Galley Gadgets and Advice Wanted

Posted by By Darrell Nicholson at 01:10PM - Comments: (15)

Galley tools can be kept in handy, stowable buckets for when the boat is at sea. Note the high-fiddle serving tray.

Historically, the cook has always enjoyed a privileged position on board a boat. And no wonder, since the cook almost always works the hardest, whether the boat is underway or at anchor. While the navigator and helmsman’s job is no less critical, the nerve-wracking labor of maintaining a steady course and plotting an accurate DR position has nearly evaporated in recent years, thanks to GPS, chartplotters, and autopilots. The cook’s job, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier. So, in honor of the hardest working crew, I’ve put together a list of five items that can help make a cook’s life easier underway. I’d be interested in hearing what other suggestions our readers have.

  1. Deep, double sink. Having a secure place to keep casseroles, dirty dishes, or a thermos that needs filling can make life a whole lot easier. Two deep (at least 10-inch) sinks that self-drain on any angle of heel lets you always have a reserve as a catch all, or a rinse station when doing dishes.
  2. Foot-operated water pump. Electric pumps are great, but they can waste water, and they have more moving parts to break. A foot-operated manual pump not only gives you a backup, but it acts as an automatic water conservation device. I like to have two on board, one for fresh water, one for salt, allowing you to use salt water for wash cycle, hand washing, etc. Here’s an article on installing my choice for the job, the Whale Gusher Galley Foot Pump, now in its third iteration.
  3. Pressure cooker. It cooks fast and keeps stuff from spilling. What’s not to like? We tested several models in December 2010.
  4. Easy cleaning pots and pans that fit the stove you’re cooking on. We tested nesting cook kits in April 2009. Whatever set you settle on, make sure your favorite sea pots will fit securely in your stove’s potholders. Subscribers can see our most recent test of galley stoves, which rated the Force 10 as a favorite.
  5. Positive-latching cupboards. There are about as many ways to latch a cupboard as there are ways that they can fail, letting their contents spill across the cabin floor. Latches are often a matter of aesthetics. Most boats have a variation of a push-button release and elbow catch, or a toggle catch. The pushbuttons can open unexpectedly when you lean against them in a seaway. The elbow catches often require you to insert your finger into a hole (always exciting for the chef in a seaway). The toggle catch remains my favorite. Just turn the handle to lock or unlock the cupboard door. Dead simple, and by shimming the catch you can keep the doors from rattling.

If you’re interested in a professional view on galley details and ergonomics, be sure to read our recent article on galley design based on input from some professional on-board chefs. We’ve got Mother’s Day coming up in a few weeks, so if you’ve got some other ideas for gifts for the heroes of the galley, please let me know. Smooth sailing!

Comments (14)

I like the high wall (3in x 9 1/2in) fry pan with lid called "Evasee". Mine is by Allclad and has survived 6yr of SW FL cruising while still looking new. High wall equals no spills.
Marine stoves have to have a relatively high 'low' flame to avoid being blown out by errant companionway drafts, so a flame spreader is essential.

Posted by: CREIGHTON S | May 23, 2013 12:06 PM    Report this comment

I like the collapsable silicon bowls, strainers, measuring cups, etc.. they take up so much less space..

Posted by: Ron S | April 5, 2013 6:17 PM    Report this comment

We've lived aboard for almost 10 years, 5 on a dock in Canada, 5 years in the Caribbean, cruising. I agree with pretty much everything listed in the article, especially for a cruising boat.
I love having a pressure cooker. When we had easy supply to propane back in North America, I didn't care all that much, but in the Tropics, there is no substitute. It cuts down heat in the boat, propane use, time (two hours on a roast is time better spent exploring!) and nothing tenderizes lambi/conch better! Considering that cruisers spend the vast majority of time on the hook, it doesn't matter about it being a little top-heavy, since in a good anchorage this is often not a problem.
I also like having my foot operated pumps (we haven't had pressure water in years). The salt water is great for cleaning off the grime from your hands long before you need to waste precious fresh water, even if you are afraid to use it for anything else (like any seawater is worse than anything your diesel or exploded head can throw at you?)

Posted by: KEN G | April 3, 2013 8:51 PM    Report this comment

All the upper lockers (head and galley) on our boat are sliders without latches, two to a locker. They haven't opened by themselves yet in a rough sea, whether fore and aft or athwart, when other things have gone airborne. The lower cabinets have elbow catches in a finger hole but don't get as much use, especially when rough. Not sure about the pressure cooker but all the other suggestions were very "Practical". F

Posted by: ERIC R | April 3, 2013 3:57 PM    Report this comment

For those having only simple cooktops and no oven, look into a "wonder top" or "wonder pot" oven (Google it). It is a 3-piece stovetop oven that really works, its only downside being its bundt-pan shape. But we've gotten great results with baked yeast and quick breads, cakes, roasts and casseroles all on our pressure-alcohol stovetop. The basic design is widely used in the Middle East where many homes have only kerosene cooktop stoves (we bought ours in a housewares store in Jordan for a whopping $7.50). You might find one in a Middle Eastern specialty store.

An identical design is marketed in the U.S. branded as the Omnia Oven, at $70 or so.

Hinterhoeller HR28

Posted by: HANK R | April 3, 2013 3:35 PM    Report this comment

Good, sharp knives are essential. An inexpensive mandolin is also great for fine slicing in bumpy conditions. Also, save counterspace or frequent trips to the garbage bin when prepping food by using a simple and cheap "Over the Cabinet Door (or fiddle) Trash Bag Holder"... it uses standard plastic grocery bags so you get to reuse if not recycle.
(available at Item:654 Size: H:2-1/16 x W:8-1/2" x D:8-3/8"
Price: $5.99)

Posted by: Quiddity | April 3, 2013 2:55 PM    Report this comment

An easy and cheap way to make your plates, mugs, and glasses non-skid is to put a thin bead of silicon sealant anound the bottom edge, lightly push them down onto wax paper, and let dry.m Will last for years of use and washing.

Robert G. "Bon Accord"

Posted by: Robert G | April 3, 2013 11:47 AM    Report this comment

As a former chef with a wife who does not cook here are my top 5:

1. Quality knives, two chef's knives and a paring knife at a minimum
2. A ceramic knife sharpener to keep your expensive knives in the proper condition
3. The largest cutting board you can store, wash it up outside, no need to fit it in the sink.
4. High quality pots and pans.
5. Pressure Cooker

In this regard two overriding thoughts. First the quality of the "goods" on board should equal or exceed what you use at home. What I see most often is folks trying to produce good results with inferior equipment. On a boat with limited space, uneven oven and burner heating, finite amounts of fuel, etc. superior prep and cooking gear can help overcome these issues.

Second, if you spend a lot of time aboard and you do not know how to use a pressure cooker you are wasting time, energy, storage space, and you are not producing the quality you could produce with some practice. A high quality 6 quart PC will double as a pasta or soup pot, meaning you do not need to carry those on board. And for those who say they are not necessary, with all due respect, that is because you do not know how to use them. They will make bread, soups, roasts, rice, risotto, veggies, there is essentially no limit to what you can produce from a PC. In our testing as liveaboards in 2010 and 2011 making risotto on the stove required 40 minutes of running propane in order to produce the desired result. Using the pressure cooker meant less than 10 total minutes of propane. And the product produced was the same. Similarly, a 4 lb roast will mean the oven is in use for 2 hours, with propane running 1/2 to 3/5s of that time. A roast in a pressure cooker requires 1 hour, produces less heat, and only 15-20 minutes of propane use. I could not conceive of preparing quality food without one.

We are back on board in June of this year and will do some more testing with the PC.

Eric and Gail Vahlbusch
S/V Blessings

Posted by: Eric V | April 3, 2013 11:38 AM    Report this comment

BTW new pressure cookers have a much lower profile than old ones and are simpler to use. A small 4 or 6 quart is no taller than a regular sauce pan.

Posted by: Mike E | April 3, 2013 10:49 AM    Report this comment

I don't often promote a product but Calibowls are terrific. Won't spill, won't skid, made in the US, recyclable, non-toxic, beautiful colours and various sizes and shapes.
You can find them online.

We also use camp fry pans that have folding handles, not ones that detach, so they are compact and stackable.

I use my pressure cooker all the's faster, uses less fuel so causes less heat in the galley, and new ones are easy enough to use so why not?

Jayne Finn

Phantasia II

Posted by: Mike E | April 3, 2013 10:42 AM    Report this comment

I feel much better having read the comments about the pressure cooker. I have been schlepping one around on four boats and never used it. Why? The main reason is that I do not know how long one has to put stuff in it. That does not help. But when I recently took courage and used it underway I found that my Force 7 could not cope with high center of gravity (despite having diving weights screwed to the bottom of the oven) and the whole construct was dangerously unbalanced.
So thank you Practical Sailor. I can finally get rid of the darn thing and not feel like a loser.
Leonard Broese van Groenou

Posted by: Unknown | April 3, 2013 10:37 AM    Report this comment

Agree with penumbra about pressure cookers. In 300,000+ miles of sailing as a professional, I think I had a pressure cooker on one voyage. The major problem I see with pressure cookers is their size and their height - the height in particular demanding all manner of means to secure a pressure cooker not just to the stove but also so it stays centered over the burner.

My biggest complaint in regards to galleys in smaller boats (

Posted by: ROMAN F | April 2, 2013 11:23 AM    Report this comment

I actually prefer a single sink -- I just use a dirty pan as the dish pan -- as on many boats there isn't room for a decent double sink (our Tayana 37 came with a double sink but both sides were too small for any of my plates, even on edge and on an angle).

And I agree that for most coastal cruisers, the pressure cooker is unnecessary and is rarely used. And most coastal cruisers are going to find that using salt water for ANYTHING is not practical as it's too likely to be contaminated. Most people that I know who do use salt water wait until they are at least 10 miles offshore (and in many places, further) before using it for any purpose.

Carolyn Shearlock

Posted by: The Boat Galley | April 2, 2013 11:07 AM    Report this comment

I agree whole-heartedly with nearly everything above. However, I think the pressure cooker is massively overrated for coastal and in-shore sailors. I suspect the vast majority of us dream of going off-shore for a big run, and until then will never use the pressure cooker. Daily jaunts down a coast just don't need one.

A good kettle, solid fiddles on the stove, and decent non-stick cookware to facilitate cleaning are far more valuable. A good long reach lighter and backup are critical (a friend only has the long matches on his boat - terrible).


Posted by: penumbra | April 1, 2013 12:50 PM    Report this comment

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