This is the third in a series of posts about saucepans and slow cooker alternatives (read post 1 here and post 2 here). I have been trying to work out if I can slow cook food without the help of any special equipment and without needing any power (other than an initial injection of heat by bringing the food up to the boil) by making a DIY thermal or heat retention cooker.
Yesterday I experimented with using two freezer bags and two towels to help cook veg stock. I brought a pan full of veg peelings, herbs and water to the boil on the hob, wrapped my pan (with it’s lid on) up in a towel, placed it inside a freezer bag, zipped it up and then placed the freezer bag inside a larger freezer bag. I put another towel in the second freezer bag to fill up the gap and then zipped it up. I left it there for 8 hours
- I didn’t follow the instructions for making veg stock properly! Despite very clear instructions from Jen Gale on including apple peelings in the stock mixture I didn’t add any (read more here).
- I used a glass saucepan and the lid wasn’t particularly tight fitting. Glass doesn’t retain the heat well enough and even a glass lid on a saucepan is not a good idea. Plus the lid needs to be tight fitting.
- I filled up the pan with as much boiling water as possible which is meant to be important (I think it helps retain the heat better).
- I tried to leave as few gaps in the outer bag as possible for air and heat to escape through
- I filled up all the available space between the pot and the outer bag with insulating material.
- Make sure you have an appropriate pan – a stainless steel pan with a stainless steel tight fitting lid is best.
- Find a bag or a box which either leaves as little room for air or heat to escape as possible or can be sealed somehow to make sure that happens
- Fill the bag or box with some insulating material, something that traps air well e.g. old woolly jumpers, towels or cushions, making sure there is still space for your pan.
- Ideally the bag or box will be a close fit to the pan and there won’t be too much space to fill with insulation.
- When you come to cook the food, make sure the pan is as full as possible with boiling liquid and follow a recipe designed for a thermal cooker (at least to start with until you get the hang of things)
- If the food is only luke warm when you take it out, discard it and don’t taste it.
I love making do with what I already have. It doesn’t cost me any money, it is better for the environment and I get a buzz from figuring out new (to me) ways of doing things! Experimenting can take a bit of time though and there are various heat retention cookers on the market if you want to buy a ready made and tried and tested one. Wonderbags (read more here) are one example and this particular company has a really nice ethos behind it. For every bag sold they will give one away to family in need in Africa.