Choosing Tools that will Make You Love Your Galley

Essential Guide to Choosing Galley Tools

There are essential cooking tools for any kitchen, and you’ll want to have most of those aboard your boat. But choosing galley tools is a little different. Especially for those of us who have limited space aboard our boats. We have to take a minimalist approach to what is truly required.
white corelle bowl - essential galley toolsAt the very least, a person who intends to eat needs some sort of container to pour the ramen packet and the hot tap water into.
ramen packet smallest galley

Those with a more is more outlook and/or more pocket change, might opt to add a few other items. A spoon, a water boiling device, maybe some soap to clean the bowl after use.

The galley of a small sailboat definitely argues for the minimalist ethic. Here’s a way to get set up that starts with the absolute necessities and builds for those who have more space.

A Galley is Different from a Kitchen

All cooks love specialty gadgets and beautiful serving pieces. In our shore-side homes, we’re used to luxurious tools like a pannini press, a waffle iron, a soda maker, a big Italian ceramic pasta bowl, a crystal pitcher, a punch bowl. But cooking in a galley means facing some realities.

Besides the obvious limitation of not much space, the marine environment is a factor. And the nature of boats in that environment is a major consideration. Moist air means everything that stores food must seal securely. The constant motion of waves means unbreakable containers will perform best. Though typically I avoid plastic due to concern about the buildup of plastic trash in our oceans, this is one area where I opt for plastic.

The following list of essential galley tools assumes that your boat is already fitted with the basic galley elements – a sink and faucet, a cupboard of some sort, an icebox or refrigerator and a stove. If you don’t have those yet, or need to replace them, check out The Smallest Galley Design section for reviews and recommendations for the big ticket items.

Essential Galley Tools

When I first started cooking aboard a boat, I thought a galley wasn’t a real kitchen, so I went cheap. I headed for the neighborhood hardware store and bought:

  1. An aluminum frying pan
  2. A cheap, pot metal paring knife
  3. A few cheap plastic cups
  4. A can opener
  5. A set of cheap flatware
  6. A set of cheap plastic plates and bowls
  7. A cheap metal spatula
  8. A couple of towels

Since then, I’ve learned that buying anything cheap is actually more costly. The handles come off plastic spoons. The gears on cheap can openers break. Cheap plastic bowls crack under pressure. Cheap frying pans burn everything, warps and the finish peels off into your food. Crappy towels don’t actually soak up water.

Buying cheap only uses up precious resources. Not just money, but the metals, plastics and wood it takes to make them, the fuel it takes to ship them, and the land it takes to dump them when they wear out too fast and turn to trash.

Instead, for the basic galley set up, choose quality.

  1. A small, chef quality, stainless steel saute pan. The best your budget will allow. The Tramontia 8 inch Stainless Steel Saute Pan is a excellent, but cost conscious model. Or, cut to the chase and get a full set of Stainless Steel Nesting Boat Cookware designed especially for the galley.
  2. A high quality stainless paring knife
  3. A pair of solid, well designed, comfortable ceramic coffee mugs
  4. A can opener. The old school style manual can opener is less bulky for a small galley.
  5. A decently made set of stainless steel flatware. This sleek Oneida service for four is ideal for a small boat.
  6. A set of lightweight plates, for instance Corelle Livingware with non-skid material attached to the bottom, or purpose built marine plates.
  7. A short, wood handled metal spatula
  8. A couple of nice cotton towels

These will get you going and serve for a picnics aboard and a few weekend jaunts. But soon you’ll want to do more in your galley.

Once you’ve got the basics, here are a few more helpful tools.

  • Chef’s Knife:
  • Mixing Bowl:
  • Cutting Board:
  • Tongs:
  • Wooden Spoon:
  • Cast Iron Pan:
  • ZipLoc Bags:
  • Measuring Cups & Spoons:
  • Electric Kettle
  • Stove Top Kettle
  • Thermos

For a fully outfitted galley, also save money and space for these.

  • Lighter
  • Headlamp
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Basic Cookbook
  • Waterproof Containers: SnapWare
  • Funnel
  • Reuseable Wine Carafe

Though not essential galley tools, boaters with space might want to add:

  • Liquid Measuring Cup:
  • Whisk:
  • Potholders: 
  • Pie Pan:
  • Sheet Pan (measure your oven to make sure it will fit)

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