.  This just helps cook/bake evenly. With a bigger unit you don’t need to do so and with our Breville convection fan oven you didn’t need to. But with something like a drop-in Suburban oven you absolutely need to so that the propane doesn’t burn hotter on one side than the other.
  • Adjust your wire rack.  You have three sets of heights you can adjust your rack on. Use them. The higher up you can move the rack the less intense the heat is and the more even the cooking/baking is.

So what do you think now? Are you ready to get to cooking/baking in your tiny house? Do you have any small space tips to share regarding cooking/baking? 

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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Sue - December 17, 2014 Reply

Am SO excited to get info re: the kitchen. I’m a cook & baker & REALLY appreciated the details, since that’ll be the primary focus of my tiny home, even if it means sacrificing space in other areas. GOTTA have a stove! And that pie looks delicious! 😉

Dominick Bundy - December 17, 2014 Reply

Nice article, with some very good and valid points ..But there is also another alternative to consider here, (unless one is stranded way out in the boonies in bad weather) in a tiny house. That would be. If one desires homemade baked goods. Why not just go to any local bakery and get the next best thing as homemade, already made. pies, cookies, cakes, bread, rolls etc.. No fuss no muss, and no cleanup afterwards…

    Dorothy - December 17, 2014 Reply

    That’s fine for those of us who find no joy in cooking but the writer indicates that they love to cook and bake.

      Anna - December 17, 2014 Reply

      And those of us with dietary restrictions (such as gluten- or dairy-free), prefer to use organic and/or locally sourced ingredients, want to nourish ourselves and our families the best we can, *and* love to bake… this is a great article. 🙂

    maxine lesline - January 12, 2015 Reply

    Cooking and eating at home boost one’s health.. immune system.. etc. Ovbiously.

Becca - December 17, 2014 Reply

Very informative, baking is something I had never thought of in a tiny home!

Kurt - December 17, 2014 Reply

Love the ideas I find on the Tiny House Blog. However I find it hard to understand why ever time the subject of cooking or kitchen comes up the only thing I ever see is a stove or a “gas” burner type cooktop. Haven’t any of you ever heard of the Nuwave company. You start with the Nuwave PIC, an induction cooktop that can be used then put away and when buying them u can get 2 for 1. Then add to that the Nuwave infared convection oven, also an item you can use then put away. Both items save a fantastic amount of space are very efficient and allow the most or least experienced cook to cook to there hearts content.

    Andrew M. Odom - December 17, 2014 Reply

    I think the reason the NuWave has not found its way into the tiny house world (as opposed to the RV world) is because of two things:

    1) aesthetic of the unit itself as opposed to a “standard” looking cooktop, etc

    2) amount of countertop space it takes to use and then the amount of storage space it takes to “hide” it

      Mike Wofsey - December 17, 2014 Reply

      No comment about the ease or difficulty of storing those NuWave ovens, they are a little large … BUT, as a newcomer to those things, they are genuinely remarkable, that little $35 halogen light “oven” cooks food better than my full-sized gas oven. I’ve grown to love that little device, and when I start on my tiny home I will certainly find a space inside for one of them. My back-of-the-envelope calculations show it’s surprisingly energy efficient too, because the UV light seems to penetrate the food somewhat.

    Rebecca - January 11, 2015 Reply

    I am considering induction cooking and will check out Nuwave. Thank you for the information.

Jan - December 17, 2014 Reply

Thanks for the awesome tips!! I love to cook, but especially bake. Your article points out some very important points of planning. Happy cooking and baking.

Susie M - December 17, 2014 Reply

So glad that the baking/cooking/size of kitchen issue in Tiny Houses is being addressed.

While desperately wanting to take the plunge – I am for the moment stuck – due to circumstances beyond my control (lack of health/income) but living tiny and more simply is most definitely in my future.
That being said – I’ve been following the movement closely for several years now, and am surprised at the amount of valuable real estate taken up by kitchens.

What’s up with that? When you consider how much time is actually spent there – the proportions just don’t make sense. So I’ve been paring down the area and equipment used in my own kitchen – and since I used to be a private cook – this is no small task – one of my mixing bowls alone could double as a dog bath!

I’m down to just a few high quality items – a really good 8.5″ hard anodized saute pan and 2 or 3 stainless pots and pans (one of the lids fits the saute pan) – the whole issue of heating up an entire oven for just a pizza or a few baked potatoes is one that galls me – I can’t be that wasteful.

So in the spirit of seasonal deep discount,s I just treated myself to a halogen “Super Wave” convection oven. It goes for anything from $70 – $120- depending on where you shop – I had mega bonus point and got mine for only $32- inc. shipping – I’m cheap – It’s portable – sits on the counter top when in use – has a timer and heat control – cuts cooking time – thus saving energy – so far I’ve used it for baking, roasting, grilling and “air frying” – have to admit that I’m impressed enough to abandon my regular oven and relegate it to storage. I plan on using one of these and a 2 burner in counter (sunken with removable counter cover)

Since I do supplement my income with sewing, arts and crafts – that counter space needs to be multi – use – so the sink has to be at the wall end, with the other end extendable – other than that – there has to be ways to condense the kitchen storage – more creative storage – toe kicks, ceiling drop racks – slide out pantries etc. Once we’ve freed ourselves from mortgages and debt – do we really still need so much kitchen?

I’m not criticizing – I realize that everyone is different – I really would like some input here from people who have downsized to a THOW – opened up your lifestyle because of the reduced living costs, and want to know if you really need and use that much kitchen? up to 30% of the main floor – or do you eat and cook out doors more often? What would you do differently if you were to start over in your design with regards to the kitchen?

    Doc - December 18, 2014 Reply

    susie m,
    yes we are all different, thank God! our short ride here would be boring if we weren’t!

    our design for our thow will include a larger kitchen with somewhat larger appliances. that will include an apartment size range, one of the taller apartment fridges and even a small dishwasher. we like to cook and like to move about in the kitchen together. need the space and the amenities.

    the other area we will have larger is the bathroom. we will have a flush toilet, sink with small vanity and a 48″ shower as i am not flexible enough to get to my wife’s feet in a 32′ or 36′. you know, save water, shower with a friend! 🙂 most thow have a “wet bath”. i cannot fathom that with the moisture problems inherent with a well insulated small home. so we will have an exhaust fan in there as well. with a wet bath you would need to squeegee all the surfaces wipe down the toilet, mop the floor, etc. and where do you store paper? where are your clothes? in the kitchen? with your towel? we will also use sliding doors on both sides of the bathroom as you pass through to get to sleeping area from the kitchen.

    the sleeping area will be on the tongue of a fifth wheel with a few stairs on both sides for access to bed. too old and damaged to do lofts. 🙂 so, full height ceilings in the bedroom across the full width of the front and lots of windows for circulation and morning sunshine!

    our smallest area will be the living area. as we will spend the least time there. about a fourth of the hoe used for that. using the outdoors as part of your home is so liberating. time on the water, trails, stargazing, picnics etc. not tied the the four walls.

    yes, we’re different! how cool is that?! when i look at some of the homes on these pages i think,, “why would they do that?” or, “that’s so cool, i want to do that too!” to each their own and enjoy it. we sure will, when we get there!

    happy tiny housing!

John Fremont - December 17, 2014 Reply

Our family took a year to travel around the U.S. in and RV and picked up a tip from another RV’er. We put an unsealed, untreated 12″ x 12″ granite tile in the over on the bottom rack. It absorbed the heat, distributed it more evenly and kept the temperature a little more steady. A pan of brownies would be evenly cooked instead of burnt on one side of the pan and raw one other.

I am sure small ovens for tiny houses are better than RV ovens, but it still might improve the funcetion of a small appliance.

Donatella - December 17, 2014 Reply

You can save on propane by pre-heating the oven but then turning it off ~15 minutes or so before your cake or pie is done and even longer before you finish off something large like a roast. The residual oven heat will do the trick. Having more than one kitchen timer available helps.

    Anna - December 17, 2014 Reply

    Yes! We do this a lot. Same with things in pots on the stovetop. Make sure the lid is on firmly… then turn that sucker off! Also, people interested in using less fuel for slow cooking might want to look into the Wonderbag (a version of a hay box, if you know what that is).

Julia - December 17, 2014 Reply

I was hoping this would address the issue of cooking smells in such a small space. There’s a big difference between the sweet smell of baking and the greasy lingering smell that comes from baking a lasagna or a stirfry. I plan to install a marine/RV gas stove (probably the Spinflow Caprice) but wondered whether cooking smells go through everything in such a small space. It is also part of the reason I won’t do a loft bed – cooking smells wafting up and through bedding and clothes has no appeal. A couple of years ago during a mid winter house renovation I was without a kitchen for 5 months so cooked outside on the bbq in all weather and temps. I did roasts, pizzas, cooked all veges etc and was amazed at what I could turn out so thinking this may be an option for me with my TH but it would be nice just to have an indoor oven for baking etc.

    alice h - December 17, 2014 Reply

    You need a really good vent hood and exhaust fan and even then it’s best to cook stinky and/or greasy food outside if possible. I have a summer kitchen on a covered deck, but since I live in the Pacific NW it’s also a spring, fall and winter kitchen. No bears on my island, which simplifies things but the mice and raccoons mean you have to keep things tucked away when not in use.

    2peasinatinypod@gmail.com - December 26, 2014 Reply

    Yes whatever smells in the kitchen of our TH smells in the entire house.
    When I cook I open both kitchen And bathroom windows to allow circulation. Our son sleeps in the loft and he sometimes complains of the food smells. I have tried to alievate that problem by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and cooking during the day when he’s not home

alice h - December 17, 2014 Reply

I bake all kinds of stuff in my countertop toaster/convection oven. You can find lots of pans to fit and you can just bake small batches if you want. This cookbook was really handy http://www.amazon.ca/Small-Batch-Baking-When-Just-Enough/dp/0761130357

I’ve also baked bread and cakes in an outdoor BBQ.

Anna - December 17, 2014 Reply

I’m confused – are you saying you cooked all that Thanksgiving food in the Breville? One item after another? Or are you talking about using your former oven?

The Breville looks cool, just *tiny*. I often have more than one item I want to have in the oven simultaneously.

Thanks.

    Andrew M. Odom - December 17, 2014 Reply

    We cooked the soufflé first because it was going to be reheated at our family event anyway. Then we cooked the pecan pies so they would have time to set and cool.

Joyce - December 17, 2014 Reply

During my first year of marriage, we had no oven and used a flat top wood stove. I made my own oven using pans and a wire rack to cook pies and cake.
Recently we looked at the modern gas/propane stoves and all have electronic ignition. None will operate an oven if the power goes out so we figured a solution would be Use the camp oven. It folds into a thin square, has a thermostat and sits nicely on the burner top. One option to consider.
Don’t forget many oven ready dishes double for cooktop use and serving dishes eliminating the use of metal pans.

Kim - December 17, 2014 Reply

Great post! When we built our 320-square-foot space, a full stove was a must for us. That meant we gave up other things but I’m so glad we did. This holiday season, it’s been baking as usual.

Esther - December 17, 2014 Reply

I cook and bake daily in our tiny house, and am proud of how spacious and functional our tiny kitchen is. Propane ranges don’t HAVE to be mediocre, but many ranges designed for RV’s are pretty cheap.

We invested in a Unique 20″ propane range with a broiler and large cast iron grates over the burners. The ignition is battery powered and although sometimes it takes a minute, you never have to manually light the pilot. Works just as well as any gas oven I’ve ever used, if not better. Also impressively efficient: I use the stove at least two times a day and the oven probably a couple times a week and a 20 gallon propane tank lasts well over a month.

wojcickim - December 17, 2014 Reply

I’m so surprised no one else has discovered the microwave/convection oven combo. I just bought a GE Profile under cabinet model and it is incredible. I can zap it or use the more conventional cooking/baking methods. The oven cavity is a generous size with two metal racks and a turntable. I can roast, bake, or microwave.

I live in a standard sized house with a standard size kitchen but already have decided this will be an indispensable appliance in my tiny house. Has anyone else checked them out?

    Rebecca - January 11, 2015 Reply

    I already have one and love it. Capacity is good and it is mounted above the counter. I have been looking at 2 burner 110 volt induction cooktops. I love to cook and have been using a single burner 110 volt plug in for a year and a half. I also use an electric frying pan, crock pot, and wok. By the way, before hot water on demand, I heated water and washed dishes in the wok. I am living in more space but practicing and seeing what I need. My final design is a kitchen with the rest tucked in around it. Tiny living is about keeping what is important to you… not sacrifice so much.

Samanta - December 18, 2014 Reply

What an excellent post! We are currently building our “smaller” cabin. It will be 400 sq ft which is huge compared to some of the tiny homes out there but it will be a bit of a downsize for our family of 4. We started in a 1800 sq ft home and rented apartments around 900 sq ft. The kitchen is important to me since I make all our breads homemade and make a lot of other things from scratch. We have a toaster oven that we will be using for baking but I haven’t decided on a cook top yet.

Phil Washburn - December 18, 2014 Reply

Has anyone tried a small stainless BBQ/grill with top running on propane in such small spaces? We had a houseboat once, had this on the deck and used it all the time! with the hood down it could bake, of course you could grill, and use pans to cook or fry or whatever, although you’re talking about some heat in an enclosed space. If I remember right, ours was under $200 and they are so versatile!!

Linda Pond - December 19, 2014 Reply

Thank you for all of this fantastic information!

I need your help! I want to test drive the Tiny House lifestyle before I invest. I need to love it.

If you know of any Tiny House I can rent for the weekend – Ottawa ON area – please let me know.

Linda Pond

    Sharon Irven - December 20, 2014 Reply

    Me too , Linda! Happy to explore one in our area. But I am surprised that no one has mentioned using a slow cooker, although it wouldn’t work for baking. Also, curious to hear of anyone’s experience with induction range tops?

      2peasinatinypod@gmail.com - December 26, 2014 Reply

      Hi. Just wanted to respond to your induction stovetop question. We have been living in our TH for 11 months and used an 2 burner induction stove top exclusively every day. I cook 3 meals a day using my induction stovetop and love it. Personally I prefer electric over gas for safety reasons and it works well for me. I also have the breville convection oven and use several times a month. I cook a lot of Indian dishes which usually has a lot of spices in the recipe. The smell can be quite strong so I open both kitchen windows and the smell seems to lessen.

      Frances Perkins - December 27, 2014 Reply

      Au contraire, my dear – but you CAN bake in a slow cooker. Sorry I don’t have an exact link or directions to offer you, but I’ve come across quite a few on the web so you should be able to find plenty of info when you know to look for it. Right now I’m an old lady living in a huge partially restored Queen Anne – so I don’t need to do that. YET. But one can never tell about the future. I’d certainly rather sell and downsize than move into assisted living or GodForbid, a nursing home. My independence and privacy – and quiet – mean everything to me.

Shawn & Jamie! - December 19, 2014 Reply

That Breville is great. We too used it in our tiny rolling bungalow for nearly three years! Jamie’s a retired baker and loved it (still does in fact). Good for baking and all, cool 🙂

donna - December 30, 2014 Reply

Check out The Boat Galley for very creative cooking, baking and gear ideas for tiny living. My husband, 2 giant golden retrievers, an I live aboard our boat….it’s our TH!

Julia - May 25, 2015 Reply

Is anyone else here terrified of propane? I realize my fear is irrational and likely based on lack of understanding, but I can’t help imagining what could happen to my future tiny house if a hose was loose or there was a leak somewhere. Ultimately I will have solar with electric to supplement, but until then I’m planning to be attached to the grid and have a small electric range. Does anyone have experience with this or recommendations?

Mike - March 13, 2016 Reply

Does anyone know the brand name or where i can purchase the Oven in the photo in the beginning of the article (third picture down with green teapot)? It is black and probably the size we need. My wife and I are redoing a Lake Cottage on Lake Erie and it is small.

I am trying to convince her of the microwave/convection (like found in this link http://www.sears.com/kenmore-elite-1.8-cu-ft-over-the-range/p-02280373000P?sid=IDx01192011x000001&gclid=Cj0KEQiAvJS3BRDd44fjndyii6MBEiQAN4EkPZG-if7qjmFSpv1L-Vh8uVKuoE6Twz_2fIPB7DetRrUaAvsa8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds) I am not affiliated so if anyone has a better one please let me knoe

lovenati - April 26, 2016 Reply

I do NOT like my Breville…am I missing something? I’ve tried banana bread, zucchini bread…always hard as a rock on the outside and raw on the inside no matter what temperature I bake at….

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