Choosing the right stove for your boat is particularly important if you live aboard but how do you know which cooker is right for you? This guide will help you make the right choice.
Anything metal on a boat rusts unless it's made of brass, stainless steel, aluminum or some other salt resistant material. Alternatively, I have had success with using some rust proofing sprays but would not recommend this on a stove because I suspect that the heat would destroy the rust-proofing and it might produce some hazardous gasses. I do have cast iron pots that I keep from rusting by 'seasoning' them with oil.
Stoves can be expensive so there is always the temptation to buy the cheapest one you can find but think about what happens when you are days from port and you don't have a way to cook. I've eaten cold minestrone out of a can and I don't recommend it (I don't recommend warm minestrone from a can either by the way). A good stove will last a life-time or even two, just read the reviews on Amazon.
Size of Pots
I've done it myself. I've filled a pot full of the ingredients for chili, turned around to put it on my Force 10, gimballed stove and realized that the pot was too big for the stove. If you already have a full set of pots, you're probably going too want to get a stove to match them rather than buy a whole new set. Don't forget to check your kettle. A friend of mine bought a fancy new stove-top kettle for his boat and the same thing happened to him, it didn't fit on his cooker.
Number of Burners
Another important consideration when choosing a stove for your vessel is the number of burners. This is largely determined by the types of dishes that you make. Most live aboard cruisers that I know tend to make a lot of one-pot meals so only one burner is required but you might need more for more complex dishes.
Cost and availability of fuel are the two biggest considerations here. There are many different types of fuels including propane, kerosene, tablets, etc. but many full time boaters dislike propane because of it's potential to explode. Propane can also leak which has, reportedly, lead to several deaths. My own propane tank once leaked, emptying the entire canister into the cabin with me as I slept. Depending upon where you are sailing, propane can also be difficult to refil for reasons of availability and differing types of physical connectors.
Kerosene seems to be widely available and is my personal preference, largely because I grew up with kerosene lamps and heaters and even kerosene powered toys. It's a favorite among many cruisers because it is cheap and safe to store i.e. because it is more like an oil than a fuel such as unleaded, it doesn't ignite easily and can be stored in metal containers.
I have listed some stoves here that can burn two or even three different types of fuel and this seems to be a good option to me because it would seem to offer you the best chances of obtaining fuel while traveling, especially in more remote areas.
Solar stoves will not be covered here because you will still want to make a cup of coffee (or tea if you must) on a cloudy day. Having said that, I am planning on using a solar cooker every chance I get to conserve fuel and lower cruising costs. They could easily be dismissed as the 'hippy-oven' or a fad but villagers have been suing them for many years in remote parts of the world so I think they are a great idea.
I don't care how big your boat is, you never have enough space so size is always a serious issue when it comes to choosing a stove. Decide where you want your stove to be mounted in your galley and that will tell you how much space you have to fit a stove into. Remember that your stove will need some swinging room because it will need to be gimbaled.
Mounting the Stove
As mentioned above, boat stoves need to be gimbaled to counteract the motion of the sea so you will need to plan out how you are going to mount your cooker before you buy it. I have seen stoves that would take considerable effort to mount them properly. This obviously means that the legs that come standard with your stove probably are not important. Most portable stoves, backpack cookers and camping stoves come with folding legs that boaters won't use at all unless they also take the stove camping with them.
Securing the Pots
Unless you want to eat your meals off the sole of the cabin then you are going to need to find a way to secure the pots to the stove top. James Baldwin on his Atomvoyages.com page offers a complete stove, gimbal and potholder system but it's not cheap. Still, considering it's importance and the amount of use you will get out of it, it's worth it.
REVIEW: The Brass Pressure Stove
The Butterfly #2412 Brass Pressure stove is made from solid brass so it meets the first requirement of all marine stoves, which is being rust proof. It is a pressurized kerosene stove which has the benefit of being more fuel efficient and thus cheaper to operate but it's operation is a little complicated (those of you who already live on a boat just snorted out loud and scoffed "Complicated? What isn't complicated on a boat?")
To light this stove you need to pre-heated it with a few teaspoons of denatured alcohol which heats the brass burner for twenty or thirty seconds. After this preheating is done you need to start working the little pump which makes the kerosene rise inside the burner and then vaporizes. This kerosene vapor then catches fire and the stove ignites. It sounds more complicated than it is.
If you don't do the preheated correctly then the fuel won't vaporize properly and, when you go to light the stove, you will see a four foot flame shoot out. Not a good thing on a boat but lighting one of these stoves isn't rocket science so you'll get the hang of it quickly.
You might also want to watch some videos on youtube to familiarize yourself with the process of operating one of these cookers.
Own this stove
Coleman's Dual Fuel Stove
Coleman 1-Burner Dual Fuel Sporter II Liquid Fuel Stove
I like the idea of this stove because it is dual fuel and because Amazon reviewers give this Coleman camping stove an overall good rating. Some reviewers also caution that it clogs and becomes useless if you choose to run it on regular unleaded fuel.
This stove offers 10,500 BTUs of cooking heat which is pretty impressive.
Economical to run, a full 2.1-pint tank runs for approximately two hours on High. It's stainless steel construction makes it impervious to rust and the controls are easy to work and offer a wide adjustment of cooking temperatures.
Takes a while to warm up and doesn't simmer too well at first but when it heats up it works just fine
Overall, a decent choice for a marine cooker for your boat.
Own this stove
Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove
Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove
Aside from the good reviews this cooker gets the main thing that attracts me to it is that it can operate on THREE different kinds of fuel.
1) Coleman fuel
2) Unleaded gasoline
3) Kerosene (kerosene generator included)
The Coleman Exponent 550B725 Multi-Fuel camp stove offers the widest range of fuel options and is an excellent choice for any boat.