Thermal Cooker

31 thoughts on “Thermal Cooker”

  1. Hello. In doing some research on thermal cookers, there seems to be a lot of different sizes and brands. How big is the one you used, and who makes it? Thank you!

    1. Tad, my thermal cooker is two gallons (eight liters) and is manufactured by the Japanese company Tiger. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006ZI1CZ8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

      There are similar products by other companies – mostly Chinese. I chose Tiger because it uses a vacuum flask rather than foam insulation. Both work, but the vacuum holds heat longer. Chinese quality is gradually improving, but the Japanese are still better, though more expensive.

      Size depends on your intended use. If you expect to use a thermal cooker to make small batches for two people and you want to carry it with you on camping trips this model is entirely too large. I tend to make big batches of soups and stews so this is perfect for me.

      1. Thank you! This is really helpful. I think one of each would be good for us, for the reasons you cite: one for big batches at home and another for car camping. We’ll see what we can find. Keep up the good (and yummy looking) posts!

  2. Yes there are cheap alternatives that have been around for years. The reason I like the “high tech” models like the one you featured in your post and the one I bought is that they make transporting much easier. Hay boxes- not so easy!

  3. I LOVE my thermal cooker! It seems like no one has really heard of them – except Chinese families that cook soup. It’s really great (car) camping – throw something like chili together in the morning, you have a hot dinner ready when you get back to camp at the end of the day. It’s also great for cooking dry (soaked) beans – things that take hours on the stove. We use it several times a week. I agree, there are low-tech ways to do this – but since we were given one, I’m happy to use it.

  4. I looked on Amazon at thermal cookers and the one you were given was beyond my price range and bigger than I need. I ordered the Tayama 5 litre pot at a reasonable (for me )price.It arrived yesterday and looks excellent. Bonus for me it works on an induction stove. I’m looking forward to experimenting. I have a woodstove that I can cook on so this will be a great emergency utensil when the power goes out.

    1. There’s no need to spend crazy money on special equipment. A century ago thermal cookers were no more complex or expensive than an ordinary pot placed in a box surrounded by straw bales for insulation. You can still do that. If you don’t live on a farm, old blankets and sleeping bags work just fine. If you’re doing small batches of things like oatmeal a plain old wide mouth Thermos and boiling water will do – and you can find those for cheap at second hand shops.

  5. I use a second-hand pressure cooker wrapped in several layers of old towels. Not as sleek as your nifty new solution, but it works at our price point. Thanks for your beautiful blog and thought-provoking posts.

  6. I have this exact thermal cooker, which I use several times a week, porridge, soaking and cooking beans, soup as you have used it. It is also perfect as a yoghurt maker. I make the yoghurt in the saucepan part then pop it in the thermal cooker overnight.

  7. Friends of mine had a version of this made from styrofoam in the early 70s. They often took it to potlucks at our Friends meetings (Quakers). It was wonderful-kept things piping hot. I like the looks of yours and I’m in complete agreement about emergency prepping!

  8. I was curious about the weight of the Cooker so I looked it up. The stainless steel version can weigh around 7lbs–too much for camping (or at least backpacking)! There are other varieties though. I wonder if they make a camping version (I only found RV versions online) that one could carry in a backpack? Just how good is that seal? Hmmmm….

    1. This particular thermal cooker won’t work for backpacking. But it would be great for situations where you had a base camp that you left in the morning and returned to in the evening. RVs, camper vans, tailgate parties, church pot lucks…

    2. The backpacking version of this is a well-insulated thermos. I have poured boiling water into a thermos with oats, rice, and other ingredients with great success.

  9. Happy new year! Your post on the thermal cooker has inspired me to try this with my Instant Pot– for a bone broth soup I would try 20 minutes high pressure, then turn it off and let it thermal cook for some hours. The Instant Pot is already well insulated but, why not, I could wrapp it in a couple of thick towels.

    About the Instant Pot: I am an Instant Pot convert– a gadget I was very hesitant to buy because, yikes, I have more than enough gadgets already and limited shelf space. But when I started to use it, I was genuinely surprised at what a game changer it was (the main advantage being that I can program it, so I don’t have to watch the pot, and I now make bone broth on a regular basis). For the record, I have nothing to do with Instant Pot other than being a delighted customer.

    That thermal cooker looks like a lot like an Instant Pot, and it seems to me that, apart from doing all sorts of things (high pressure and slow cooking etc) the Instant Pot should serve for thermal cooking as well. Given that kitchen shelf space is limited, and a gadget that takes it up displaces space for, say, pantry supplies, I would vote for the Instant Pot as a superior purchase.

    On another note, I totally get what you are saying about fragile systems and the value of back ups. I was in the September Mexico City earthquake and lost power until very late in the evening. That was when I realized my household water filter, being electric, wasn’t doing me any good. It’s a great filter, I love it, I have it installed under the kitchen sink, but clearly I need a nonelectric backup water filtration system. For that I now have my old Nikken PiMag with new innards (filter cartridge and stones). Yes, that takes up shelf space. But I am mighty glad to know it is there because when needed, it will be needed.

    PS That soup recipe looks yums.

  10. First off, I recently discovered your blog and am loving it!!
    Back in college I use to make/use a low-tech version of this with cardboard, styrofoam & aluminum foil.
    I’m excited to see there is actually a kitchen gadget version out there now.

  11. Johnny, hi, my name’s Dale Holmgren, I’ve been enjoying perusing your site, especially finding out how you’ve traveled the country and visited towns to determine which are most promising for real estate renovations, etc. I saw you visited my hometown, Rockford, IL, which according to Demographia has some of the most affordable real estate in the country. I have renovated my parents home and two of the neighboring homes (well, had a contractor do it) and am renting them out for $775/m. The neighborhood borders some very grim areas, but the tenants are thrilled to be able to rent a place out that is actually nice and has room for them to raise the children. I myself rent in Millbrae, CA. I see you’re in the Bay Area too. I had to quit my job because of spondylolysthesis (lower back vertebrae are slipping forward; crazy pain) and will likely have to find another place in the country to try to stretch my retirement savings. Since you’ve been to so many places, I thought you’d be the perfect person for me to pick your brains. What place has struck you as a particularly attractive combination of nice and affordable? If you’d like, you can email me at daleholmgren1@gmail.com. Great blog!

  12. There seems to be a thermal cooking renaissance (or a fad, if you want to be dismissive) underway in the last few years. Google, e.g., Wonderbag, which is a few years old and seems to be doing well.

    1. So… Are frozen microwavable chicken nuggets a fad too? How about tater tots? I love me some tater tots – don’t get me wrong. Fondue was a fad that seems to be coming back. Who doesn’t love a pound of melted gruyere and emmentaler with a shot of kirsch?

      Fads can be a reflection of transient fashion to be dismissed. But they can also reflect a popular underlying mood. Why might people be interested in food preservation and energy conservation these days? Hmmmmm?

      1. I was being tongue-in-cheek. I jut found it amusing how Wonderbag took this age-old technology and boldly gave it the fad object treatment. They even have an entire companion web site extolling the social virtues of the device at wonderbag.org! Personally I find I too bulky and I prefer something like your own device.

        1. We are in agreement. The Wonder Bag thing is just a fancier version of wrapping a kitchen pot in a big blanket or sleeping bag – which it pretty effective. But I like the simple, easy to clean, hygienic, stainless steel version even if it costs more. In a pinch, I could surround a pot with straw bales in the garden shed. Same basic thermal performance – or at least good enough to cook soup.

          1. Or use a Big Green Egg (or non-name-brand equivalent)?

            Slightly higher energy footprint but more general-purpose tool.

  13. I’ve been thinking about getting one of these so thanks for posting about your experience so far. I would probably use it in the summer, when the thought of turning on the stove for a long time is not so appealing, but it would definitely have come in handy in the prolonged power out I just went through (in conjunction with the propane stove I already have).

    1. Elliot, thanks for the link. Evidently wrapping your pots in blankets, straw, a sleeping bag, or any heavy insulation will achieve approximately the same results. At the moment fuel is just so cheap and abundant that it’s hard to get most people interested in such things. But camping, bringing a hot dish to church dinners, or just keeping the house cooler in summer are all good enough reasons to use a thermal cooker at times.

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