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Thermal cooking – Save your fuel and money!
Thermal cooking has been around for centuries. It has been called fireless cooking, Hotbox, Haybox cooking, or any other number of names. The idea is basically the same.
Heat a metal container to boiling and place in a well insulated box for the amount of time required to cook the food inside. Some have a ‘radiator’ in the bottom which is a hot ceramic disc, but this isn’t necessary for most foods you may want to cook this way.
The idea is simple and can save as much as 80% of the fuel required to cook the same amount of food on the stovetop or in the oven - be it gas or electric.
For some reason, this technique has falling out of practice; but, it is making a comeback because of the rising cost of all types of fossil fuel.
It perfectly suits the RV lifestyle.
There are several brands of Thermal cookers available online and at larger retail stores. However, they can be pricey ($150.00 to $350.00).
I have cooked pasta, rice and grains (barley, quinoa) in this method using no special equipment. Our motor home design makes it even easier then if we had a stick and brick house - just because the bedroom is so close to the stove.
What does the bedroom have to do with cooking? Well.....
How about using your blankets and or towels on your bed!?! Won't hurt a thing and saves fuel!
Brown rice has more nutrition then white but takes 40+ minutes to cook. That’s a lot of fuel plus unwanted heat and steam in my RV kitchen.
Easy way to save on both, cook it on your bed!
1) Measure water and rice according to recipe.
2) Bring water to rolling boil in pot with tight fitting lid. If you have solar, use your free electric tea kettle!!
3) Add rice, stir and cover with tight fitting lid.
4) Leave on heat another 3-5 minutes until it returns to full boil – DO NOT REMOVE LID TO CHECK or you will lose needed heat (if you had to look return the pot to heat again for few more minutes).
5) While your waiting go in the bedroom, gather up a few blankets or throws – loosely fold one for the pot to sit on then have one or two more to cover it up thoroughly.
6) Remove the pot with lid and put on the bed in middle of folded blanket and cover up your pot using however many necessary until the outside of your bundle is not hot to the touch. Make sure you wrap the blankets fairly tight to the pot because air pockets will greatly reduce the insulating factor.
7) Leave pot to sit for the amount of time required in the recipe - the insulating factor of your towels/blankets will vary so there is a small learning curve on exact times required.
8) When time is up unwrap – CAREFULLY- I have burned my fingers on the pot - and Viola! Perfectly cooked with minimal fuel.
Give it a try and you will be amazed how easy it is and how many different foods you can cook in this manner. It isn’t that different from using a slow cooker so try adapting some of your favorite recipes.
Just be sure to follow you basic temperature safety rules if cooking meat.
You can also make your own thermal cooker. I have found many different designs online. An easy one, if you sew, is a Wonder box. It is basically a large bean bag with a lid.
Here is a great and easy pattern for a fabric type insulator: Wonderbox
If you are more the carpenter type you can make your own, very easily, working with the basic idea that it is a large box with several inches of insulation.
You can use foam, blankets, sleeping bag, hay (hence the name Haybox) crushed packing peanuts or any material that will insulate well with minimal bulk. Cut.make a hole in the middle, just large enough for your cooking pot. Plus an insulated lid to seal in as much heat as possible.
You can make this with cardboard boxes or wood, as complicated or simple as you want - the idea stays the same.
Just remember you have to store it and we all know how storage in an RV is the number one priority. Plus, figure out a way to adjust for different size pots in the opening as well.
That bed is looking more useful now, isn’t it?!