12 Handy Galley Gadgets

These tools will make your life as an onboard cook easier. And don't forget to share your favorites in our forum.

July 28, 2011

Galley Gadgets

Michael Hawkins

Everyone knows what you need in a good kitchen. It starts with a great set of sharp knives and a means to keep them sharpened, good pots and pans, a solid cutting board, and the right bowls and utensils to whisk, flip, and mix. On a boat, you need all these things, too, though often in smaller supply. And you usually have to do without some of the power-eating electric appliances to which you may be accustomed in your land-based kitchen. Over time, the boat galley can become as efficient and well equipped as any house kitchen.

Here are some ideas on things that have made the galley aboard Astarte, our Moody 422, more user-friendly. They aren’t expensive, so if you know someone just getting into a boat or heading off to fulfill a cruising dream, put together a gift basket of these handy items for the galley slave.

1. Silicone Cookware
When the inventor came up with this synthetic rubber, perhaps storage aboard a boat wasn’t the primary goal, but it sure is useful. We carry silicone muffin and bread pans, baking pans, veggie steamers, measuring cups, and even a Bundt-cake pan on board, and we use them all. In the past, the metal cookware would rust in no time in the damp, salt-air environment. And stacking the metal was more space consuming.


Silicone material doesn’t rust, takes up less room, and doesn’t rattle. In fact, it can be used as rattle buffers in your lockers. I use my round and square silicone cake pans under glass casserole dishes to keep them from breaking and rattling. The breads, muffins, and cakes cook well and come out of the containers quite easily. The cookie sheet is too flimsy to use, and sometimes you do have to negotiate getting a cake pan to the oven without tipping it, but the cookware is well worth those small issues.

2. A Pressure Cooker
Get over a fear of the pressure cooker. The new ones have safety features to prevent explosions. Keep them clean and follow instructions and you’ll find them very handy aboard. They can make cheaper cuts of meat more tender, cook beans and meals in less time to save cooking fuel, and keep your galley cooler in hot climates because of shorter cooking times. And a pressure cooker is a heavy pan that seals well when you’re cooking on rocking seas.

3. A Plastic Egg Container
Saving old, sturdy egg cartons is a good idea; we also keep a Tupperware-type container for eggs we refrigerate. This container has a hard plastic bottom shaped to hold the eggs in place and a softer plastic lid. It stands up in a perfect place in the refrigerator (with its soft plastic against the wall) and takes little room but keeps the eggs from breaking.


4. A Whistling Teakettle
A heavy-duty, stainless-steel teakettle is a must-have in the galley. A squat, large-bottomed one is best because it won’t tip over while on the stove. Because you’re on a boat and something always seems to come up, a whistle is handy to remind you that you’ve got water boiling.

5. Hanging Baskets and Mesh Hammocks
Storage is always a challenge on a boat. This is especially true for such tender goods as tomatoes, breads, and fruit. A hanging tiered basket or mesh hammock can serve the purpose and takes up little counter space. You can easily see if fruit and veggies are getting too ripe. Find a home for this hanging storage where it won’t bang against the sides or hull to dent your precious fresh fruits and veggies. We tie down a hanging tiered basket to the sink faucets to keep it from swinging about too wildly.

  1. A Beverage Dispenser
    We drink a lot of coffee, so we make a big pot every morning. Whether tea, hot chocolate, or coffee is your drink of choice, an air pot is handy. We actually make our coffee right in the air pot using an old plastic cone filter, then serve from it all morning. It keeps the coffee hot, and the pot, secured to the wall with a bungee cord, is close at hand.
    On overnight passages, we fill it with hot water for instant cereal, noodles, soups, hot chocolate, and tea. If you have space for two pots or simply prefer cold beverages, the air pot can serve that purpose, too. When we have guests, we often make a big pot of lemonade and throw in an ice cube or two—it stays cool all day. And by using an air pot to keep drinks chilled, you won’t open the refrigerator as often.

7. Nonskid shelf liner
We put that nonskid material under a lot of things: dishes in the lockers, baskets on the counters, even the rugs on the sole. This stuff prevents things from taking flight and keeps the galley tidier and less noisy. When cut into little squares, it can also be used to reduce rattling.


8. Storage Containers
You can never have enough good storage containers. We aim to carry as few cardboard containers on board as possible (nasty cockroaches thrive in the stuff), so good containers made of other material are critical. We unpack everything that comes from the store in cardboard and put it in resealable bags or in storage containers. We shopped for containers that would optimize space in the various lockers we’ve designated for storage.
We also look for containers with straight sides so no space is wasted. We use tall, narrow containers in the refrigerator (especially for boxed milk that’s been opened) and leftovers. These containers have a smaller footprint in the vertically oriented fridge and optimize the use of the high space. We found a set of stainless-steel containers—bowls and storage containers with lids—that have been very useful. When you replace the lid with foil, you can reheat leftovers right in the container in a conventional oven/stove.

9. Insulated Bags
Have a few insulated bags on board for shopping and defrosting. These bags are also handy for heading to another boat for a potluck or sundowners. They keep cold stuff cold and hot stuff hot. Take them along when shopping to keep frozen items frozen, butter and cheese cool, and meat colder. When it’s time to defrost the fridge, you can put your frozen items in them to prevent thawing and working your fridge too hard.

10. Sponges and Towels
If you find a sponge you like, take a lot of them with you. Sponges are sometimes hard to find in small stores, and they do get stinky, especially when you’re catching, cleaning, cooking, and eating fish. The sink sponges get recycled into bilge- or bottom-cleaning sponges where the smell doesn’t matter. We also use those super-absorbent miracle-fiber cloths in the galley and cockpit to wipe up rain and spills. They save us from using too many expensive paper towels, plus you don’t have to worry about their disposal. We use the cloths because they squeeze dry easily and last quite a long time. When, like the sponges, they get stinky, we replace them.


11. Clothespins
These are great for sealing chip bags or rice and pasta bags. You can also use the wooden ones as shims and to keep doors from rattling. We have sliding doors in the head and galley, and when the waves are just right, they can get noisy; we solve the problem with the well-placed end of a wooden clothespin. The difficulty with using wooden clothespins for laundry is that stains often remain behind from rusting clips. Also, we had an issue with bamboo clothespins, which get moldy and leave a yellow stain on clothes. Plastic pins without a metal clip are best for laundry, but we’ve yet to find inexpensive ones.

12. Color-Coded Mesh Bags
This idea came to me from a friend who has a large and deep freezer. The freezer’s so big that she can’t reach the bottom of it. She stores her frozen items in color-coded mesh bags: green for frozen veggies, yellow for chicken, red for beef. She uses a stick with a hook on the end to retrieve dinner for defrosting.

And Don’t Forget . . .
• Insulated mugs and glasses make your ice last. Lifetime-guaranteed Tervis tumblers work great.
• A good cooking timer can remind you that something is on the stove or in the oven. We always try to set it for a few minutes whenever we walk away from a stove that’s on.
• An easy-to-read oven thermometer helps make sure that your oven temps are correct. Many boat-oven thermometers and thermostats aren’t quite accurate and can go bad.

There are lots of great ideas out there. Borrow tips that work for you. I just wish someone would invent a great boat saltshaker, a dish-drying rack that’s easy to store, and a compact knife rack that won’t take up counter space.

Formerly in the television business, Barbara Sobocinski and her husband, Michael Hawkins, cruise in the Caribbean aboard Astarte.


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