Story and photography by Lori Ross
While the primary ingredient to successful cruising under power is The Holy Place (engine room power plant), delicious, nourishing meals from the galley (The Other Holy Place) are critical to maximizing the human power plant! And, outfitting The Other Holy Place with the right tools and equipment is critical to ensuring great meals keep coming regularly!
In my sailing years, the primary goal of outfitting the galley was getting everything to fit somewhere, remain unbroken and stay in place while we were underway. Heeling in a sailboat creates chaos in the galley when equipment and cupboards are not properly secured and it can be downright dangerous when pots and pans, crystal glasses, baskets of ripe produce and cupboards full of canned goods are on the wing! Our rule was: “If it cannot be secured, it cannot stay on the boat!
When we converted to cruising under power, by force of habit, I continued to adhere to the sailboat rule until I realized that we rarely “heeled” and that it would be way more fun to entertain aboard if I had the tools and equipment I liked! While we had several spills due to rough weather or a big wake – for example, when the unsecured refrigerator opened its doors and cascaded its contents down on me – chaos concerns are significantly reduced with a stabilized boat that has many safety and security features built in!
Thus, did my primary goal for outfitting the galley change to replicating the critical elements of my home kitchen aboard. I began this process on our Grand Banks 42 -- outfitting the boat with the duplicates of cooking equipment and utensils I already had in my home kitchen (not my favorites) and buying a coffeemaker, toaster and microwave oven that I could “plug in” to electrical outlets, just like at home! These items opened up a whole new world of entertaining and convenience!
The Search for a New Galley
When we started looking for a new boat, I had several requirements. I wanted a good ventilation and lighting, galley “up”, an electric oven (greater temperature stability for baking), a standard refrigerator instead of freezer and ice box, a built- in microwave oven and a double sink. Since we were looking at boats larger than 42 feet, I assumed that I would have counter and cabinet space that was greater than or equal to the Grand Banks. Looking back on my notes about the various boats we looked at, I realize that we rejected several brands outright because they had “down” galleys and another because its galley appeared to be an afterthought (little or no countertop space; cabinets too high to reach, poor lighting and ventilation).
Good lighting and ventilation are important in a boat galley. I prefer a galley “up” in part, because it is always easier to ventilate and there is more natural light – I can also be with my guests at the same time. Galleys need lots of lighting and often, the galley seems to receive the least amount of attention when lights are distributed in a boat. Both our Grand Banks 42 and our Fleming were designed with an “up galley” and a window strategically placed over the sink to provide sufficient light during the day.
Once we narrowed down our boat preference to a Fleming, I began to look at each boat’s galley configuration to see if it would work best for me, rating them as I went along. All the Fleming 55s we saw had “up” galleys, huge side by side refrigerator/freezers, built in microwave ovens and stove tops with 3 or 4 burners, ample counter and cabinet space, dumb waiters to the flybridge and double sinks. The variations were primarily in three appliances: trash compacter, electric oven and dishwasher. While I wanted all the appliances, I could not fit an oven, trash compactor and dishwasher in the galley without losing most of my storage space! I agonized and finally decided that I would miss an oven/broiler more than I would miss a dishwasher on most cruises. If I didn’t want to wash dishes, I could broil, roast, braise or bake in disposable aluminum foil pans and serve on paper plates! The boat we selected had a trash compactor ,but had no electric oven, nor a dishwasher. While I would have liked all these appliances, the compromise we made, installing an electric oven in lieu of a dishwasher, has worked out well. Jim and I also found a nice Magma Catalina Propane grill, part of Magma’s Gourmet Series, for the flybridge. It is bolted on the fly-bridge rail and connected to a small propane tank and rounds out my cooking options.
The Fleming has a variety of lighting in the main saloon and galley that include: wall sconces, recessed halogen light fixtures and stop top light under the wall-mounted microwave oven. The brilliant white light provided by halogen bulbs brightens the whole main salon and galley area when it is dark or cloudy. The configuration allows me to have bright lights for preparing meals and washing dishes at night and soft, indirect lighting for dining, watching TV and entertaining.
Our Fleming also has great natural cross-ventilation through screened windows and the microwave oven, which sits above the stove top, has a ventilation fan built in that removes cooking fumes, smoke and odors quickly.
Outfitting the New Boat
For the new boat I refined my outfitting technique and carefully selected my favorite home kitchen gear and bought exact duplicates for the boat. Instead of a half dozen cheap chef knives, I bought two very good knives and flat steel that fit better in the shallow drawers. Rather than hand-me-down cookware and cutting boards from the house that didn’t really fit well on the boat, I bought two medium size cutting boards for cooking (one wood and one plastic) and found smaller sized cookware pieces that fit perfectly on the stove top. Instead of bringing my old blender aboard, I invested in a small Cuisinart food processor with a glass blender attachment that blends and whips like a champ! And, because I have a china cabinet and a washer and dryer, I added real china (Wedgewood white) and cloth napkins, placemats and tablecloths! I use everything I have aboard now, and, every year, I completely empty the galley and take anything (utensils, tools, appliances, cookware, serving ware and foods) I didn’t use all season off the boat! This way, I don’t carry a surfeit of useless items aboard and I have room to add new “finds” the following year.
China, Glass and Stainless or Wood, Acrylic and Plastic?
While quality paper or plastic plates may be convenient, they take up an awful lot of trash space. Besides, have you ever tried to cut a good steak on a paper plate? Although breakable, the stability of cruising under power allows for safe storage of china and stoneware aboard. I prefer china to stoneware because it is lighter weight and easy to carry. A pile of stoneware plates can challenge even those of us who lift weights! I like to layer the china with rubber non-skid (available in circle shapes or large rolls that you can cut to the shape of your platters and china). On sailboats, I used full-size plates made from a solid synthetic material like Corel because they were unbreakable and lightweight (for racing!). However, eating on Corel, in my opinion, is as casual as eating off disposable plastic or paper plates but you have to wash them afterwards! I have two complementary china services – one is white Limoges china for four people and the other is white, turquoise and navy china I purchased from an outlet mall store many years ago for eight. If I have more than eight people dining aboard, I can use them together.
I do not have matching platters because they are too difficult to store in the china cabinet. Instead I use the wood, bamboo, acrylic trays, pitchers, bowls or the baskets I have aboard. I love collecting interesting trays, bowls and baskets and I put them to work on the boat every single day we are cruising. We have received lovely gifts of baskets and trays that I cherish and use often when entertaining aboard. I oil the wooden trays and bowls once a year and scrub the baskets with warm water and a brush a couple times a season to keep them clean.
Pots and Pans
When we first bought our house, we purchased a beautifully matched set of heavy stainless pots and pans. While I still use them (20 years later!), I have found that I prefer to use a variety of pots and pans for different jobs. I like non-stick skillets for omelet’s, crepes and pancakes; I like cast iron for browning, frying and high heat sautéing and stir frying. I like stainless for braising, boiling, steaming and medium and low heat sautéing (e.g. crab cakes, chicken breast, fish); ceramic for baking and aluminum or stainless for roasting and braising and a pizza stone for pizza and bread baking and reheating. This configuration of pots and pans is perfect for us since the largest group for whom I ever cooked a meal on the boat is ten people (5 couples), If I’m entertaining a larger group, I will often cook much of the meal in advance, at home, and bring food to the boat for the party.
So, when we outfitted the Fleming, I reproduced the configuration of pots, pans, bakeware and small appliances I use most. I bought one of each of the following:
• small and one medium covered stainless steel saucepan
• small covered stainless steel skillet
• small soup/pasta pot with cover and steamer that doubles as a colander and cover
• 10” non-stick omelette/saute pan
• shallow and one deep Corning Ware casseroles with covers
• stainless steel cookie sheet.
• 10” cast iron skillet
• Silicone Rubber loaf and cake pans and muffin pans (scrunch them up for storage)
• Nested Stainless steel mixing bowls
• Set of 8” pizza stones, small pizza peel and pizza slicer
• Pyrex pie plate
• Stainless Steel tea kettle and tea pot
• Small electric hand mixer and wire whisk
• Cuisinart combination blender and food processor (uses different bowls and blades for each function)
• Cuisinart electric drip coffee maker
• Stainless steel french coffee press
• Two slice toaster
Cutting, Chopping and Dicing
I need three basic knives and my favorites are Wustof or Sabatier. When selecting your cutlery, don’t skimp. Pick knives with handles large enough to get a good grip. Make sure they have some sort of tang, so your hand doesn’t slide onto the blade and suffer a nasty cut. Above all, don’t settle for anything less than food-quality stainless-steel blades. Nothing is worse than pulling a knife out of a drawer and finding it covered with rust, which happens all too often in the moist environment of a boat. My three “must have” knives are a general-purpose knife that can be used for carving and de-boning and is flexible enough to double as a fillet knife. Second is a chef’s knife - a heavy one with a medium-length blade. My third knife is a small paring knife with a good-size handle and a blade of about 3 or 4 inches. And, finally, a dull knife is worse than no knife, so I also have a good sharpening stone - two-sided, diamond stone (which seems to sharpen more quickly).
Last, but not least, I needed a good-quality chopping or cutting board. I have three food-grades, “self-healing” plastic boards in different sizes, which can be stored on the side of a cabinet or hung from hooks on a bulkhead. In addition, they are easy to keep clean and are not absorbent, cutting down on illness-causing bacteria. However, my wooden cutting board is my favorite, since nothing slides off it. I use it primarily for cutting vegetables and fruits, not for raw meat or fish.
Other handy kitchen tools I wouldn’t cruise without include:
• Long handled fork, spatula, tongs and spoon for safely reaching into the grill, deep pots and the oven.
• Wooden Cooking spoons, slotted spoons and ladles and Teflon and stainless steel spatulas with wooden or plastic handles, so they will stay cool in your hand.
• Attractive Cheese spreaders and slicers, small condiment spoons, appetizer forks, toothpicks and bamboo skewers
• Nesting stainless-steel or plastic measuring cups and measuring spoons.
• Stainless-steel steamer insert for your cooking pot that can double as a colander
• Stainless Steel Sink Colander: I adore my stainless sink colander that has collapsible arms that hook on the edges of the sink. Just rinse your fruits or vegetables and toss them in the colander…I even drain pasta and cooked veggies in it. After using it on the boat, I bought one for the house!
• Flat stainless-steel grater with several blades, Oxo vegetable peeler and portable Mandoline slicer from Williams-Sonoma
• Pastry brush (nothing like a brush for glazing, buttering pans or brushing meat with marinade on the grill) and wooden rolling pin (for pizza, pastry, pounding meat and chicken)
• Pepper and Salt Mills…never clogs and the mills provide nice flavorful grinds of pepper and salt
• Hot pads and kitchen mitts. Hot pads can double as trivets for your nice wood table or countertop.
Every year, I take off the items you haven’t used at all and keep a list of equipment and tools I would like to have aboard. This year, I want to get rid of my crockpot/deep fryer that I never use aboard and experiment with a pressure cooker and stove-top smoker to determine whether these would be valuable additions to our cruising style. Ideally, I’d like to have larger propane grill built into the flybridge, but that will have to wait until we are willing to give up some space for it. And, I’d like a propane stovetop because it is easier to control and uses less energy. However, to install propane, we would have to take apart the flybridge to place the tank in a safe area and we’d have to remember to refill it!
Outfitting a galley is a dynamic process - it is never complete, nor is it ever perfect. Every year, our taste and use of the boat changes a little. This summer, it seems that we grilled everything and ate more cold foods. Last year, I made greater use of the oven and stove top and, on the Grand Banks, I used the microwave all the time! While your boating lifestyle may be different from my own weekend cruises, the most important thing to remember about your galley is that you need to outfit it to meet your unique needs.