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Cooking eggs (part 1)

April 9th, 2017 at 05:18 pm

My final major hurdle in the car project is my desire to build some kind of simple kitchenette. My goal is to almost never eat out unless I actually want to, and not because there is no way for me to cook. Plus, if I cook it, I know what I am putting into that food, and it will be cleaner and healthier than, say, ordering a fast food burger, have them cough into it, or drop it, pick it back up, brush it off, and give it to me without me knowing. It can save more money too.

The problem is, the more I looked into this, the less simple it looked. When it comes to cooking in a car, there are 3 basic options. All of them have their pros and cons.



1. Heating Element - Basically they look like these tool boxes but are really a small, enclosed heating space the size of a small loaf bread pan. Using a heating element

1a. Pros - It's dirt simple. Just put your meal in a bread pan, put that in the lunchbox, plug it into the cigarette lighter, and wait until heated to desired warmth.

1b. Cons - It takes a long time (20-30 mins) to heat foods. It will only heat up so much. And actually, I found out that these things draw 12 amps, which is 2 more than than what is available from typical sedan 12v cigarette receptacles. Meaning, it's only a matter of time before it trips a fuse or three. The alternative is to strap it directly to the car battery, but if I must do that, I might as do it for a more ideal cooking method, listed later. Also, space is limited compared to the others.

1c. Verdict - I decided to use this method as my last resort if all else fails.



2. Propane - Using some kind of propane cooker is what Bob (founder of CheapRVLiving and RTR) and many others use.

2a. Pros - Propane (or even butane) is cheap enough, will generate enough heat to cook just about anything, and using just about any cookery. Bonus is that a small Coleman propane tank shown in the pic above can also be used to power Mr. Buddy heaters during winter. It's also a fairly simple system to implement.

2b. Cons - Propane itself is a harmful gas in enclosed space, is a fire hazard where the entire car can theoretically catch on fire. Even if it is used safely, gas cookers can generate a lot of heat during use. Remember how heat is my enemy #1? Also, as a fire hazard, it can not be used indoors, and as an outdoor-only cooking method, it is also at the mercy of Mother Nature.

2c. Verdict - Bob (founder of CheapRVLiving and RTR) and many others insist that this method will work just fine, but even if it works perfectly, it's still going to generate a lot of heat that I am trying to avoid. I would also prefer to be able to cook in my tiny car, which I realize is asking for even more, on top of an already challenging build.



3. Induction plate - Finally we come to a very interesting option, which is the efficient use of an electromagnetic field that is converted to heat when it comes into close contact with an iron-rich pan or pot.

3a. Pros - Induction cooking is very energy efficient, enough so that it can even be powered by a 12v car battery at low heat settings. However, this should not be understimated as the heating is also super fast. Like, microwave fast. About 2 minutes or less and temps can reach upwards of around 100F to 175F. All without actually generating heat on its own (though the pot or pan will be very hot of course). Unlike propane or butane, the lack of any gas source means it can be used safely indoors. It's amazing, honestly.

3b. Cons - It's also, by far, he most difficult route to take. It means I need to be very aware of what the electrical systems and specs of every component in the entire chain, not just ensure that it can work at all, but that it can work safely. I can't just take one guy's word for it. Since I also have to assemble my own system, I have to know exactly what I am working with. Sadly, it's also the most expensive option in terms of upfront cost.
Also, I am concerned that this much wattage could accelerate the wear and tear on my car's battery systems.

3c. Verdict - It's by far the hardest route to take, but if it works, it could also be among the safest, most efficient, and most effective method to cook food. I just have to try it.

So, that's what I did. I ordered the induction cooker and some related components (such as a pure sine wave inverter) and gave it a shot, which I will detail in my next entry.

12 Responses to “Cooking eggs (part 1)”

  1. PatientSaver Says:

    OK, I am reading your posts backwards, so now reading this one after Part 2 answers some questions, although I'm still wondering about your long-term goals and reasons for doing this.

    I agree, inductions is intriguing, but were you able to determine whether this could shorten the life of your battery? If it did, it would wind up being a very expensive way to cook your eggs.

  2. jokeabee Says:

    We have been using that NuWave induction cookware while our renovating our kitchen. Obviously, our living room isn't the same as your car but it has worked really well. I think it takes longer to boil water, but it cooks the rest of the food really quickly. And there are hardly any limits on what you can cook with it.

  3. Tabs Says:

    Patient, my long term goal is to have the ability to live out in the woods (ie. state parks and BLM lands) for roughly 2 week stretches. It's a lofty goal, but it's a goal nonetheless as far as designing this camper goes.... Even if I don't end up living out in the woods for that long, I still want to have the capability to do so.

    It's true that I could just drive through McDonald's every day for not too much money, and who knows, I may end up doing that more often than I like. However, the ability to cook or at least heat a morning drink counts helps me immensely in terms of feeling like I am finally at "home".

    Also, all this practical experience directly translates to building my own solar panels down the road too. In fact, this is a possibility I am looking into, for this current build, though it is lower on the priority list.

    It's not the worst thing I've ever done with money, but I admit and agree it's certainly not the easiest or the cheapest route to take.

    As for battery wear, that is a great question. Under normal circumstances, a regular car battery should last around 5 to 7 years before it needs to be replaced. A quality battery should last longer, but of course, VanDwellers in general use and wear their batteries much more, so yes, the expected shelf life should shorten.

    The biggest thing I've read is to maintain the batteries in as good of a condition as possible; something that normal people (including myself) rarely ever do. We basically just turn on the ignition and related electricals in the car, expecting it all to start up without further thought to the battery unless it dies.

    As such, both short term and long term wear and tear data is very difficult to come by. So, to both maintain my battery as well as monitor its wear and tear over time, I've decided to install a battery monitor. It's ordered, I just have to wait for that and a few other parts to come in before I can continue.

    Like yourself, I am not sure this is the best way to go about things. And yet, perhaps that's just it. Though other people have used this method successfully, I won't know until if it will work for me unless I try. For myself anyway, I think it is worth it to me, to give it a shot.

    As it is, all this practical experience has given me a much better insight on how cars work in general, as well as solar panels.

    Jokeabee, I know right?! These thing are amazing. I'm a simple guy and this one plate is all I need for everything I want to do. Takes up so little room too. And is microwave fast on top of that? Crazy. I wish I knew about this when I was younger.

  4. PatientSaver Says:

    Thanks, Tabs, for your reply. But why do you want to live out in the woods on your own for few weeks at a time? Is it a kind of challenge where you just want to see if you can do it, and how self-sufficient you can be? Are you doing it to try to save money? Does it mesh with your desire to get off the grid? Or is there another reason?

    If so, I can relate in a way. I remember having a strong desire to hike the Appalachian Trail end to end. I never had a chance to do that, but perhaps it reflected a desire similar to yours to challenge oneself on a personal level. I've also always liked the idea of minimizing my environmental footprint and consuming as few natural resources as possible. I still have a longing to bike Nova Scotia coast to coast. Don't know if I'll ever do that.

    Would you be interested in making money off your experimental way of life? Cus I think there would be a much wider audience for your blog posts than little SA here. Maybe you could start your own Facebook group.

    I know you've been reading the blogs of others who are doing similar things, but I'm sure you would have a unique perspective people would be interested to know about, especially if you got into some of your background and philosophy, speaking to the kinds of questions I asked above. Like, I remember when you were trying to sleep in a closet years ago. I wanted to ask the same kinds of questions I've been asking here.

  5. Tabs Says:

    Hmm, these questions are a bit harder to answer than I anticipated haha. I'll do my best to answer them as I am realizing that they come in multiple layers.

    My main thrust here is the attempt to figure out a way to live comfortably enough without having to own or rent regular housing, which is a huge money saver. Mobile living just seems to be the most viable option.

    I do love a good personal challenge, yeah, though they do have to be meaningful. This is meaningful to me, because it could be beneficial if successful. If not, it's still worth the effort to try, and either way, I am ending up wit a lot of practical experience.

    I also try to push myself out of my own comfort zone, because ideally, it's not good to stagnate too much. Well, this pushes me way out of my comfort zone for sure.

    The design goal for my camper is to have the eventual capability to live as far out as the desert. Many VanDwelling full timers do this. This is also where the annual VD mecca-- The Rummber Tramp Rendevous-- is located. I would like to make that pilgrimage some day.

    Anyways, many towns and cities have a lot of of rules and regulations about what vehicles can be where, for how long, and even whether people can be in it overnight, and all that works against those that are attempting to live in some kind of vehicle full time. Yes, there are notable exceptions, but eventually, full-timers tend to eventually gravitate toward places that are fairly remote.

    However, the further you go away from civilization, the more capable and prepared you and your vehicle will need to be to accomplish this. This is why this is more of a long term goal. Short term, I will stay pretty close to home and drive through as often as I need to I guess. However, when it comes to designing my camper, I very much have the more ambitious remote living in mind.

    There is another practical reason to do this. Remember how I keep harping that heat is my #1 enemy? That's because everything else has a solution of some kind, except for heat management. I'm sure somebody somewhere in Canada may have the opposite problem, but for me, this is something I can't quite fix even though the Prius has such a superb on-board air conditioner that is enhanced only requiring by such an inherently small space. Long story short, VDers snow bird wherever they can. Some make it into a game of constantly chasing fair weather. I won't be doing this to that extent, but realistically, I too need to snow bird somewhere to mitigate the summer heat. I will cover that in a later entry because that's a big topic all to its own, but the short answer is the Piedmont/Appalachian mountains.

    This is getting rambly, but there is another reason why I want to go live out in the "boonies". I think deep down, everyone wants to have a closer connection to nature. I think it just makes you feel better when you do. Otherwise, why do parks exist? I am no different. Even though I am mostly an indoor cat, I still love greenery. It makes me feel much more at east. I don't care for mosquitoes though, but that's why I put up bug netting on my car.

    Last but not least, I would be dumb as a rock if I didn't at least consider that all of this could be my own personal mid-life crisis. I am at a point that I am no longer content with just doing things because I have to, just to get by. For once, I would also like to try to do something because I want to, before I can't anymore. At least, my plan is to save a lot of money instead of wasting it on some exotic but ultimately pointless sports car or something.

    There's probably more to this, but that's all I can think of right now off the top of my head. I hope this sheds some light? Trying to answer this question is almost like trying to soul search, and there are spots were it's still a bit murky haha. Maybe when it comes down to it, I'm just a weirdo.

  6. Tabs Says:

    Oh man, apologies for all the typos. That's what I get for not proof-reading, but the editing doesn't work for some reason, and I am just going to move on instead.

  7. PatientSaver Says:

    This is all interesting fodder for something bigger, whether that's a FB page, a video or even a self-published book. I get that this is not the primary focus, but if you say "maybe later," you will forget all the little details and of course you won't have captured the process in photos or video along the way. But i get that this is not where your interest lies and you are on a schedule of sorts.

    I think what you're doing is very interesting, and most people don't even think about it. (As a woman, for instance, I couldn't even think of doing this since it would invite trouble.) We're so conditioned to striving to save for a down payment on a house and enslaving ourselves to a 9 to 5 mind-numbing job so we can have that privilege. Then we get to pay property taxes on our little slice of heaven for as long as we live.

    However, as you pointed out, the more people try to do what you're doing, the more towns will enact various laws and regulations restricting how and where you camp out for the night, one, because people won't want to see too many transitional or itinerant people camping out on a semi-permanent basis, and two, because they are not collecting property taxes from you and that's lost revenue.

    I think the philosophical underpinnings of what you're doing is as intriguing as the nuts and bolts of each new task you undertake. Good luck!

  8. Tabs Says:

    Yeah! You know, you are a far more articulate writer than I am. Haha.

  9. Dido Says:

    I agree with PS, writing about the personal motivational and philosophical incentive adds interest.

    You say "midlife crisis." May I ask how old you are? I have always imagined a young man, somewhere between 26 and 32, to take on this adventure.

    If you are interested in a woman philosopher who has done something similar for stretches, look up Alice Kohler. "An Unknown Woman" details her living on Nantucket Island during the off season, but during the autobiographical book that came after, she was living out of a van and parking in state forests for a good chunk of it. Sorry I can't recall the title of that one.

    On a more practical note, are you familiar with the Instant Pot? There are at least two long-distance truckers who have You-Tube channels documenting their cooking in the truck with the device. If you have space, it's an excellent complement to an induction oven. In fact, the two devices (plus one burner of my oven) are how I do all my cooking at home. (I have an old gas stove that I should replace, but it is a very low priority.)

  10. Tabs Says:

    Hmm, OK, I'll try to add more of my personal thoughts on this as I go along, and not just the practical how-tos. I think that will happen naturally as this project progresses anyway, because it's really all about the journey. For right now though, I am mostly mired in the nitty gritty details of its creation.

    I am well I am older, like early 40's older. I am grossly generalizing here, but yes, there seems to be two basic groups in the VanDwelling community. One group is the younger, more adventurous type who dream of the great outdoors. The other is the much older, usually retired, sometimes financially-strapped folks who are doing the best they can now to get through life. I think the latter is the more dominant, full-time group, whereas the former is more "seasonal".

    Anyways, OK, I'll be sure to go check out this Alice Kohler.

    No, I've never heard of Instant Pot. I'll check that out too. So many useful tips hehe. I am hoping not to over-do the cooking aspect though. As it is, I feel like an induction cooktop is already a bit overkill, although to me, it also has clear benefits worth pursing so that's why I decided to give it a shot. Still, it never hurts to take a look at things.

  11. Tabs Says:

    Ok, I see, so instant pot is a pressure cooker. The wattage is 900 minimum though, and that will strain the car battery to its very limits. My induction plate is running at 600 watts (at low settings) and even then, some don't advise running it for too long, which I agree. Shorter the better, because that power draw is already fairly sizeable.

    Still though, thank you for that, always great to learn something new.

  12. Dido Says:

    Glad to hear you'll add more of the personal side--that's what makes things readable (stories!), and sorry the IP wouldn't be a good fit.

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