Cooking at sea...


practical boat
                              cook galley ideas for every yacht and boat



The boat is 'rocking and rolling', and the galley lockers sound like a boiler maker's convention has moved in.  You're hungry and cold and perhaps even wet, cooking seems like the last thing that you want to do, but you could really do with a bowl of something hot, substantial and quick.  It's not rocket science, and once you've got the hang of it (the one handed hanging on for life 'hang'), then there will be no getting you out of the galley.




For those wanting to know about the science behind your cooking

starches & sugars  / maillard reaction /  denaturing proteinsemulsions /  water  / convection  / fats

If you really want to know about the science of cooking, then click here.  But all we really want/need to know is 'HOT TO COOK ON A BOAT'.  Lets take for example a classic passage meal:  Beef stew and potatoes.   What do you need to know to cook this?  (click here for full recipe)

Firstly, know your galley, know where everything is and how everything works, from the cooker to the pots and pans.  Secondly 'SMILE', hey this is fun!  OK, that's enough smiling...

Secondly, work with what you've got, there are no supermarkets out there, so provisioning is really where this all starts.

Now to the knowledge.


Ensure that everything you need is within reach.



It's not often that I write something that seems personal and only applicable to this boat, but today I was challenged; 'What do you know that I don't?' was the question, what could I answer other than, 'I don't know, but I know what I do know and it works!'

What I do know is that we eat well, we are happy and our provisioning costs are fairly low.  It has taken some time however, and after over 100,000 miles and more than 20 Atlantic passages we think we've got it down to a fine art.

Firstly, provisioning, it is something that I used to do without thinking, I knew what we needed, how long the passage should take, therefore what to provision, but I wrote a list (you can find it here).  But at the end of the day it came down to being able to cope with, and cook good meals day in day out with what was available. 

So, to the original question, 'What is wrong with beans and a bit of bread?', well, I suppose nothing - but not on a daily basis - and never on this boat!


Learn how to fry off your onions, a lot of the meals cooked at sea really should start with a few onions.  Put your pressure cooker on the stove, at a medium heat and add a splurge of oil (couple of tablespoons or so).  Dice/slice your onions, this really is a two handed job and with a boat that is moving you will be glad of that galley belt.  Put onions in pan and stir a bit, depending upon your stove you might have to turn the heat down a little - your onions should look something like this:

practical boat cook advice for every yacht
                      and boat owner


Add your beef chunks and 'brown', stirring them a bit, throw in a bit of garlic. (HELP!: How to chop/mince garlic without fuss?  Use the fine part of a cheese grater - no need to peel the garlic just grate over your pan).  Chop up your carrots or celery or whatever you have (you could substitute a tin of veg here, but bare in mind that tinned veg will mush down), and peel a large potato or two (depending on quantities of food/crew).  A pinch of mixed dried herbs, and a stock cube and sufficient water for the stock cube.  Close lid on pressure cooker and cook at pressure for about 10 minutes (about an hour in a conventional pan - which is why you want a pressure cooker).  Let the pressure cooker cool down, open and eat.

practical boat cook advice for every yacht
                    and boat owner 

You will end up with something like this, hot nourishing and all in one pot.

Not too difficult, eh?  And tastes a lot better than the tinned variety!

So, we now take the knowledge of how to cook onions and apply it to a whole passage load of meals, both meat and vegetarian.  (warm and cold storage)

Swap the beef for chicken or pork.
Bored with potatoes, or don't have any, then how about chicken and rice - here's how: (get the full recipe here)

Cook your onion as above - now throw in your chicken, breast, wings, legs, whatever (we're chicken equal opportunists here).  Carrots, or what ever else you have.  Stir and allow the chicken to brown a little before adding water, stock cube, a pinch of mixed dried herbs and rice.  Put the lid on the pressure cooker and cook for about 10 minutes.  Let the pressure cooker cool, open, stir and eat.  Again a one pot meal.

You get the idea now with the onions and the pressure cooker, but what else is there to add to your 'At Sea' repertoire?

If you have a freezer then mince in individual portions (ie: how ever much you need for one meal).  Brown off you onions, then add the mince and brown - and now you have the start of many great meals - spaghetti/pasta bolognese , chili con carne (recipes here), wraps - the list goes on.

On the subject of wraps - you can either make them yourself (recipe here) or buy  them.  They last for a long time and are warm storage items.  Wrap up left overs for a snack or pair with a fresh coleslaw for a quick meal.

So, what else is on your deep sea ocean restaurant menu?

You've got a boat so let's go fishing (lots of fishing info here).  A lot of people don't like killing the fish that they have caught, the idea of bashing it on the head or just leaving it to die, is actually very wrong.  Get a small spray bottle and fill it with some type of strong alcohol: whiskey, gin, vodka will do.  Once you've landed your fish, spray the alcohol up into the gills, this stuns and then kills the fish.  Why is this the better way?  Well for starters it is far more humane for the fish, and for yourself, you get a better flesh, that isn't stressed.  There is also far less blood to worry about!

Immediately bleed your fish, and gut, all the info is in the fishing guide here.

So now to the cooking bit.  Well, to start with, sushi, or sushami (click here for more info).  But let's look at steaming, baking, frying  or searing (we will leave the BBQ for when the boat's not moving so much).

Fish should not be messed around with too much, the delicate flavors should be allowed to be the prima dona on your plate.

All these methods are possible at sea.

Steaming - no need for any extra pans.  Wrap your fish (add a knob of butter if you want) in tin foil - with the edges upwards so as to not get any water in the foil.  Place a high sided skillet or pan on the stove and place the fish (in foil) in the pan and sufficient water to gently simmer the fish - place the lid on the pan - cooking times will vary as to the size of fish you are cooking.  (A glug of white wine in with the fish is a great boost).

Baking - a bit more gas heavy than other methods, but a great way to eat fish.  Again wrap your fish in foil, add a knob of butter or two and put in the oven on a medium heat - cook - take out of oven and eat.

Frying - generally not a good idea in rough weather (for obvious reasons).  Whether you dust your fish with flour - or leave the skin on is up to you (fish recipes and crispy skinned fish instructions here).

Searing - a bit like frying, only hotter temperature and less oil.  A quick sear one side then the other makes this more than possible even in rough weather.  A great method for fish kebabs as you have smaller pieces of fish that cook quickly.

However you cook your fish - it always tastes great with some new potatoes and fresh veg or coleslaw.  Or try a veggie side dish like ratatouille.

Now to the vegetarians among us, those wanting to eat less meat or those without refrigeration.  


practical boat cook
                    advice for every yacht and boat owner

Dried beans, peas and lentils — a.k.a. legumes or pulses — are a vital food source and one of the world's oldest cultivated crops. Evidence of cultivation goes back more than 7,000 years in some parts of the world. That's a heck of a long time!

An excellent source of protein, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, legumes and pulses are flavorful, nutritionally dense, inexpensive and versatile. What more could you ask for?

Cooking with dried beans

Cooking dried beans takes more time than opening a can, but you'll be richly rewarded with superior flavor and texture. They're superb value too! If you don't want to use a lot of gas cooking your beans then invest in a pressure cooker - it will pay for itself very quickly and will cook more than just your beans.  If you were at anchor or in harbor (or even in a house), then you would deal with your dried beans as below.  However, assuming that you are on passage then cook them from dry.  Yes it will take longer, but having pans or bowls of water and beans sitting in the galley is not really an option.  So what is the better option here - jars or tins. 

As with above, fry off your onions, now add whatever else you want, vegetables, tinned or fresh tomatoes, and then a jar of (drained) beans, and a stock cube.  If you want to make a curry, fry off your curry powder once your onions are browned, before placing other ingredients in the pan.  An instant curry!  Which brings us onto:

cooking rice practical boat cook advice for
                  every yacht and boat owner

How to Cook Rice Perfectly

It seemingly is a basic task, yet it still bedevils many accomplished cooks.  Making a perfect pot of fluffy rice, with each grain distinct and not mushy. It's not impossible, though, if you know a few secrets: use the right amount of water, a tight-fitting pot lid, and a post-cooking resting period. Be sure not to skip the resting step at the end; as the rice sits off the heat, the moisture in the rice redistributes itself for a more uniform texture throughout the pot.

The key to this method is figuring out the correct amount of water. As a general rule, use 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups of water per cup of long-grain white rice, but you may need to experiment a little to find the amount you like best. Brown rices require more water, while shorter-grain rice require less. Keep in mind that more water gives you softer, stickier rice—great for stir-fries. Less water results in firmer rice, a good style for rice salads.

The other important element is a heavy-based pot (to prevent scorching on the bottom) with a tight-fitting lid that keeps the steam in. If your lid fits loosely, put a clean kitchen cloth between the lid and the pot.

With your rice, and your water ready to go, put it on the stove, and bring to the boil, two minutes is sufficient at a simmer.  Now turn off the heat and leave it alone, about 30 minutes later, hey presto, perfect rice. 

Cooking rice this way saves gas and stress.


Where would we be without pasta.  There really are too many varieties to mention, but one thing is for certain, you will always find a pasta to suit your mood and price range.  Pasta can be added to soups and stews without pre-cooking, saving time, water and washing up.  If it's not too rough and you've plenty of gas, then lasagna is a great morale booster - use lentils instead of mince, no one will hardly tell the difference, at the same time, you can grate all those odd bits of cheese that you thought you would have to throw out. 


fruit and veg

It is more than possible to keep many vegetables fresh for months, get the knowledge here.  Boiled, steamed, roasted, fried, raw, which ever way you like them. 

Try a versatile ratatouille (recipe here), then throw in some beans, a great one pot meal.  A fresh coleslaw in the  middle of the ocean can really make a meal and be a real morale booster.  No need to worry about a food processor, you need nothing more than your cheese grater and a knife (recipe and method here). 

Basically that is all there is to it.  Yes there might be times when opening a tin of beans might be the best option, but once you've got the hang of things both you and your fellow crew members will never look back. 


  1. Sort: Arrange dried beans on a sheet pan or clean kitchen towel and sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris.

  2. Rinse: Rinse the sorted beans well in cold, running water.

  3. Soak: Soaking beans before cooking helps to remove some of those indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. There are two simple ways to get the job done:

    • Regular soak: Put beans into a large bowl and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cool, clean water. Set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight; drain well. (If it's really warm in your kitchen, soak the beans in the refrigerator instead to avoid fermentation.)

    • Quick soak: Put beans into a large pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cool, clean water. Bring to a boil then boil briskly for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and set aside off of the heat for 1 hour; drain well.

  4. Cook: Put beans into a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water or stock. (Don't add salt at this point since that slows the beans' softening.) Slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary, until beans are tender when mashed or pierced with a fork. Cooking times vary with the variety, age and size of beans; generally you're looking at about 1 to 2 hours.

    Cooking Tip: Uncooked dried peas and lentils can be added directly to soups and stews, too. Just be sure there's enough liquid in the pot (about 1½ cups of liquid for every 1 cup of lentils or peas).




Artichoke, large whole, without leaves 9 to 11
Artichoke, medium whole, without leaves 6 to 8
Artichoke, small whole, without leaves 4 to 5
Artichoke, hearts 2 to 3
Asparagus, fine, whole 1 to 1 1/2
Asparagus, thick, whole 1 to 2
Beans, green, whole (fresh or frozen) 2 to 3
Beets, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 5 to 6
Beet greens 1
Beans, yellow, whole (fresh or frozen) 2 to 3

Broccoli, flowers 2
Broccoli, stalks 5 to 6
Broccoli, stalks, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 3 to 4
Brussel sprouts, whole 4
Cabbage, red or green, in quarters 3 to 4
Cabbage, red or green, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 1
Carrots, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 1
Carrots, 1" (25 mm) chunks 4
Cauliflower flowers 2 to 3
Celery, 1" (25 mm) chunks 3
Collard 5
Corn, kernels 1
Corn on the cob 3
Eggplant, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 3
Eggplant, 1/2" (10 mm) chunks 3
Endive, thickly cut 1 to 2
Escarole, coarsely chopped 1 to 2
Green beans, whole (fresh or frozen) 2 to 3

Kale, coarsely chopped 2
Leeks (white part) 2 to 4
Mixed vegetables, frozen 2 to 3
Okra, small pods 2 to 3
Onions, medium whole 2 to 3
Parsnips, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 1
Parsnips, 1" (25 mm) slices 2 to 4
Peas, in the pod 1
Peas, green 1
Potatoes, cut into 1" (25 mm) cubes 5 to 7
Potatoes, new, whole small 5 to 7
Potatoes, whole large 10 to 12
Pumpkin, 2" (50 mm) slices 3 to 4
Red beet, in 1/4" (5 mm) slices 4
Red beet, large, whole 20
Red beet, small, whole 12
Rutabaga, 1/2" (10 mm) slices 4
Rutabaga, 1" (25 mm) chunks 5

Spinach, fresh 1
Spinach, frozen 4
Squash, acorn, halved 7
Squash, butternut, 1" (25 mm) slices 4
Sweet potato, 1 1/2" (40 mm) slices 5
Swede, 1" (25 mm) slices 7
Swiss chard 2
Tomatoes, in quarters 2
Tomatoes, whole 3
Turnip, small, in quarters 3
Turnip, in 1 1/2" (40 mm) slices 3
Yellow beans, whole (fresh or frozen) 2 to 3
Zucchini, 1/4" (5 mm) slices 2


Effects of Heat on Starches and Sugars

Carbohydrates come in various forms, and each form reacts differently when exposed to heat. The two forms of carbohydrates that are of interest from a basic food science perspective are sugar and starch.

When exposed to heat, sugar will at first melt into a thick syrup. As the temperature continues to rise, the sugar syrup changes color, from clear to light yellow to a progressively deepening brown. This browning process is called caramelization. It is a complicated chemical reaction, and in addition to color change, it also causes the flavor of the sugar to evolve and take on the rich complexity that we know to be characteristic of caramel. Different types of sugar caramelize at different temperatures. Granulated white sugar melts at 320°F/160°C and begins to caramelize at 338°F/170°C.

In foods that are not primarily sugar or starch, a different reaction, known as the Maillard reaction, is responsible for browning. This reaction involves sugars and amino acids (the building blocks of protein). When heated, these components react and produce numerous chemical by-products, resulting in a brown color and intense flavor and aroma. It is this reaction that gives coffee, chocolate, baked goods, dark beer, and roasted meats and nuts much of their rich flavor and color.

Though the Maillard reaction can happen at room temperature, both caramelization and the Maillard reaction typically require relatively high heat (above 300°F/149°C) to occur rapidly enough to make an appreciable difference in foods. Because water cannot be heated above 212°F/100°C unless it is under pressure, foods cooked with moist heat (boiling, steaming, poaching, stewing) will not brown. Foods cooked using dry-heat methods (sautéing, grilling, or roasting) will brown. It is for this reason that many stewed and braised dishes begin with an initial browning of ingredients before liquid is added.

Starch, a complex carbohydrate, has powerful thickening properties. When starch is combined with water or another liquid and heated, individual starch granules absorb the liquid and swell. This process, known as gelatinization, is what causes the liquid to thicken. Gelatinization occurs at different temperatures for different types of starch. As a general rule of thumb, root-based starches (potato and arrowroot, for instance) thicken at lower temperatures but break down more quickly, whereas cereal-based starches (corn and wheat, for example) thicken at higher temperatures but break down more slowly. High levels of sugar or acid can inhibit gelatinization, while the presence of salt can promote it.

Denaturing Proteins

At the molecular level, natural proteins are shaped like coils or springs. When natural proteins are exposed to heat, salt, or acid, they denature—that is, their coils unwind.

When proteins denature, they tend to bond together, or coagulate, and form solid clumps. An example of this is a cooked egg white, which changes from a transparent fluid to an opaque solid. As proteins coagulate, they lose some of their capacity to hold water, which is why protein-rich foods give off moisture as they cook, even if they are steamed or poached.

Fortunately, some heat-induced denaturation is reversible through cooling. This is why roasted foods should be allowed to rest before carving; as the temperature falls, some of the water (“juice”) that was forced into spaces between the proteins is reabsorbed and the food becomes moister. Denatured proteins are easier to digest than natural proteins.

Forming Emulsions

An emulsion occurs when two substances that do not normally mix are forced into a mixture in which one of the substances is evenly dispersed in the form of small droplets throughout the other substance. Under normal conditions, fat (either liquid oil or solid fat) and water do not mix, but these two substances are the most common ingredients in culinary emulsions.

An emulsion consists of two phases, the dispersed phase and the continuous phase. An emulsified vinaigrette is an example of an oil-in-vinegar emulsion, meaning that the oil (the dispersed phase) has been broken up into very small droplets suspended throughout the vinegar (the continuous phase). Temporary emulsions, such as vinaigrette's, form quickly and require only the mechanical action of whipping, shaking, or stirring. To make an emulsion stable enough to keep the oil in suspension, additional ingredients, known as emulsifiers, are necessary to attract and hold together both the oil and liquid. Commonly used emulsifiers include egg yolks (which contain the emulsifier lecithin), mustard, and glace de viande. Natural starches, such as those in garlic, or modified starches, such as cornstarch or arrowroot, are also used.

Water in Cooking

Water is the primary substance in most foods. Fruits and vegetables contain up to 95 percent water; raw meat is about 75 percent water. At sea level, pure water freezes (becomes solid) at 32°F/0°C and boils (turns to water vapor or steam) at 212°F/100°C. Boiling leads to evaporation, which makes reduction possible.

Water is a powerful solvent. Many vitamins, minerals, and flavor compounds are soluble in water. When salt or sugar is dissolved in water, the freezing point is lowered and the boiling point is raised. An important aspect of solutions is their pH, which is a measure of their acidity or alkalinity. Pure water, which is neutral, has a pH of seven. Anything above seven indicates an alkaline (basic) solution; a pH below seven indicates an acidic solution. Practically all foods are at least slightly acidic. The pH of a solution affects the flavor, color, texture, and nutritional quality of foods.


Convection is the transfer of heat through gases or liquids. When either of these substances is heated, the portions of the gas or liquid closest to the heat source warm first and become less dense, causing them to rise and be replaced by cooler, denser portions of the gas or liquid. Convection, therefore, is a combination of conduction and mixing.

Convection occurs both naturally and through mechanical means. Natural convection is at work in a pot of water placed on the stove to boil. Conduction transfers heat from the stove to the pot to the water molecules in contact with the interior of the pot. As these water molecules heat up, convection causes them to move away and be replaced by cooler molecules. This continual movement results in convection currents within the water. If a potato is added to the water, the convection currents transfer heat to the surface of the potato, at which point conduction takes over to transfer heat to the interior of the potato.

Mechanical convection occurs when stirring or a fan is used to speed and equalize heat distribution. When you stir a thick sauce to heat it faster and keep it from scorching on the bottom of the pan, you are creating mechanical convection. Convection ovens use fans to rapidly circulate hot air, allowing them to cook foods more quickly and evenly than conventional ovens. (Natural convection occurs in conventional ovens as air in contact with the heating element circulates, but the majority of heat transfer in a conventional oven is the result of infrared radiation.)

Function of Cooking Fats

Depending on their molecular structure, some fats are solid at room temperature, while others are liquid at the same temperature. Liquid fats are known as oils. Solid fats soften and eventually melt into a liquid state when exposed to heat.

In addition to being a vital nutrient, fat performs a number of culinary functions. It provides a rich flavor and silky feel or texture that most people find very enjoyable and satisfying. Fat also carries and blends the flavors of other foods, and makes available to us flavor compounds and nutrients that are soluble only in fat. Fat provides an appealing visual element when a food appears to be moist, creamy, fluffy, or shiny, among other things. During the baking process, fat performs a multitude of chemical functions, such as tenderizing, leavening, aiding in moisture retention, and creating a flaky or crumbly texture. In cooking, fat transfers heat to foods and prevents them from sticking. It also holds the heat in food, emulsifies or thickens sauces, and creates a crisp texture when used for frying.

One important aspect of fat is its ability to be heated to relatively high temperatures without boiling or otherwise breaking down. This is what allows fried foods to brown and cook quickly. If heated to high enough temperatures, however, fat will begin to break down and an acrid flavor develops, effectively ruining anything cooked in it. The temperature at which this occurs, known as the smoke point, is different for each type of fat. Generally, vegetable oils begin to smoke around 450°F/232°C, while animal fats begin to smoke around 375°F/191°C. Any additional materials in the fat (emulsifiers, preservatives, proteins, carbohydrates) lower the smoke point. Because some breakdown occurs at moderate temperatures and food particles tend to get left in the fat, repeated use of fat also lowers the smoke point.

We're all food scientists, for example...

Have you ever wondered how a few simple ingredients can become a loaf of bread or a luscious layer cake? Although many think of cooking as an art, a great deal of science helps along the way. Understanding the purpose of each ingredient helps you understand if you can safely leave that ingredient out or what you can use to replace it. It also helps you to troubleshoot when failures occur.  Cook this simple cake and examine the biology, chemistry, and physics involved.

Simple Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix for two minutes with an electric mixer. Turn into 9x9x2 greased cake pan and bake at 375 degrees oven for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Hey presto - you are now a food scientist!  If you want to make some more sweet delight's click here.

Here's the science bit about your cake!

The second ingredient is 3/4 cup sugar. Sugar is one ingredient that is added largely for taste. With a little manipulation of the liquids you can easily substitute honey, maple syrup, rice syrup, or even reduce the sugar and still produce a fine cake. For yeast breads, however, the amount of sugar can be important because it is used by the yeast for growth.

The third ingredient is 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Have you ever added baking powder to water? If you have, you know that a chemical reaction occurs, releasing bubbles of carbon dioxide. Cooks have learned to harness this reaction to help baked goods rise. Double acting baking powder just means that another release of carbon dioxide occurs during the heat of baking. Yeast breads don’t need baking powder because the yeast produces carbon dioxide gas while growing in the rising bread.

The fourth ingredient is 3/4 cup of milk. Milk adds moisture and is easy to substitute. Plain water, fruit juice, soy milk, or rice milk can be used instead, with slight changes in flavor to the final product. The liquid is important as it mixes with and reacts with the baking powder in the previous step and it also helps to mix the ingredients together.

Next add 1 egg. If you ever have to bake without them, you soon learn that eggs are essential to baking. They hold ingredients together, add moisture, and can even act as a leavening agent. Generally, if there is only one egg in a recipe, such as this one, then the egg is primarily binding and an egg substitute can be readily used. If the recipe calls for three eggs, then you may have to adjust the leavening as well.

Finally, add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, for flavor only. Combine all ingredients and mix for two minutes with an electric mixer. Turn into 9x9x2 greased cake pan and bake at 375 degrees oven for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. During the baking process, the baking powder will release more carbon dioxide, causing additional rising. The heat will dry some of the moisture, particularly at the surface, making the batter firmer. The heat will also change the chemical structure of some of the surface sugars, causing browning.

More science stuff

On a diet and planning to top that cake with fruit instead? How about some nice apple slices? But everyone knows that if you leave cut apple slices setting out, they will soon turn brown and yucky. It’s not bacteria or rot, but simply that the oxygen in the air reacts with the chemicals in the fruit to cause discoloration, a process known as oxidation. To prevent oxidation, you need an “antioxidant.” One readily available antioxidant is vitamin C, found in orange and other fruit juices. Mix a few tablespoons of orange juice with your apple slices and they should stay fresh looking much longer. Or use strawberries instead, because they are already full of vitamin C and don’t discolor.

Another healthy food you may enjoy is popcorn. Ever wondered how it pops or why some batches have a lot of un-popped kernels? The secret is the water inside each kernel. During heating the water turns to steam, building up pressure inside. Eventually the outer skin blows apart, exposing the fluffy exploded insides.

Provisioning List
Print a PDF of the free list here