James StanburySee other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury
Read our expert's verdict on the colourful Outwell Gastro cook set M if you need a neat three-piece pan set that will fit in a small caravan cupboard
What do you use for cooking in your caravan? Do you have a special lightweight set of crockery, cutlery and cooking vessels that you've bought specially for holidays? No, we didn't think so. We suspect that most caravanners use a hotch-potch of old pots and pans on holiday, saving the newer equipment for home.
Why not plan a quick upgrade? It won't even cost that much to do, and using new cookware will save you storage space and be a pleasure to use on holiday. Say goodbye to that frying pan with the flaky non-stick surface, and the saucepans that refuse to stack. Get yourself a few new things each year, because as we all know, it's the little things that add up and go to make caravanning more comfortable and enjoyable.
You'll hardly notice that your caravan cooker's hobs are smaller than the ones at home, once you have smaller saucepans to match. And on holiday there's a chance that you'll be cooking for two, rather than six, so having smaller pans will suit smaller quantities.
We gathered together a selection of camping cookware sets on the Practical Caravan test bench for comparison – and you can read a selection of our cookware reviews here. We've tested the Coleman eight-piece enamelled cook set, costing £40, the Kampa Feast set of four at £33.99, the Outwell Gastro cook set M, at £35.99 and the Quest three-piece saucepan set at £15, the Lakeland Ceramica four-piece nesting pan set, which costs £94.99, and the Tefal Ingenio 13-piece set, costing £149.99.
With such an array of pots and pans on the test bench, we decided to compare them using our own set of caravan-suitable criteria.
How many pans do you get with each set, and how are they to use in a compact caravan kitchen? We found that small and medium pans are better than big pans. We ruled out tiny lightweight backpacking cooking pots, because they're just too small to be practical in a caravan. On the other hand, even devotees of the full English breakfast wouldn't thank us for praising up giant-sized frying pans that take up all three or four rings on a caravan hob!
We checked the weight of each set and compared the size when packed down into a locker. Not that this was a straight comparison, because we had to factor in storage size against the number of pieces. The shape of each pan has a bearing on its stackability, too.
We really like pan handles that allow you to grip them easily, so the shape does matter. And we'll have no truck with handles with no insulation, because they can get as hot as the stew bubbling away on your hob.
When it comes to saucepan lids, we want a lid for each pan – food cooks far more quickly, using less fuel, with the lid on.
Extra marks are available for truly versatile cooking sets, where the pans can go in the oven and double as baking trays. Detachable or folding handles on a pan can mean it works as a serving dish. Some sets come with clip-on plastic lids, so that you can pop any leftovers straight in the fridge when they've cooled down.
Some foods tend to stick to the pans more than others – and traditional thin camping cookware seems particularly likely to burn food. It's not you, it's the pan. So, we've awarded more marks to camping cookware with thicker aluminium or stainless steel walls and a lid, and non-stick surfaces, more akin to most people's favourite pans at home.
It’s best to deep-clean the pans when you return home, so it's a great idea to get dishwasher-friendly pans.
After all our tests, in this review we'll shine a spotlight on the Outwell Gastro cook set M, which costs £35.99.
Outwell’s new cook set solves the perennial problem of pan lids being difficult to stack and consequently taking up much more cupboard space than they should. Cooking-grade silicone, as in the Outwell Collaps range, is used, so the three-pan Outwell Gastro cook set M packs down to just 10cm in height x 19.5cm in diameter.
The pans aren’t the biggest we've seen during this batch of cookware tests: the 16cm and 18cm diameter saucepans are reasonable enough, but 18cm is a touch small for a frying pan. Each pan sports folding handles, and the silicone coating provides better heat resistance than the plastic used on the others.
|Big saucepan||18cm diameter|
|Smaller saucepan||16cm diameter|
|Heatproof folding handles||Silicone|
|Frying pan||18cm diameter|
The colourful Outwell Gastro Cook set M may only have three pieces, but it stacks well, has a lid for each saucepan, and boasts truly heat-proof handles. Best of all, collapsible cookware technology has been used in an innovative use of silicone, which helps when it comes to tight storage space. We've awarded the Outwell Gastro cook set M a three-star rating compared to rival cookware.
- The three-pan set stacks and fits in a small space
- Silicone handles are heat-resistant
- The frying pan is a bit small