A thermal cooker is a must-have tool in your kitchen today. I like the fact that you don’t need to plug it into electricity or gas. It uses the insulated heat and thereby slow cooking the food while keeping it hot and ready to eat for many hours.
What is a thermal cooker?
Are you familiar with a crockpot?
This cooking tool operates like a crock pot. It is a vacuum flask cooker that doesn’t require the normal continuous heat or fuel source to cook food. Like a normal thermos, the inside part of the pot has a vacuum insulator that retains the heat and thereby slowly cooking the food. You don’t need any further heating after boiling.
To be precise, the same way a slow cooker operates is the best way to describe how a thermal cooker works. It is no wonder some people refer to it as a magic cooker, Eco pot and wonder cooker. Here is a major difference though; while the slow cooker consumes a lot of heat and sometimes burns the food if left without stirring for long, thermal cooker doesn’t.
In fact, a thermal cooker uses very little fuel because the insulated heat cooks the food. It tenderizes and cooks your food to perfection.
Also check Best Japanese Rice Cookers.
- Non electric slow cooker with one 4.5 liter (4.75 qt) stainless steel thermos shuttle chef inner pot
- Vacuum insulated stainless steel thermos thermo pot for efficent, long lasting heat or cold retention
- Bring food to boil and let it cook in it's own retained heat. Can keep hot food above 160F for over 8 hours after simmering
The origin of thermal cookers and thermal cooking
Human being’s cooking began over 250,000 years ago. But the process of cooking without prolonged or continuous heat flow dates back to the medieval age. From the medieval to the recent world war 2, people cooked using the heat retention system.
Precisely, this process began in Europe where they placed food in an earthenware pot then on fire to heat. After the heating process, they took the pot and placed in another large pot, box or hole in the ground while using dry leaves, moss or hay as insulators. This helped to retain the heat for slower cooking or temperature maintenance.
With that said, I know you probably think where can you get hay and earth to store your food today. This leads us to our next subtopic:
The new ways to use the old kitchen tool
Fortunately, you don’t have to store your food underground or have hay in your modern kitchen to use for the thermal cooking process. There are modern thermal cooking containers available in the market today, thanks to our inventors.
The mid-1990s saw the rise of thermal cookers in the Asian regions. It has 2 stainless steel pots one inside the other and functions the same way as the old one. The inner pot boils the food and the outer part retains the heat.
It can either have a vacuum or an insulated material between the pot walls to help in the heat retention. The Chinese-Cantonese people love thermal cookers because most of their recipes require braising, simmering and basically slow cooking. Below are the types of thermal cookers:
- Insulated/vacuum thermal cooking pot
This is basically one or two pots placed inside an insulated or vacuum flask. It is good for the camping activities and Asian meals preparation.
You need to place the ingredients for cooking your curry in one pot then water and rice in another. Bring to boil for a couple of minutes then place in the insulated flask. Let it cook for some minutes.
As you can see, this is your best option for the picnic activities and boiling things like beans that take longer duration of time on fire. You can also cook your oat groats porridge in the thermal cooker.
- A wonder box
This acts like a bean bag for your pot. It originates from south Africa. It works the same way as the normal thermal cooker. And what I like about it is that you can custom make drawers for your wonder box in the kitchen.
For those of you who have busy schedules, you may consider using this box. You only need to make the food in the morning leave it in the wonder box and come back home in the evening to find your food still hot and ready to eat.
If you wish to use it for outdoor activities you can add a basket which makes it portable.
- DIY cookers
You don’t need to go the extra mile to buy a thermal cooker if you can’t access one yet. This is especially applicable if you are living alone or need a single serving. Make use of the insulated flasks or food jars by cooking your food then transferring in the flask and wrapping with a blanket as you place in an eksy.
How does it work?
A thermal cooker has 2 pots for the process. They both have distinct roles for the cooking yet they depend on each other too.
- Insulated outer pot
- Stainless steel inner pot
Place all the ingredients you wish to cook in the inner pot and cover it with a lid to retain the heat. Let it boil for about 10-15 minutes.
Transfer the inner pot to the outer pot and cover it to keep cooking. Remove from the stove or any other heat source since you don’t need fuel anymore. The food will continue to slow cook using the retained thermal heat.
Note that, you don’t need to keep checking it or stirring because you are sure that it can’t burn. After the cooking duration is complete, open the outer pot to find your richly flavoured meal ready. The thermal cooker is one of the best cookers with a high heat retention ability. It can retain heat for more than 6 hours.
You can also use the thermal cooker for your cold foods. This is because it is capable of retaining cold temperatures too. Thus, acting as your cooler.
Using the thermal cooker
You can use a thermal cooker to prepare not only soups and sauces but also other major meals. Here is a video showing you how to make lamb pot roast.
Below is a recipe with images that you may use to show you how a thermal cooker works.
How to cook Chinese sweet corn soup with pork ribs
Bring some water to boil and parboil the pork ribs so as to remove the dirt and scum. This should take about 5 minutes.
In the inner pot, place the pork ribs, sweet corn, honey dates, red onions, and water. Boil it for some minutes then reduce the heat to a simmering point. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes.
Ensure you cover your pot, then remove it from the heat source and transfer to the outer pot.
Go ahead and place the outer lid so as to trap the heat and use it to continue the cooking process
2 hours later, your soup will be ready. Open the outer lid first then carefully remove the inner glass lid and serve it hot.
The cooking tips
- You can cook any meal that you would cook in a slow cooker in a thermal cooker. Good examples include rice, curries, soup and stews among others.
- Focus on making sure the food reaches the boiling point before you transfer to the insulator cooker. Although, you shouldn’t overboil the vegetables.
- Take caution that you don’t allow the food to be a cause of food poisoning. When the temperature has dropped below 60 degrees for more than an hour and you still have it confined in the thermal cooker, it will most likely cause food poisoning.
- For efficient cooking and heat retention ability, have a full pot of the meal. Ensure you fill it to the 80% mark but not necessarily to the brim.
- To minimize the heat loss, be fast when transferring the inner pot from the stove to the thermal cooker.
- Reduce the unnecessary opening of the lid before you finish cooking.
The benefits of a thermal cooker
- Long cooking means you get a nutritious, highly flavoured and tender meal.
- It is your best bet for those who love camping where you don’t have electricity.
- Saves our environment by the reduction of carbon dioxide while reducing on gas use.
- The food retains its texture, flavour and shape.
- It is the safest option if you have kids because you need not to worry that you forgot to turn off the stove.
- You don’t have to eat cold food anymore because it will maintain the temperature.
- For all the busy friends, here is your saviour. You can cook and let your meal stay in the container.
The buying guide
- There are 2 types of insulation methods; the foam insulator which loses about 6 degrees per hour while the vacuum insulator loses 3-4 degrees of heat per hour. Choose the vacuum insulator.
- What size of food do you normally cook? Note that, your inside pot is best full to maintain the heat within. Go for your appropriate size.
- Would you like the type that cooks 2 foods at a go? Choose one with 2 inside pots but if you don’t, go for the one pot.
- What is your budget? Understand that there is something for everyone in the market.
TOP 5 THERMAL COOKER REVIEWS
1. Shuttle Chef Vacuum Thermo Pot
I trust thermos products because it is not only one of the oldest thermal cooker manufacturer but their products still stand out in the market today.
It is a non-electric slow cooker that is convenient and economical. It has long lasting ability to retain heat and cool temperatures.
- After simmering, it has the ability to keep food at 160F for over 8 hours.
- It will never overcook your food.
- The bail handle safely holds the lid to place. This is essential during movement.
- It is safe to use both in and outdoors
- It has the ability to trap the flavour and nutrients.
- The cleaning process is easy.
- It is best for cooking only Asian recipes.
2. Non-Electric Thermal Slow Cooker
This is a Japan made product that has a one touch lid pop up and perfect handle for easier portability. It has a stainless steel inner pot that cooks thoroughly without fire.
- It has a sleek stainless outer finish that remains cool during the cooking process.
- Its heat retention ability goes to 6 hours.
- You can prepare healthy dishes economically while retaining the nutrients.
- It has a wider base compared to other cookers making it easy to brown your meats.
- It only has one inner pot.
3. Energy-Saving Thermal Cooker
It’s another energy saving cooker that I love. Tayama cooker caters for the needs of the busy people in the society. The fact that you don’t have to worry about the possibility of burning your food makes it outstanding. The heat retention ability is 6 hours. Your food remains moist and full of nutrients.
- It has 2 inner pots as opposed to many that have only one.
- It is easy to clean.
- It has a strong handle that you can use when you are going for your outdoor activities.
- It helps retain your nutrients and flavour.
- It is affordable
- Some people have complained of its strong chemical smell when you first start using it.
- The manual for use is not clear and might mislead you.
4. Fannel SJ-7L-Deluxe 7L With Deluxe Clad Bottom Pots
This is a large stainless steel deluxe product. It is best when you intend to cook a lot of food at once. It has a large and small pot for the cooking function. I specifically love the strong handles and it has never disappointed me when I need to go camping.
- You can cook up to 7L of food.
- I enjoy the fact that you can cook two meals at a go and without electricity.
- If you love camping, this is your best bet.
- It has an easy spring hinged lid.
- Not all recipes will work in it, meats for example require you to boil it extensively. This cooker needs the food to be about 80% full.
- The smaller pot has a thin bottom though you can purchase one with a thick bottom from the manufactures.
5. Chloe Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel 25oz Food Jar
This is another choice that suits those who have a busy schedule. It keeps your food cold and warm for about 12 hours. This easy to fill thermal cooker cooks your food as you are out on a busy day. The lid is the best choice to open and close while acting like a plate at other times.
- It is appropriate for large meals.
- It is made of durable stainless-steel material.
- It has a spoon and recipe included.
- the meals can stay warm for a longer duration.
- It’s affordable.
- It cooks in large capacities and it’s not good for cooking less food.
- It lacks a handle to use when moving around.
As you can see, the thermal cooker is not only for soups, you can use it to prepare many dishes. Whereas most people are sceptical when it comes to buying a cooker that is non-electric, this is a very good choice for your outdoor and indoor activities.
My best choice is Tayama TXM-70CFZ. This is because it’s not only affordable but also an efficient thermal cooker.