Libby Earle shares advice about cooking on board and her verdict on a portable IKEA Tillreda induction hob for use in harbour

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IKEA Tillreda portable induction hob: reader tested

Almost 20 years ago my husband persuaded me that crewing on a yacht was a gentle pastime, bathed in sunshine on a calm sea, gin and tonic in hand, writes Libby Earle.

Of course, what he didn’t let on was that preparing meals in the ‘kitchen’ would be like cooking in a cupboard with very limited equipment and a fridge the size of the average supermarket basket.

Since then many miles of crewing, chartering and syndicate-sharing have honed our galley skills. We now have our own Bavaria 32.

The following are some of the things learned along the way.

An IKEA Tillreda portable induction hob on a boat

The IKEA Tillreda induction hob revolutionised cooking on board for Libby. Credit: Libby Earle

First things first: do an audit of the galley! Know what you have, where it all is and where the really important omissions are.

Whether you’re taking over a charter boat or excitedly exploring the galley of your newly acquired boat, find out what you have.

A tip for charterers is to pack a small knife sharpener along with the emergency tea bags and Marmite.

Knives on charter boats are almost always awful and it’ll get you into way less trouble with airport security than taking a knife.

Cooking on gas (or not)

Most boats use bottled gas for cooking, with safety being a major consideration.

Once you’ve witnessed a boat fire resulting from a gas leak you always take even better care to ensure you turn off the supply by the cooker immediately after the kettle boils, and at the bottle at night and when leaving the boat.

Safety aside, gas is a pretty inefficient means of cooking and you’ll want to do everything you can to eke out the bottle, which (on a shared boat) always seems to run out on your watch.

A Thermos flask on a boat

Only use for water – no one likes the lingering taste of vegetable soup in their tea. Credit: Libby Earle

The number one tip, which you can even do when chartering, is to make sure you have a large stainless steel Thermos flask on board.

Do this and you’ll use all of the hot water you took 10 minutes to boil, and save about 50% of your gas.

Only use it for water though – nobody likes a vacuum flask tainted by the smell of tea, or worse, water tasting of vegetable soup!

Washing up on a boat, with limited water, isn’t quite the same as at home and you don’t want to risk a stinky, flavoursome Thermos.

Tip number two is to think about induction cooking onboard, and buy a portable induction hob to use when the boat is hooked up to shore power.

This completely revolutionised our onboard catering and saves us a fortune in time and gas.

Ours is the IKEA Tillreda hob, costing around £45.

A red kettle on an IKEA Tillreda portable induction hob

After you’ve boiled a kettle, pour the water into a Thermos so you don’t lose the heat. Credit: Libby Earle

It has just one ring (there’s now a slightly larger model with two), has good non-slip feet and stores perfectly alongside the cooker.

Fortunately, all our existing pans worked on it just fine. Given that most of us spend some time ”hooked up”, a simple induction hob is a star buy.

My only caveat about the IKEA Tillreda hob is the thermostat, which tends to be quite fierce.

A low setting is enough for almost everything except the kettle, which it boils really fast.

We were able to ‘lose” the boat’s electric kettle and save a bit of valuable space.

Non-stick pans

Next up is to think about the pots and pan locker.

OK, so it’s 40°C out there and you’re eating out. Fair enough, but in case you do want to scramble the odd egg, bad pans are a total nightmare.

By this I mean worn-out (sticking) non-stick and flimsy aluminium.

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Even if you’re only chartering, if you can find a new non-stick frying pan buy it. For a few pounds/euros your galley life for the week will be that much easier and the crew won’t whinge about burned-on breakfast.

On your boat, get a set of decent pans (suitable for induction hobs) and ditch any that start to stick or are never used.

A friend of ours has a large and heavy wok (he has a bigger boat than us) that does triple duty – frying pan, wok, and salad bowl.

My personal favourite is a inexpensive IKEA steamer, which also acts as a saucepan and casserole, while letting me warm plates over whatever is cooking.

Keeping cool

Now for that tiny fridge. Most boats have a ‘drop in’ fridge in the worktop by the sink.

Organising the fridge, and yourself, is a bit of a challenge for the newbie. Having a drop-in fridge has one huge downside; the lid is also a fair chunk of your galley workspace.

You’ll need to think out what you need in advance as continually opening your fridge isn’t great for battery life.

A woman cooking on board a boat

Libby cooking up a ‘Chicken Merly’ dish in the Bavaria’s galley. Credit: Libby Earle

Neither is it good for your karma to be moving the food you’re preparing off the lid every time you forget you need the cheese out! So be organised and make a list of the stuff you need before spreading any work out over the fridge lid.

The fridge itself can easily become a frustrating jumble, naturally with the stuff you urgently need right at the bottom.

When shared (as it will be) with the entertainment supplies of beer and wine the crew won’t have a lot of respect for fridge organisation.

Organisation plan

The key is to remember the fridge will be much colder at the bottom, which is where your most perishable food should be, but which will be lethal for your salad stuff.

If you can, try to use baskets to organise things.

You’ll still have to lift stuff out to get to the bottom, but it’s much easier to remove a couple of baskets than rummage around countless pots of yoghurt or packs of cheese.

Mine are made from cheap plastic and stack or nest. Our elderly syndicate boat had its original ice box along with a small front-opening 12V fridge.

I eventually learned that the ice box was by far the better way of storing perishables, and how to use it properly.

Three bags of ice in the bottom, with a wire rack on top for the food, would last three days off-grid and, into the bargain, not flatten the domestic battery.

The front-opening fridge lost most of its cold air the second the door was opened and the battery-saving mechanism cut off the power in less than a day off-grid.

The key to using an ice box is to keep the drain closed. If left open, all the slowly melting ice (and resulting chilled water) drains away and warm air rises in.

We didn’t have a plug but I found a plastic wine bottle cork is a good stand-in!

Favoured recipe for cooking on the IKEA Tillreda portable hob

Enough of equipment, what about cooking? You can make most things in a boat galley if pushed, but probably won’t want to.

cut up diced chicken on a chopping board

‘Chicken Merly’ ingredients. Credit: Libby Earle

Quick and easy meals are good, and having a few hacks up your sleeve helps. One of mine is cream cheese, especially the garlic and herb variety.

‘Chicken Merly’ ingredients:

  • 2 small chicken breasts
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • Good handful of sliced mushrooms
  • 75ml white wine
  • ½ tub cream cheese, preferably garlic & herb variety
  • Olive oil

Slice the chicken breasts and lightly brown them in a little olive oil. Lower the heat slightly and add most of the sliced spring onions and mushrooms, reserve some of the green onion tops to garnish.

Cook over a medium heat until the vegetables soften (about 10 minutes). Add the white wine, turn up the heat and reduce the liquid by half.

A chicken dish on a blue plate with bread

Voila, ‘Chicken Merly’ cooked on the IKEA Tillreda induction hob. Credit: Libby Earle

Add cream cheese to make a savoury sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced green onion tops and season to taste. Serves two with crusty bread or rice.

IKEA Tillreda portable induction hob, from £45

Buy the IKEA Tillreda portable induction hob direct from IKEA

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