Thermal cookers have been around for many centuries, enabling people to prepare meals with minimal fuel and fuss. And it’s these features which make such cookers ideal for those on the road.
What’s a thermal cooker, exactly?
Essentially, a thermal cooker consists of the cooking pot and a stainless steel outer flask. The food is heated in the cooking pot (or a saucepan), usually to boiling point, maintained at a simmer for a short, prescribed period of time and the saucepan then sealed in the outer flask. The vacuum or insulation acts works to retain the heat so that the food continues to cook over a number of hours.
The secret of this success is that all foods stop cooking below about 90°C, except for proteins. This means that vegetables retain their shape, colour, flavour and texture. Meats, however, continue to cook at lower temperatures and become soft and tender over time, while retaining their taste.
Why use a thermal cooker?
The advantages of this type of cooking include reduced fuel and water use; reduced smoke, odour, humidity and grease build-up; convenience; easy clean-up and greater safety as there are no power cords, no external heat and no spills. All this makes a thermal cooker ideal for camping.
Thermal cookers can come with multiple internal dividers or separate saucepans, so you can cook several components of a meal at the same time, such as rice and a curry. You can cook a family meal, an individual smaller meal or multiple courses.
You can cook soups, puddings, cakes and bread or make yoghurt, keep ice, drinks or salads cold or use it as a bain-marie serving centre. And you cannot burn, boil dry or overcook your food.
How do I use a thermal cooker?
Place the ingredients, according the recipe, into the inner cooker and place it on any heat source. Bring it to the boil then reduce to a simmer for the recipe’s prescribed time. Place the cooking saucepan into the outer flask and close the lid. No further attention is needed.
After the minimum prescribed time, your meal is ready and it will remain hot for long afterwards, until you are ready to eat.
Features to look for in a thermal cooker
- Additional metal base for heat conductivity and retention, and to prevent buckling and hotspots;
- Solid base to the inner cooking pot without any hollow sound;
- Cookers with multiple inner saucepans;
- Secure lid latching mechanism to prevent spillage.
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