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.
- 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.
- 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?