Why would you want to take kitchen gear along on a travel nurse assignment? Aren’t you going to want to eat out as often as possible, enjoying the local cuisine and farm-to-table offerings? Isn’t taking this along just a big hassle?
First of all, I enjoy cooking. I like to make meals for Mary, trying to get everything right, and making her dishes she can appreciate. I also enjoy trying to recreate local dishes or even learn to cook local specialties the way they’re served in restaurants and at home. A bigger issue though is that eating at restaurants for every meal can get extremely expensive. If you want to have the funds available to explore the area you’re in, taking day trips or overnights through the region, you’ll need to cook some meals at home to save those funds.
After working in and running restaurants for some time and dealing with small catering projects, I’ve developed a small battery of equipment which will fit like a puzzle into a single 27-gallon tub. As not every place you stay will have a decent kitchen or cookware (our first hotel room had no kitchen, the second one had a full kitchen complete with a garbage disposal and dishwasher), these items can be quite useful in making sure you have what you need to put a nice meal on the table. Please note though that some hotels which don’t offer in-room kitchens also don’t allow cooking in those rooms. It’s up to you to find out what the policy is and act accordingly.
- Keurig*: On mornings Mary sleeps in after a 12- or 14-hour shift I only need a mug or two of coffee to get going. We use a reusable K-cup most of the time.
- Electric skillet, high-wall, glass cover: Instead of a stove, useful for stir-frying, sautéeing, preparing bagged frozen dinners, bacon, and many other meals and items.
- Electric Griddle: I use this for pancakes, French toast, more bacon, sausage, burgers, shaved ribeye for sandwiches, grilled sheese sandwiches, etc.
- Slow Cooker, 4-quart: I’ll use this to slow cook pork shoulder for BBQ pulled pork, for making chili, chowders, and many other dishes. There are great cookbooks out there on the subject. Invest in one of the books and get to work. Once you have a slow cooker, make sure you also use the slow cooker liners that you can find in stores with the plastic wrap and aluminum foil … Else you’ll have a difficult time cleaning it.
- Pressure Cooker, 4-quart: Perfect for cooking complicated dishes rapidly, current models are far safer than in decades past. There are both the older stovetop and newer electric models, but be aware there are differences between a pressure cooker and a pressure canner: Most cannot be used for the other function. Again, getting a cookbook on the subject is a great way to learn what to do with it.
- Cutting Board, Polypropylene: I travel with a good board because I’ve seen some really bad ones along the way. The Boos* version is least expensive for being the most rugged, and is less likely to warp.
- Sheet pan: Commonly known as a baking sheet or cookie sheet, I travel with a one-quarter size for cooking French fries, tater tots, etc. I’ll also line it with foil to slow roast ribs for finishing with barbecue sauce. The foil makes it considerably easier to clean.
- Tongs, Metal, Spring-Loaded: Perfect for flipping chops, steaks, bacon, sausages, stirring and serving pasta, etc.
- Grill Press: Available at many kitchen supply stores, this is useful for ensuring steaks, pork chops, and bacon cook rapidly to a tender finish. I have two, one for each of our steaks or to spread out over bacon.
- Corkscrew: Because … Wine.
A few of the knives and other tools in my own knife roll.
A knife roll might seem as though it’s an idea that’s kinda “out there” but ask yourself this: How can you be guaranteed there will be decent knives around when you’re trying to cook? Quite simply, you can’t. Carrying even a few decent knives and other tools with you will solve any issues. Now I don’t mean you need to buy knives costing a hundred dollars or more. Only one of mine is in that category, and it was a gift. Truth be told, most restaurants kitchens will use solid knives costing about thirty dollars or less. As long as they’re rugged, able to be sharpened, and feel good in your hand and are balanced, that’s really all you need.
- Chef’s Knife, 8”: The workhorse of any kitchen.
- Paring Knife: Should be able to do any job the chef’s knife is too large for.
- Blade Guards: Make no mistake … There should be a blade guard on the edge of every.sharp.blade in your knife roll. Not having one on every blade in there is a mistake you’ll only ever make once. That first stitch or cauterization will make sure you learn that lesson.
- Knife Sharpener, Folding: While sharpening steels are great if you have one, if you have a smaller knife roll a folding sharpener will do the job as you need it and will take less space.
- Meat Thermometer: If you’re not temping your temperature-critical proteins, you should be. Learn how to use this tool for everyone’s safety.
- Boning/Fillet Knife, 6″: If you’re going to add one knife to the above list, this is what’s most useful. I’ll grab this one before grabbing a paring knife.
- Sharpening Steel: Definitely a nice item to have to hone your edges.
- Peeler, Vegetable: Faster than a paring knife, this almost goes into the list of necessary tools.
- Kitchen Scissors: Far less useful than anything above, it’s great for more precision cutting tasks.
- Carving Knife & Fork: If you plan on doing any kind of specialty carving, particularly of poultry, these are great to have available.
- Corkscrew, Pocket, Folding: If you open wine regularly you’re probably going to need this in your roll as it’s most handy there.
- Fish Spatula: Fish fillets, even those with the skin still on, can be quite diffidult to turn in some pans or on the grill without them flaking apart. This spatula makes that task considerably easier.
- Zester: You probably won’t have many instances to use this, but the need can show up unexpectedly. That’s the reason I carry one.
I also carry a boning cleaver for larger chopping jobs, as well as an Asian vegetable cleaver … for the sole purpose of learning how to use it.
*Note: The listing of a specific brand is merely my own recommendation, and does not indicate an endorsement of this site by the brand’s owner or manufacturer.
page updated 9/22/2018