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The Well-Equipped Galley

Smiles in the galley can only mean good food isn't far behind.
"What’s for dinner?" my mate asks from the cockpit. "Aarggghhh," I reply. I’m not great in the galley, but with some preplanning and pasta sauce in a jar, dinner gets underway. I turn to my new Force 10, three-burner propane range with oven, and with the flick of a piezo igniter, have water on to boil some pasta. Next, I pull out my high-sided wok/frying pan and start browning hamburger for the sauce. While the meat is browning and the water is coming to a boil, I preheat my oven, dig around in the fridge, and come up with the prepackaged rolls. CRACK! On the side of the counter, I open the package, and drop the rolls into the baking pan.

Other than wind, the main ingredient to a successful sail is good food and, like any maintenance job, it’s easier to accomplish this with the right equipment. When cooking has become a chore to either male or female, it’s time to look at the galley. Not everyone likes to cook, but the experience of cooking can be more pleasant by adding a few simple labor-saving devices and convenience equipment. In some cases, replacing the entire cooking system may be in order.

Abandoning alcohol and bringing propane on board was the best thing we did to make cooking more convenient. In fact, upgrading to a compressed fuel system hastens meal preparation and makes heat control easier too. Water takes less time to boil with propane than with alcohol or petroleum fuels like kerosene.

If there’s room, it’s great to have an oven on board. With thermostatically controlled temperature, baking is easier than ever. Some manufacturers now build ranges with ovens and broilers. Thermostats, piezo ignition, plates that distribute heat evenly in the oven, see-through oven doors for viewing, oven doors with latching mechanisms for broiling—all these features make cooking easier.

Good lighting and ventilation are as important as the pots and pans.
Many boats have shallow sinks and low-neck faucets so that placing large pots and pans in the sink for washing is almost impossible. This problem can be solved on some boats by replacing the sink with a deeper one, but this is a big, expensive project. It is much simpler to replace the faucet. When we remodeled our galley, one of the first items we purchased was a new faucet with a high neck and one handed control. We replaced the standard aerator with a 360-degree swivel sprayer that would reach every corner of the sink.

Galleys need lighting, lighting, and more lighting—the galley seems to receive the least amount of attention when lights are distributed in a boat. We added twin-tube fluorescent lamps over the stove and sink, and since I like to see into the dark recesses of the refrigerator when searching for something at the bottom, we added a third one there.

And speaking of finding things in the fridge, without an organized refrigeration box, items can be misplaced or forgotten and a few days later an odor begins to materialize as a reminder. There is a variety of baskets, tubs, and organizers available that are perfect for this job. We created a "sliding" system by screwing one by one-inch teak cleats the length of the box, one on each side, about a third of the depth down from the top. Two plastic baskets with flanges left enough space to slide the baskets and get to the bottom without removing a basket, but with still enough clearance left for them to slide over tall items below. In the bottom of the box, we placed a couple of dishpans to hold milk, juice cartons, and cans of soda. These dishpans contain any leaks or spills and are easy to clean.

A useful work area may even induce bread-baking by the normally kitchen-challenged.
At the top of my "can’t-live-without" list of galley equipment is my pressure cooker. It doubles as a large saucepan when cooking for a passage or guests, and it doubles as my canner when fresh vegetables, fish, and meat are available. If an oven is not an option, then a pressure cooker is a must for the galley. The galley slave can even bake in a pressure cooker. Cooking Under Pressure, by Lorna Sass, is my bible for using this versatile piece of equipment.

Good quality stainless steel pots and pans with double bottoms are important too. The lowest adjustment on most stoves is still too hot for simmering foods and sometimes, if you’re not watching, food can end up blackened on the bottom. There is a heat diffuser that you can place between the burner (on low) and the pot—the pot is no longer in direct contact with the flame, thus eliminating scorched food and blackened bottoms. A wok-type pan, wide at the top but narrow at the bottom with good depth, finds a lot of use too. For a quick stir-fry or browning meat, it fits easily on the burners without taking up the majority of the cooking surface as a normal frying pan would do. Because it’s deep, grease splatters are contained.

I haven’t gone over to 12-volt appliances, although I certainly see their value. I still make coffee on the stovetop with an old fashioned percolator and my cooking style doesn’t lend itself to a blender—since I’ve never owned one, I don’t miss it. I’m sure, though, there’s a contingent of cooks that use their blenders on a regular basis. A small food processor that chops, dices, and grinds would be nice—I can see one of those fitting into my galley well and saving me a lot of time chopping and dicing vegetables, or grinding fresh conch. It could operate off the inverter. An inverter is the ultimate weapon in food preparation if you want to carry a full complement of kitchen appliances on the boat.

Good galleys produce good food, good friends, and good times.
For anyone on board who cares about eating, the galley is the crossroads. Unsatisfactory working conditions create dissatisfied galley slaves who will resist taking the time to create enjoyable meals. Excellent tools and working conditions, as in any work environment, can change the outlook of the cook and make meal preparation easier, more enjoyable, and less time consuming. And if the cook is happy, the rest of the crew will be graced with a stream of good meals, and they’ll be happy too.

Suggested Reading

  1. Renovating the Galley by Sue and Larry
  2. Stowing the Provisions by Beth Leonard
  3. SailNet Buying Guide - Stoves/Ovens

Kathy Barron is offline  
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