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Understand Your RV Oven & Cook Like a Pro On the Road

Understand Your RV Oven & Cook Like a Pro On the Road

With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner, it’s no surprise that lots of RVers are having thoughts about their RV oven. But, is an RV oven capable of cooking things like a Thanksgiving dinner? How about baked goods? How do RV ovens work and how useful are they?

Today we’re taking a look at the ins and outs of the oven on your RV!

What Is an RV Oven?

Typically, the oven in an RV includes a 2 or 3-burner cooktop and a small oven.

RV stoves and ovens usually run on propane. Some use an electronic spark to start while others require being lit manually. A gas range is great for boondockers who need to conserve electricity, but there are a few drawbacks to RV propane ovens.

What Size is an RV Oven?

This question brings us to one of the main disadvantages of a traditional RV oven… its size. 

Space is limited in an RV, so manufacturers have to make compromises somewhere. Because most RV owners have traditionally been summer/vacation campers who only use their rigs temporarily, ovens haven’t been seen as a big priority. 

With many more people living in their RVs full-time now, this may change. But in general, an RV range isn’t as large as one you’d typically find in a sticks & bricks home.

Many RV ovens are as small as 17 inches wide. In larger motorhomes and fifth wheels, you’ll often find ovens as large as 21 inches wide, because there’s more space available. Most RV ovens are around 11″ tall and about 16″ deep. 

As a result of their smaller size, RV ovens often mean sizing down on items like casserole dishes, baking pans, pizza pans, and the like.

A small gas oven with a small bread pan inside

RV ovens are considerably smaller than residential ovens. A smaller oven may mean you also need smaller cookware.

There are RVs that come from the factory (either as a standard feature or an available option) with a propane stovetop and a separate combination convection microwave. Some people opt for these because they tend to have more consistent cooking temperatures. However, microwave/convection ovens are powered by electricity, so they’re not for everyone (i.e. they require being hooked up to shore power or running your generator). But if you’re an RVer who tends to frequent RV parks with power, this may be a good option to consider.

How Does an RV Oven Work?

Most RV ovens have a pilot light that needs to be manually lit with a match or lighter. This flame is required to ignite the burner that heats the interior of the oven while you’re cooking. Typically, the burner is located beneath a metal plate at the bottom of the oven. This plate helps to distribute the heat evenly throughout the oven’s cavity.

Once the pilot light is lit, you’ll simply set your temperature and give the oven at least 10 minutes to preheat. 

It’s important to note that the typical RV oven doesn’t have a fan(s) to circulate the hot air the way many residential ovens do. This is one of the reasons that many RV owners complain about uneven heating.

How Do You Light an RV Oven?

Lighting an RV oven may take a little getting used to if you’ve never used a gas range before, but it’s actually quite simple once you get the hang of it.  Following are the general steps (refer to your owner’s manual for specifics related to your particular make & model):

  1. If your propane tank isn’t on, turn it on now.
  2. If your RV’s oven has electronic ignition, skip to Step #5… otherwise, locate the pilot light and turn the pilot control to the ON position.
  3. Ignite your match or lighter and push the pilot control button down while holding the flame to the pilot window.
  4. Once lit, continue to hold down the pilot button for approximately 30 seconds, and then make sure the pilot light remains lit once you release the control button. 
  5. Set the oven controls to your desired temperature. Allow the oven at least 10 minutes to preheat.
  6. When you’ve finished using the oven, be sure to turn the pilot button to the OFF position so the pilot light will go out and won’t be calling for propane. 

Important:
Always double-check to make sure the pilot light control is in the OFF position when the oven isn’t being used. Even if the pilot light isn’t lit, it can still draw propane from your tanks and even create a situation where a propane leak becomes dangerous.

Tips for Using Your RV Oven

Many people complain about their RV ovens and many refuse to even use them. But there are a number of tips they may not be aware of that can help to make them perfectly useful, as long as your expectations are reasonable.

Let’s take a look…

Plan Your Meals with Your Oven Size in Mind

Understand that the ovens in most RVs are smaller than residential ovens and you’ll need to plan your meals accordingly.

This may mean cooking smaller amounts of food in the oven and using your stovetop and/or microwave to cook some parts of your meal.

Buy Smaller Cookware for Your RV Oven

Buy yourself some cookware that’s properly sized for your RV oven. Plan for your new ovenware to stay in your RV at all times.

Smaller baking pans and cookware are readily available. But not all RV ovens are the same size, so make sure to buy pieces that will fit in yours.

Here are a couple of examples:

Sale
Nordic Ware Compact Ovenware 5 piece Set
  • Aluminum pans and BPA-free plastic cover
  • Great to use on camping stoves and RV stoves
casaWare Toaster Oven 3-Piece Set (Rose Gold Granite)
  • Perfect size for both toaster ovens and conventional ovens. Set includes a 7 x 11 x 1.5-inch Baking Pan, a 9 x 5 x 3-inch Loaf pan and a 7.25 x 10.5 x...
  • Heavier weight, Durable 0.6mm Thichness. Ceramic Non-Stick Technology Provide a Greater Baking Experience. Very Easy to Clean. Just wipe or scrub...

Use an Oven Thermometer

RV oven temps can be all over the place. Using an oven thermometer can help make sure you have the right temperature, especially used in combination with our next tip!

Sale
Rubbermaid Commercial Products Stainless Steel Instant Read Oven/Grill/Smoker Monitoring Thermometer
  • Necessary for food safety: Thermometer displays true oven temperature instantly to ensure safe food preparation
  • Extreme temperature range: Thermometer reads between 60° and 580° degrees Fahrenheit - 20° and 300° degrees Celsius

Use a Pizza Stone to Evenly Distribute Heat

Again, one of the biggest complaints about RV ovens is the lack of even distribution of heat. This can result in your food being overcooked in some places and undercooked in others.

One way to better distribute the heat is to use a pizza stone. Place your pizza stone on the bottom shelf of the oven over the heat source. Do this before you preheat the oven so the stone will heat along with the oven. 

If your RV oven is small, you can buy small pizza stones like the 10″ stone below. 

Waykea 10” x 10.4” Pizza Stone for Toaster Oven | Rectangular Cordierite Grilling Stone Bread Baking Stone for Grill, Oven
  • Durable pizza stone is brilliant for cooking crispier crust pizza or heat frozen pizza in oven or grill, also fits toaster oven perfectly
  • Made of natural cordierite, with excellent thermal shock resistance, can withstand extremely-high temperature (1400℉) without cracking

Take Ambient Temperatures Into Consideration

Because the oven in most RVs is installed on an outside wall, extreme ambient temperatures (cold in particular) may impact the time required for the oven to heat to temp, temperatures may fluctuate more during cooking, and more propane will be used to keep the oven at the desired cooking temperature.

Rotate Food As It Cooks

This one’s tricky because the more you open the oven, the more energy will be required to keep it running at the desired cooking temperature (and the greater the fluctuations in temperature your food will be exposed to). However, rotating your food three or four times during the course of the cooking time can help to ensure that all areas of the food are being cooked evenly.

How Much Propane Does an RV Oven Use?

Electric induction stovetops and convection microwaves consume a lot of electricity. For those of us who enjoy camping off-grid, a propane oven is a perfect alternative because it uses no electricity (or almost none depending on the type of oven your rig has), and propane use is reasonable. 

One continuous hour of cooking in an RV propane oven burns, on average, about 1/3 of a gallon of propane.

Now, remember – this is an average. Some ovens are larger than others and there are additional factors that may come into play such as ambient temperature, food temperature, etc. 

Regardless, before you plan to cook your next big meal in your RV’s oven, be sure to check your propane level, so you don’t run out!

Do You Cook and/or Bake With Your RV Oven?

We’re curious – do you tend to use the oven in your RV very much? We’d love to hear from those of you who do! Drop us a comment and let us know your tips and tricks for making your RV oven work for you!

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Rich

Thursday 17th of November 2022

We use our oven usually for pizza the first night. If the weather isn't going to be ideal for outdoor cooking we may use the oven for a meal. We use a pizza stone and find it works well.

Don P

Tuesday 15th of November 2022

We use our oven all the time. We do everything you mentioned. We bake all of our bread, cookies, pastries, pizza etc. Don’t use it much for roasts, chickens or other meats. We have too many other options for that type of cooking.

Lori L.

Monday 14th of November 2022

I do use my oven. I do exactly what you discussed in the article. Have had some amazing baked goods. The oven thermometer is the most critical must have to be successful.

Jantha McFarlin

Monday 14th of November 2022

I use the stove top but have a multi use air fryer for my baking.

Lyngengr

Monday 14th of November 2022

We use the propane oven in our travel trailer just about every time we go out. Typically for baking a pizza the first night out, but we have also used it for other dishes like lasagna. Having an oven thermometer is essential, the temperatures indicated on the oven dial are just suggestions. We haven't used a pizza stone but that seems like a good idea and we'll try it on the next trip.

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