We get asked regularly how we cook in our van, and you’re often very surprised when we say we have no gas in our van at all. We cook solely on electric with a two burner induction hob connected to our lithium ion battery. We’re here to tell you that cooking on induction in a van is not only possible but it has some great advantages to it as well.
Why no gas?
Well, mainly because I’ve heard horror stories of vans blowing up due to issues with gas. Naturally I decided that would absolutely happen to us so we should avoid it at all costs! It’s entirely possible I concentrate on the negative a little too much… lets not get started on the potential bomb disguised as a lithium iron battery we carry on board!
On a slightly more serious note it can be difficult to get LPG on the continent, especially in more remote places in Scandinavia. Add in the need for different connectors in different countries and avoiding gas starts to become an attractive option. We also know a lot more about electrical systems than we do about gas, and there’s nothing like working to your strengths! We decided very early on in our van build that we’d prefer to cook on induction.
Does cooking on induction use loads of power?
Honestly? Yes! We have quite a lot of demands on our battery, not just our hob so keeping enough charge in the battery is a daily task. We top up our battery using solar, charging as we drive or plugging in.
Sadly we don’t live in California or Southern Spain and whilst Britain is known for many things it’s not for its good weather! We’re also big fans of the white stuff and spend the winter following the snow. This often means multiple days without decent solar. But, a year in, including a couple of months in the Arctic in winter and we’d still put induction in our van if we were to do it all again.
Are you currently deciding how to cook in your van conversion? Read on for our pros and cons of cooking on induction in a van.
Advantages of Cooking on Induction
No Gas – The biggest advantage for us is that there’s no gas in our van. We didn’t have to worry about the installation process of gas during our van build or find an area to store a gas tank, so there’s no loss of storage space. There’s also no need to worry about different connectors when travelling, running out of gas or trying to source it when on the move. Finally, we have no concerns over ventilation or carbon monoxide by cooking on induction in the van.
Less moisture – When gas burns it produces water. Cast your minds back to your chemistry class and you might recall that methane reacts with oxygen when heated to produce carbon dioxide and water. Why the science lesson? Keeping moisture out of your van is a constant battle, so the less water released the better!
More efficient – Whilst induction uses up precious electricity it’s actually a very efficient way of cooking. Much more of the heat generated finds its way to your food than it does when cooking on gas, so much so that water will boil almost twice as fast on an induction hob than on a gas burner.
Easy to clean – We’re all for quick, easy and convenient. Our induction hob takes seconds to wipe down.
Green energy source – When we’re able to charge our battery on solar alone cooking on induction in the van is environmentally friendly. Sadly, if we have to drive solely to charge the battery it’s definitely not a clean source of power.
Easy to install – Our hob was really easy to install. We wired it into the electrics and we can turn the power on and off to it via our touchscreen. We’ve also seen other camper vans using portable induction hobs that simply plug in to a socket when in use.
Disadvantages of Induction Cooking
Power – We touched on this above but absolutely the biggest drawback of cooking with induction in a van is the amount of electricity it uses. We have a 300ah battery and boiling the kettle for a cuppa (with enough water for two people) drains 3% from our battery. The other night I cooked Thai Curry and that drained 13%.
You need a good battery capacity, ideally lithium iron (which carries a significant cost implication) and an inverter powerful enough for the hob you choose (ours is 3.5kw). You’ll ideally need to charge to some degree every day. If it’s not sunny this means driving or plugging in. Parking up for a week at an amazing wild camping spot isn’t an option unless you have good weather.
Don’t let this put you off though, there are ways to manage your power usage. If you don’t have many other demands on your power you should be fine. We tend to cook meals that take no longer than 15/20 minutes. We plan to cook more exciting things if we know we’ll be somewhere with power or good weather.
No toast – You can’t make toast! Or crumpets for that matter. We have hunted and hunted but we can’t find a way of toasting properly using an induction hob (it’s just not the same using a frying pan). If you have an idea drop us a comment below… please!
Omnia Oven – We don’t have an oven in our van and most of the time it’s not an issue, until you fancy baking a cake or some yummy fresh bread (yeah, that’s not happened yet!). Like many vanlifers we have an Omnia Oven. If you’ve not seen them before they’re a great little option for cooking whilst camping as they enable you to bake/roast/casserole on your stovetop.
The donut shape, base and ventilated lid encourage the heat to circulate just as it would in a conventional oven. It doesn’t work so well on our hob though as heat is created through electrical induction as opposed to thermal conduction, and therefore the heat doesn’t circulate in the same way. We have used it but it’s fairly slow. We keep a Trangia (alcohol) stove in the van for times when we want to use our mini oven.
Don’t Rule Induction Out!
We appreciate cooking on induction isn’t for everyone. Many people automatically dismiss using electric for cooking in their van but it can definitely be done. There’s a lot of advantages to it so don’t rule it out too soon! We’re huge fans and despite the above cons we’ll definitely install induction again if we ever do another van conversion!
If you’re currently planning your own camper van kitchen make sure you check out our full kitchen essentials guide. This covers everything that went in to our tiny yet perfectly functioning kitchen!
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What induction cooker do you use? Do you get low wattage models?
We use the Cookology Induction Hob (https://amzn.to/30avY1e) it’s 3.5kw in total, the front smaller hob does 1500w and the larger rear hob 2000w. It has nine power levels though so we can keep it low as needed.
In the army we used a grill or castiron frying pan and a little salt on it to make toast.
Ah thanks for the tip we’ll definitely give that a try!
What wattage solar panels and soze lithium battery do you use also looking at induction and trying to work out if worth/cam afford the upfront cost if needing large lithium and solar supplies?
We have 500W solar and 300ah lithium battery. Because we live in the UK and the weather can be awful we do struggle on solar alone in the winter, so being able to charge as we drive is vital for us. You also need to ensure your inverter can handle the draw of the induction hob.
What pots and pans are you using? I’ve read somewhere that cast-iron heats most efficiently on induction (compared to other iron pots/pans), is there some truth to that?
Can you show (perhaps in a video) what a regular day looks like in terms of using the stove – and how far you usually get on your 300ah battery (when stationary and with limited solar input)?
I’m not sure if cast iron heats more efficiently than other induction-compatible pans to be honest. We have used them on induction before but I’ve never really noticed a difference. We don’t have them in the van as they’re too heavy. We just have two cheap Ikea pans and a wok that work on induction.
We have so many other things that draw power from our battery that it wouldn’t really be a fair representation of what cooking uses. Our fridge, router and cctv are constantly drawing from the battery in the background. To boil water for tea/coffee for two people it uses 3% of the battery. It’s around 12% when we cook a meal. If we had no solar input at all and didn’t drive I’d say after 24hrs our battery would have around 50% charge left, but that’s if we’re using all our other devices too, many of which we’d turn off if it was a no solar day/we weren’t driving. Hope that helps!
Hey, fab articles. Really inspiring. Maybe one day. I have induction at home and regularly make toast on it. We use a cast iron grill, which isn’t too heavy as it’s pretty thin. We use it for defrosting and toasting bread and nothing more.
Ah thank you! Oh wow, does that work? We’ll give it try, thanks! I’ve tried in a standard frying pan but it’s not the same! Will try a grill pan, fingers crossed!
The beginning stages of my van conversion. I use an induction cooker in Hong Kong in my 200 sq feet flat and it works great! Wonder why not everyone would consider it other than the electric situation. Thank you for your post.
Hope your van conversion is going well! Yeah, we’ve seen a few more people using them recently but on the whole people still seem worried about them in vans. We love ours!
If using an inverter does your 12v supply still work at the same time as the 240v items? or do you have to switch between the two?
No, they still work. We have a Victron inverter, our lights run off 12v and they still work whilst we’re cooking. Hope that helps!
Great insight, thanks. I am however curious to know why making toast is such a problem when you have a huge inverter that will easily power a domestic toaster?
You can’t make toast on the induction hob as you could with a gas hob, but yes you could use a standard toaster easily enough. We don’t have space in our kitchen to store one and don’t make toast often enough to warrant it, but you could definitely use one.
Could you use an Air fryer in your Van for toast baking etc ?
Yes, that would certainly be possible. Personally we wouldn’t have the room to store it but assuming you can an option that doesn’t use huge amounts of power it definitely should be possible.
We use a George Forman portable electric grill it does everything including toast. 200ah battery no problems.
Ah that’s good to know, we wondered about these before but weren’t sure how much power they’d use.
Thanks for the info!
Hi guys, im so confused. just had my conversion done but so dont understand the whole amps and watts thing. i was told if i use anything that requires more than 800 watts to run it will trip my system. there doesnt seem to be anything on the market in convection that runs at 800 watts. does that make sense, just trying to figure it out. brain doesnt like it. lol
Apologies, you’ve probably got it all sorted now but it depends on your battery capacity and inverter. Our induction hob is 2500 watts and we’ve never had any problems with our set up. Try having a chat with Roamer Vans or Climbingvan, they know a lot more about the technical sides of this than me. Hope that helps!