I was introduced to thermal cooking when I was a university student in Australia. The technology is popular throughout Asia, so it is readily available in Australian cooking and outdoor shops. My spouse and I would prepare food in the morning and then go to our lectures. Hours later, we would arrive home to a hot meal. We just had to open the lid and serve. Since then, I have used thermal cooking to make soups, stews, porridges, rice, yoghurt, whole chicken and other things that benefit from long, slow cooking. I’ve even used it to keep leftover solar-cooked food hot for hours.
This post consists of 3 parts
What is thermal cooking?
Thermal cooking is a form of slow cooking done with retained heat. If you have ever turned off the stove to allow the food to finish cooking on the “leftover” heat, you have engaged in a simple form of thermal cooking. With some simple tools, this technique can be harnessed to make cooking easy, inexpensive and very fuel-efficient.
Thermal cooking has a long history in many parts of the world, including China, Japan, Australia, Norway, the UK and the US. A common name for this has been “haybox” or “haybasket” cooking. This name comes from the tradition of filling a box or basket with hay or cloth before putting your pot or casserole in it. The tools for thermal cooking look quite different today, but they still have the same purpose – to retain the heat in your cooking pot for hours!
The most common MOdern thermal cookers
Why do I love thermal cooking?
I love the simplicity and low-maintenance of thermal cooking. You may spend 10-20 minutes preparing a dish (chopping veggies, browning onion, etc.), but once the dish is in the pot and boiling, you can transfer it to the insulated container. From that point on it takes care of itself. No pots to mind, no risk of burning your food, no fuss and no power/fuel consumption.
You can go about your day – go to university, work for a few hours, go for a run or catch up on your favorite TV show. When it is time to eat, you simply open the lid and serve. That is wonderfully convenient when you are tired after a long day of working or studying.
But what I love the most is that the food is always tasty. Meat becomes tender, even if you are using a cheap, tough cut. Lentils and beans develop that melt-in-your mouth texture. Flavours are allowed the time to develop. This results in a delicious meal with very little effort. I’ll take a thermal-cooked stew over a microwaved instant meal any day.