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Boat Stoves

How To Choose A Boat Stove

Choosing the right stove for your boat is particularly important if you live aboard but how do you know which cooker is right for you? This guide will help you make the right choice. I have lived full time on my own boat for many years so I speak from experience about what is important and what Isn't so much. Now let's get you the right cooker.

Brass Boat Stove

Brass pressure stove

Brass pressure stove

What to Look For In A Boat Stove

Rust Proof

Anything metal on a boat rusts unless it's made of brass, stainless steel, aluminum or some other salt resistant material. Alternatively, I have had success with using some rust proofing sprays but would not recommend this on a stove because I suspect that the heat would destroy the rust-proofing and it might produce some hazardous gasses. I do have cast iron pots that I keep from rusting by 'seasoning' them with oil.


Stoves can be expensive so there is always the temptation to buy the cheapest one you can find but think about what happens when you are days from port and you don't have a way to cook. I've eaten cold minestrone out of a can and I don't recommend it (I don't recommend warm minestrone from a can either by the way). A good stove will last a life-time or even two, just read the reviews on Amazon.

Size of Pots

I've done it myself. I've filled a pot full of the ingredients for chili, turned around to put it on my Force 10, gimballed stove and realized that the pot was too big for the stove. If you already have a full set of pots, you're probably going too want to get a stove to match them rather than buy a whole new set. Don't forget to check your kettle. A friend of mine bought a fancy new stove-top kettle for his boat and the same thing happened to him, it didn't fit on his cooker.

Important Marine Cooker Considerations

Number of Burners

Another important consideration when choosing a stove for your vessel is the number of burners. This is largely determined by the types of dishes that you make. Most live aboard cruisers that I know tend to make a lot of one-pot meals so only one burner is required but you might need more for more complex dishes.

Fuel Type

Cost and availability of fuel are the two biggest considerations here. There are many different types of fuels including propane, kerosene, alcohol, tablets, etc. but many full time boaters dislike propane because of it's potential to explode. Propane can also leak which has, reportedly, lead to several deaths. My own propane tank once leaked, emptying the entire canister into the cabin with me as I slept. Depending upon where you are sailing, propane can also be difficult to refil for reasons of availability and differing types of physical connectors.

Kerosene seems to be widely available and is my personal preference, largely because I grew up with kerosene lamps and heaters and even kerosene powered toys. It's a favorite among many cruisers because it is cheap and safe to store i.e. because it is more like an oil than a fuel such as unleaded, it doesn't ignite easily and can be stored in metal containers.

I have listed some stoves here that can burn two or even three different types of fuel and this seems to be a good option to me because it would seem to offer you the best chances of obtaining fuel while traveling, especially in more remote areas.

Solar Stoves

Solar stoves will not be covered here because you will still want to make a cup of coffee (or tea if you must) on a cloudy day. Having said that, I am planning on using a solar cooker every chance I get to conserve fuel and lower cruising costs. They could easily be dismissed as the 'hippy-oven' or a fad but villagers have been suing them for many years in remote parts of the world so I think they are a great idea.

Physical Size

I don't care how big your boat is, you never have enough space so size is always a serious issue when it comes to choosing a stove. Decide where you want your stove to be mounted in your galley and that will tell you how much space you have to fit a stove into. Remember that your stove will need some swinging room because it will need to be gimbaled.

Getting The Right Marine Stove

Mounting the Stove

As mentioned above, boat stoves need to be gimbaled to counteract the motion of the sea so you will need to plan out how you are going to mount your cooker before you buy it. I have seen stoves that would take considerable effort to mount them properly. This obviously means that the legs that come standard with your stove probably are not important. Most portable stoves, backpack cookers and camping stoves come with folding legs that boaters won't use at all unless they also take the stove camping with them.

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Securing the Pots

Unless you want to eat your meals off the sole of the cabin then you are going to need to find a way to secure the pots to the stove top. James Baldwin on his page offers a complete stove, gimbal and potholder system but it's not cheap. Still, considering it's importance and the amount of use you will get out of it, it's worth it.

REVIEW: The Brass Pressure Stove

The Butterfly #2412 Brass Pressure stove is made from solid brass so it meets the first requirement of all marine stoves, which is being rust proof. It is a pressurized kerosene stove which has the benefit of being more fuel efficient and thus cheaper to operate but it's operation is a little complicated (those of you who already live on a boat just snorted out loud and scoffed "Complicated? What isn't complicated on a boat?")

To light this stove you need to pre-heated it with a few teaspoons of denatured alcohol which heats the brass burner for twenty or thirty seconds. After this preheating is done you need to start working the little pump which makes the kerosene rise inside the burner and then vaporizes. This kerosene vapor then catches fire and the stove ignites. It sounds more complicated than it is.

If you don't do the preheated correctly then the fuel won't vaporize properly and, when you go to light the stove, you will see a four foot flame shoot out. Not a good thing on a boat but lighting one of these stoves isn't rocket science so you'll get the hang of it quickly.

You might also want to watch some videos on youtube to familiarize yourself with the process of operating one of these cookers.

Own this stove

Coleman's Dual Fuel Stove

Coleman camping stove

Coleman camping stove

Coleman 1-Burner Dual Fuel Sporter II Liquid Fuel Stove

I like the idea of this stove because it is dual fuel and because Amazon reviewers give this Coleman camping stove an overall good rating. Some reviewers also caution that it clogs and becomes useless if you choose to run it on regular unleaded fuel.

This stove offers 10,500 BTUs of cooking heat which is pretty impressive.

Economical to run, a full 2.1-pint tank runs for approximately two hours on High. It's stainless steel construction makes it impervious to rust and the controls are easy to work and offer a wide adjustment of cooking temperatures.

Takes a while to warm up and doesn't simmer too well at first but when it heats up it works just fine

Overall, a decent choice for a marine cooker for your boat.

Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove

Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove

Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove

Coleman Exponent Multi-Fuel Stove

Aside from the good reviews this cooker gets the main thing that attracts me to it is that it can operate on THREE different kinds of fuel.

1) Coleman fuel

2) Unleaded gasoline

3) Kerosene (kerosene generator included)

The Coleman Exponent 550B725 Multi-Fuel camp stove offers the widest range of fuel options and is an excellent choice for any boat.

Own this stove

Cook Your Own Food

For Cleaning Up After Dinner

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Dale Anderson


Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on May 03, 2019:

Peggy this is an on going topic for me and rarely does a day go by that I don't research different cookers. The solar cookers, like you mentioned, are about to become an addition on my boat so I will add the results of their performance soon.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 01, 2019:

I am unlikely to ever need such a stove but it was interesting to learn about all the considerations that go into making such a choice including the availability of fuel. That is where solar stoves would help as long as there is sunshine. That brass one is a work of art as well as function.

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on July 17, 2013:

I'm not surprised to hear this because the world's best stoves of this kind are built in India, your home land! Thanks for the visit, the comment and the vote!

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on July 17, 2013:

Wow the first picture made memories of my childhood fresh. These kind of stoves were in all houses before the LPG was available everywhere and were used to do all sort of cooking and heating the water especially in rural India where there was no electricity. Voting this up and awesome.

aethelthryth from American Southwest on November 10, 2012:

Wow - so much goes into a meal on a boat!

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