The Grill Masters

Tips for Barbecuing in an RV
Burger grilling on a grill.

I read a quote once that said, “Every camping trip is a memory.” And while I believe this is true, I also believe that every camping trip is an opportunity to learn and improve. When my husband Adam and I first started RV camping, it took us a few tries to figure out what we needed to bring, where things would fit and what items we could do without. And, truthfully, we’re still learning. But one thing we’ve always known is that RVing and grilling go hand-in-hand on our trips.

Adam is famously obsessed with barbecue, so it’s no surprise that most of our “necessary camping equipment” centers around that. His career as a third-generation manual machinist makes him a meticulous chef and baker. He’ll spend hours researching various cooking methods, tools, sauces, and meats to create the perfect barbecue.

Maybe you’re more like Adam and you enjoy the art of cooking. Or maybe you’re more like me and you prefer to do the eating. Either way, after multiple years of camping in our RV and countless barbecue meals, Adam and I are sharing our tips for how to have the best grilling experience on the road.

Put Together a Grill Kit

It all starts with making sure you bring the right tools and equipment. If you’re on the road and you realize that you forget to pack butter, that’s not a huge problem. But if you forgot to pack the grill, that’s another story. Don’t be afraid to make a checklist of all the items you know you’ll need in order to cook the food you want. When you plan a last-minute trip, you don’t want to be running around trying to get all of your supplies together. To help with this, put together a kit that is specific to grilling and cooking in your RV. This kit will save you time, energy and the unnecessary headache of forgetting something. Afterall, replacing a grill brush or meat thermometer might be challenging in a remote location.

Below is a list of some basic items that we always have in our grill kit. You likely won’t need everything on this list, but it should give you a good starting point. Just remember that your kit should reflect the things you enjoy making and eating the most.

●      Portable Grill Grate (can place directly over a campground fire pit)

●      Two-Burner Outdoor Stove

●      Portable Cast Iron Charcoal Grill

●      Small Drum Smoker

●      Cast Iron Sauce Pan

●      Griddle Plate

●      Two pairs of tongs (one for coals and one for food)

●      Wooden Cutting Board

●      Large Carving Knife

●      Wireless Meat Thermometer

●      Basting Brush

●      Charcoal Briquettes

●      Smoke Wood Chunks

●      Wire Grill Brush


Packing Up Your Barbecue

Adam and I are fortunate that our Dutchmen Kodiak travel trailer has plenty of storage to house all of our stuff. However, because we love grilling and barbecuing so much—and we have a tendency to bring a lot of extra equipment with us on our camping trips—we did need some extra space. Being a talented  machinist, Adam was actually able to build and install a receiver hitch directly to the frame on the back of our travel trailer. He then added a cargo carrier with plastic storage bins to the hitch, bolted everything down, and voila! We have an entire outdoor storage unit just for our grilling kit. That being said, we are probably the exception and not the rule, so don’t feel like you need to bring every grilling item ever made. A small, portable charcoal kettle grill will just as easily create some delicious meals. It helps to find a bin with a lid that will easily fit in your RV’s outdoor storage compartment, and then you can fill that bin with your grilling equipment. This way you know everything will fit and it’s all contained in one convenient place.

Plan Your Menu Ahead of Time

Just like you’ll want to make a checklist for your grilling equipment, you’ll also want to make a list for the type of food you’ll be cooking on your trip. Two things to be mindful of when building your list: Your RV’s refrigerator and freezer size, and if you’ll be camping somewhere that has a grocery store nearby. These two factors will help you determine what to cook, how much and if you need to bring all of the ingredients with you. When it comes to barbecuing and grilling, Adam and I have found that it’s best to keep things simple. If you’re having burgers, maybe you don’t need to pack large buns that take up space. Or, if you want cooked chicken, try putting it in a cast iron pot and adding some vegetables to create an easy, one-pot meal. Less space and easy clean-up are key with RV grilling.

Two of our favorite RV camping meals are simple grilled steak and smoked chicken. For the steak, we season the meat with salt, pepper and garlic and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before grilling it over a charcoal grill. Cook time will vary depending on how well-done you like your steak, but it helps to have a meat thermometer to make sure you’ve reached your preferred level of doneness (rare is typically 120 degrees and well-done is 160 degrees). Similarly, for the smoked chicken, we will oil and season an entire chicken and then place it inside our small drum smoker for a few hours with some wood chunks. Once the chicken has fully cooked, let it rest for ten minutes before carving into it. For both of these meals, we like to get big cuts of meat and a large chicken so we can have leftovers. Steak burritos and chicken salad are perfect ways to utilize the extra food the next day.

Make Your Own Rubs and Sauces

A vital part of any barbecue is the seasoning. So, once you’ve planned out your menu for the trip, make note of any rubs, seasonings or sauces you might want to bring. Even better if you can make these yourself! Homemade rubs and sauces will save you both time and money. Plus, you can customize them exactly to your liking—extra spice, a sweeter sauce or lots of garlic. If you keep just a few of your favorites in the RV, then you’ll eliminate the need to pack a bunch of items in your pantry. We recommend always bringing a few basics, including salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and either chili, chipotle, or cayenne powder. Adam has two homemade rubs that he brings on every RV camping trip: Abom’s All-Purpose Rub for pork, poultry and vegetables, and the SPG Mix, which consists of salt, pepper and garlic and is primarily used on beef.

Cook as a Family

One of my favorite things about RV camping is how everything seems to slow down. You can sit by a campfire for hours, with no cell service or TVs, and feel completely content. That is one of the reasons we love to grill and cook so much on our camping trips—we have the time to enjoy it! We always encourage friends and family to take advantage of the “camping slow down” and cook together. Give everyone in your family or group a specific task for each meal. Someone can help chop and prep, someone can be in charge of watching the timer and someone can do dishes. When everyone shares the load, it not only brings the group together but having a sense of ownership gets everyone engaged and ready to try something different for the next meal.

Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment

For those of you who have never grilled or barbecued before, it can seem intimidating. There are so many different meats, temperatures and rubs to choose from. But the best piece of advice we can give is to just go for it. Never done cast iron cooking? Interested in smoking your meat? Curious about dry rubs versus sauces? Find some recipes that look good to you, get the right tools and dive in. Don’t be afraid to experiment. The grilling experience alone is worth it, and the food will probably come out tasting pretty good regardless. If not, just try again or cover it in barbecue sauce—that always helps.

Believe me when I say that barbecue is better when you’re RV camping. So, pick up your grilling supplies, hit the road and come join us—everything is more delicious out here in the fresh air.

Abby Booth and her family travel in a Dutchmen Kodiak travel trailer.

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