This is a review that we will updating as our experience goes, but after a few months of use, we definitely have a good feel for the device.
Why a diesel cooktop?
In our last build we primarily used an electric induction cooktop for our cooking needs. It performed admirably and for a while we carried one in MogTug. We also had a propane based cooktop in SyncroBo and we never used it. Filling up on propane was a major inconvenience and in some countries, an impossibility. So for MogTug, we wanted a built-in option that would allow us to use a single fuel source for the truck, and that took us to the Webasto. There is another sister version of this stove made by Wallas, historically for the marine industry but they have recently been selling to the caravan and RV segments. The Wallas has the option for a built in stainless steel cover and blower hood, which enables the unit to be used as a cabin air heater as well. It’s pretty slick and would be a nice back-up heat source. Ultimately, we chose the Webasto X100, mainly because at the time I did not know that the Wallas option was now available to RVers. If you are interested in the Wallas, check out the guys at SCAN Marine. They are a great dealer and very active in the boating world and have an excellent reputation for customer service.
Dealers, Ordering & Delivery
In the US, we are very limited in where we can acquire this stove and this is a crappy situation, confounded by the fact that Webasto really looks to their dealers to perform warranty service and support. So if you have a problem, you really need a strong dealer to back you up and take care of it. We had a problem with the first cooktop we received. It was DOA, but unfortunately the dealer we used wasn’t that responsive to assist us, and so it took months to resolve. Webasto acknowledged that the unit was defective and pushed us back to our dealer to set up the RMA, and that was a mess. This is not like Espar, who the end user can call up and talk to a tech and arrange repair directly. This is just a warning on the importance of your dealer selection. In this process, I did discover that one of the Unimog dealers is also a Webasto dealer, his name is Scott Ingraham at Expedition Imports. He doesn’t sell a lot of Webasto, but he can order it for you and will support you. I did not unfortunately buy my unit via Scott, but he did nonetheless try to help me. Ultimately, we did get a new unit and it has worked flawlessly, but I just want to underscore the importance of finding a good dealer. For this reason alone, I would check out the Wallas version sold by the guys at SCAN Marine because they have a great reputation for customer service.
The cooktop comes with everything you need to install it in the box. The unit is well packaged and the ceramic top was perfect. The basic idea is that you cut a hole in the top of your countertop for the cooktop and you drop it in from above, and then from below you attach little feet which screw up and press against the bottom side of the counter top. You then install a metal box from underneath the counter that covers the bottom electronics and sensitive bits from the items rolling around in your cabinets. The box is also how the unit draws in air for combustion and exhausts the waste gases out of the unit. In the center of the bottom ‘box’ a large hose exits and is meant to be routed through your floor or wall. Inside that bigger hose is a smaller proper exhaust pipe for the unit.
The installation is very straight forward with only two quirks. One, the unit seems designed to be installed on a thick counter top. The box that attaches below the countertop has screws which are meant to be used to attach it to the underside of the countertop. In our case we have an aluminum countertop that is only an 1/8″ thick. So if we used screws we would punch through to the surface. To solve for this, we used 3M VHB tape. This stuff is PERMANENT which, creates another problem, once the box is in place on the bottom, it’s very very very hard to reach the bolts that hold the cooktop in place, so if you need to remove the cooktop ever, you would have to cut away the VHB or have really small hands. We were able to remove ours, but borrowed a 10yr old to reach the bolts. If your countertop is thick, then you don’t have this concern, you can just remove the screws that hold the box cover in place.
The second quirk is that the unit has two fuse on its controller board. In normal operation you won’t need to worry about it, but if you have a problem you will need to get to those fuses and the rest of the motherboard to troubleshoot. Again, if you have a thick countertop, no problem, just undo the screws and pull the box down, but for a thin
countertop, if you used a tape or glue, then it’s a huge pain. One thing I would recommend you do, and the dealer does this in his custom built campers, is to use a large 4 inch hole cutter to create a service panel on the bottom of the box and then create a hatch that you could remove if needed for service.
Once you have the box installed the only task is to run power and fuel. We ran the fuel from our auxiliary tank as it was easier to tap than our main tank. We placed the control panel for the unit right in front of the cooktop, mimicking a stove from a home, but I think mounting on a wall or other spot where the items placed on the counter can’t bump it, would have been better. I think all installations should have a circuit breaker installed so you can switch off power to the unit when not in use. It is very easy to turn the unit on if you are working on the counter, so we keep the breaker off when not in use.
Concept of Operation
As we have some experience with the unit now, it really has helped us get better results by thinking through what’s really going on inside the unit. In essence there is a diesel burner, not unlike that of a propane stove in principle, that is being ignited and controlled in a little box on the left side of the cooktop, that heat is then absorbed by the glass cooktop surface and we place our pots and pans to absorb heat from the glass to cook. As you can see, there are a lot of materials the heat has to go through to get to our pans and as a result the experience of cooking on this is nothing like cooking on an open flame or induction cooktop with instant flame/power control.
In addition to the Webasto, we have a Coleman stove on board which burns gasoline. When the weather is nice and we want to cook outside we use the Coleman and/or a fire. This leave us doing about 60 percent of our cooking on the Webasto.
The warmup time on the unit is long. It takes about 4 minutes to establish a flame in the burner and then several more minutes to heat up. Boiling water takes about 15 to 18 minutes or so. At first it’s a huge annoyance but you quickly adapt to it while cooking. You simply hit the button before you are ready to cook.
Heat control on the unit is controlled by the dial and also the position of pots and pans on the cooktop surface. The dial controls the main burner (there is only one), but it takes time for the cooktop to respond. So the easiest way to change the temperature is to simply move your pot closer or further away from the left section where the burner is. And in that way the heat is infinitely adjustable. You definitely want to use quality cookware if you can, because you need your cookware to pull heat from the cooktop, otherwise you might find there isn’t much variation in the temperature across the cooking surface. When we used our lightweight camping cookset we experienced that. The cookware wasn’t a good enough heat sink, so some of the heat obviously went into the pans, but most stayed in the cooktop surface, so not matter where the pan was placed, the temperature wasn’t different. But we did find with larger and heavier cookware this wasn’t a problem.
We have sautéed, fried, simmered, and blanched just fine on the cooktop and the meals have been great. We use an electric kettle for the morning’s french press vs the Webasto as its a faster process, but I would have no problem relying on it for our only cooking solution.
The cool down process is also something you adjust too. It takes about 30 minutes for the cooktop to fully cool off. We normally shut it off about three to five minutes before we are done cooking to start the cool down, as we find that that accelerates the process as the pan is actively sinking heat away from the cooktop.
One area of common question is how much the unit heats up the living area. From our experience is heats up the living area LESS than a propane system would, and not too much more than our induction cooktop did. Overall, we barely notice it beyond the heat of the pans. When the unit is cooling off after cooking you don’t feel massive amounts of heat radiating off of it into your space.
Tips and Tricks
1. Use quality cookware if possible, it makes varying the temperature by moving the pan around a lot easier, and everything will cook more responsively.
2. Get an electric kettle for water boiling duties if you are a heavy coffee or tee drinker. While it’s hard on your battery for a few minutes, it solves the one big practical downside to the webasto.
3. Get a silicon BBQ mat and cut it to size to cover the Webasto, you can use it to grill and toast right on the surface. If you are cheap or out in the sticks, aluminum foil works well too.
4. Go to a Target before you head off and get a tray that you can use to cover the Webasto when not in use. The tops on these do break and it would be a showstopper on the road. We have a decorative tray that we flip over and cover the Webasto when not in use, this allow us to also use the counter space and keeps all weight off the glass when not in use.
5. Use the cool down period! It’s easy to think of the cool down period as wasted time but it can be used to warm tortillas, reheat left overs that are also going in the meal, softening some butter for the fresh lobsters 🙂 etc.
We would recommend the Webasto, it’s not cheap, but the ability to cook with the press of a button (and a little time) is a nice luxury on the road. But be sure you do buy through a good dealer, because you will need their support when something goes wrong. We will be updating this review on the road as we discover more tips and tricks for using the unit.