In earlier times, houseboats were thought of as floating RV's. But today's luxury houseboats are more like beach houses or mega-yachts. The familiar, RV-style propane stove is still a good choice for a small, basic galley. However, many houseboat owners want a large, household range with all the bells and whistles.
Gourmet home cooks want their houseboat galley to have the same, top-of-the-line stoves they have in the kitchen. We are also seeing more restaurant-style, professional stoves in some custom-built boats. Thoroughbred President Shawn Heinen in Albany, Ky., reports that several customers have opted for 36-inch, Italian built, gourmet gas stoves. "They work well, cost a lot, but meet customer needs," said Heinen.
To see what's new and exciting in galley stoves, we looked at prestige stove maker Viking (www.VikingRange.com), household appliance favorite GE and custom marine stove maker Andrew Moore of Navigator Stove Works in Eastbound, Wash. Specializing in the traditional, salty look and function of serious sea stoves, he has done several custom installations for houseboaters in the Pacific Northwest.
Viking makes stoves in 30-, 36- and 48-inch widths and also offers gas cook-tops 24 inches and over for those who prefer stove-top gas burners plus, perhaps, one or two electric, self-cleaning wall ovens. Endless options are available including a wide choice of colors. Also offered is an electric induction range with convection oven for just over $6,000.
The mammoth, 48-inch-wide Viking Custom Sealed Burner range can serve your biggest onboard parties. It has two ovens and a choice of burner configurations with or without a grill or griddle insert. Although any range has to be securely anchored in a boat, both freestanding and slide-in ranges are available to give your galley designer more options.
Gas and electric GE stoves are found in home improvement stores. To see the full line, which is enormous, go to www.geappliances.com. The company makes electric, gas, induction and dual-fuel ranges (gas cook-top with electric oven). A choice of finishes is available to match GE's full line of refrigerators and other appliances.
Dickinson Marine (www.dickinsonmarine.com) is also another manufacturer worth taking a closer look at.
Shopping For The Ultimate Stove
* Warming drawers have been around since great-grandmother's time. They are still found on many gas and electric ranges.
* Most household gas ranges have some electrical components starting with a clock. Know what features require power from your ship's batteries, a generator or dock power. Know too what features can work without electricity. When power is off, some gas burners with electronic ignition can be lit manually, but some cannot. When choosing an electric stove, make sure the houseboat's wiring, the generator and dockside hookups can handle the load.
* The more electronic features, the most power the stove requires even when it's not in use. Programmable features require a steady diet of electricity.
* When planning a custom houseboat or doing a major galley renovation, choose the stove early in the design process. Wiring, ducting and gas plumbing are involved. The cabinet designer needs to know if the stove is free standing, slide-in or drop-in. Your marine architect needs to position and secure heavy appliances.
* Sometimes individual burners are too small for large pots. Instead opt for a "hob" style stove-top with a single grate. This option is found on many gas stoves including small RV stoves. Pots can be arranged anywhere on the hob.
* Self-cleaning ovens are nice to have, but the cleaning cycle takes a lot of gas or electricity.
* In a convection oven, hot air is circulated by a fan for more even baking and browning. A convection gas oven requires electricity as well as propane.
About Microwave Convection Ovens
In addition to a galley stove, a microwave oven is almost a must these days. It's even better if it doubles as a convection (heating) oven that can both nuke and bake. Better still, get one with overboard exhaust plus a stove hood. (Models that have a recirculating filter are easier to install, but are less effective in removing cooking odors and steam.)
Many cooks are still confused about these combination microwaves. It's easy to use them in microwave mode or baking mode. The confusion comes in when recipes tell you to microwave for so-many minutes, with frequent venting and turning, then bake to finish the dish. Our advice: use it as a microwave or use it as a convection oven. Forget complicated combination recipes. Used only in microwave mode, the oven is easy to clean. When heat is introduced, spills and stains bake on and create the same cleaning problems found in any conventional oven.
What Is Induction Cooking?
Both radiant and induction stove-tops have the same smooth, ceramic look that many cooks prefer. However, all ceramic cook-tops aren't the same. Some radiate heat just as electric burners always have. In induction cooking, heat is created in the pot, not in the "burner" itself. Only ferrous metal (stainless steel, iron) pots can be used with this energy, which is lightning fast. It's a real plus for cooks who like iron skillets, steel woks and the shiny convenience of stainless steel. It's also more like cooking with gas because the heat is instantly on, instantly off. Induction cooking is available in an entire cook-top or as a single hot plate.