How to CookMemorial Day

How to Take Your Kitchen on Vacation

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: As Memorial Day weekend -- and summer vacations! -- get closer, Christine Rudalevige (a.k.a. cheese1227) breaks down the essential tools and ingredients you'll want to haul with you to the beach this summer.

packing for vacation!

Memorial Day weekend traditionally opens the gates to summer vacation season. Whether you’re heading to a cabin in the woods, a cottage at the beach, or a pied-à-terre in a yet-to-be explored city, bringing along a few essential kitchen items from home can be the key to make cooking in the rental a joy rather than a hassle.

Whether you're traveling by train, plane, or automobile, it's wise to plan ahead, and try to fill only a single bag, box, or basket with kitchen gear and supplies. Here are the essentials you'll want to plan on taking with you:


Nothing turns a fabulous vacation bad like a jagged cut from the dull knife that comes with the rental. One, sharp, utilitarian knife -- in its guard -- should be packed first. A peeler, or even a tri-pack of peelers -- straight edge for potatoes and fat asparagus bottoms, julienne for Zuccaghetti and easy slaws, and serrated to remove the fuzz on peaches and the slivery skins in fresh tomato sauce -- can get tucked in next.

cast iron skillet

It’s heavy, but a seasoned cast iron skillet works for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so it’s worth the weight. A baking sheet is needed to pull off warm peanut butter cookies for that one (hopefully it’s only one) cold, rainy afternoon when everyone is sitting around reading. It doubles as the lid for the cottage’s topless pasta pot, and then triples as a MacGyvered tart pan for Amanda’s summer Peach Tart.


If you know your farmer and love her summer herbs, they should come too, unwashed, each wrapped in a damp paper towel, nestled inside a large zippered bag so they stay fresh for a week. Pack several more bags with favored grains (farro, freekah, and brown sticky rice) that you are not likely to find at the provincially quaint, but not well-stocked, corner store near the cabin. The bags get repurposed for marinating chicken, makeshift picnic salad bowls, and wet bathing suit transport. 


Snack-sized bags can ferry enough salt, black peppercorns, and red pepper flakes, and cumin and coriander seeds to keep your staple dishes well seasoned while others carry just pinches of cardamom, saffron, and vanilla pods to make them special.


You can employ a little beer cooler to house half-pint canning jars of olive oil, champagne, balsamic and rice vinegars, and soy sauce on the journey. The last jar in this portable kitchen six pack -– this clean jar also serves as a vacation cocktail shaker – can hold a small container of Dijon mustard, capers, tubes of anchovy and tomato paste, and a few honey sticks. The contents of the mini-cooler are, of course, adaptable to taste and circumstance.  

What parts of your kitchen are you planning to bring with you on vacation? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: Tips & Techniques, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Kitchen Confidence