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Go Green With The Thermal Cooker

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Why use a thermal cooker when one has the slow cooker? Because it saves energy.

I like using the crockpot to make chinese soups, but it is turned on for at least 2 to 4 hours or longer during cooking time.

This might prove uncomfortable if you are environmentally conscious or you are concerned about energy costs although some people have argued that slow cookers do not consume a lot of energy. You might also feel uncomfortable leaving something hot on if you need to go out to run errands. If this is the case, you might want to give the thermal cooker a try.

Thermal cooking

The Japanese was the first to invent the thermal cooker (also known as vacuum pot). It saves energy because it uses trapped heat to cook food. It has three major components: an inner pot, usually made of stainless steel, an outer container with insulation, and an air-tight cover.

Soup ingredients and water are brought to a boil in the inner pot over the stove. It is then placed into the insulated outer container. The outer container is sealed with the air-tight cover.

Since the outer pot is sealed and there is insulation all around, the heat in the inner pot has nowhere to go. It can "concentrate" on cooking the soup. Given sufficient time, the trapped heat will cook the soup and ingredients.

This is a very energy-efficient way to cook. The food also does not get burnt since the heat isn't high enough to burn.

The vacuum pot is very versatile. Besides soups, it has been used to cook many different food. I find it an ideal "green" soup making pot. The only problem is it is time-consuming...at least 6-8 hours. If you like your food fast, this is not the pot for you.

I have heard complaints that food are under-cooked even when instructions are followed to the T. Do not underestimate the amount of time needed. 6 hours is the minimum for chinese clear soups with chunky ingredients. Less if the chinese soups have ingredients that cook easily. I would not recommend making pot roast in the thermal cooker, but if you want to try, you should cook it on the stove top for more than 20 minutes and make sure to increase the liquid used to cook the pot roast in. The liquid helps to retain the heat necessary to cook the pot roast.

It is much better to cook with smaller pieces of meat such as this corn and pork ribs soup or this beef shank soup.

Top brands

The 2 best brands, in my opinion, are the Zojirushi stainless thermal cooking pot and the Tiger vacuum pot. Both are Japanese brands.

The Zojirushi stainless steel thermal cooking pot

The Tiger vacuum pot

Recently, I noticed that Thermos has thermal cookers too. The RPC-6000 model comes with 2 x 3L and 1 x 6L stainless steel pots. Versatile, I like.

The Thermos RPC-6000 model

There are of course cheaper versions but their quality and cooking effects are not as good.

Cooking tips

It seems silly to say these, but this is just in case. Remember not to heat the outer pot directly, and not to put any food or ingredients into the outer pot directly

It takes considerable time for the thermal pot to do its cooking work. Plan about 6 to 8 hours for the soups to be ready. It is ideal for overnight cooking. The food should be heated up again just before serving. Do not serve straight from the thermal pot unless you like lukewarm food (^.^;)

There will be little evaporation, therefore prepare just enough water for the soups

Do not cook chinese herbal soups in vacuum pots. The inner pot is made of steel or stainless steel, and certain chinese herbs react with metal. Not all chinese herbs have this reaction but it is better to avoid it especially if you like using pre-packed chinese herbal soup packs containing several different types of chinese herbs in varying quantities. An exception is the astragalus pork soup and the pork and American ginseng soup

Caring tips

Do not soak the outer pot. To clean, just wipe with damp cloth and a small amount of detergent

Wash the inner pot with detergent, rinse and wipe dry before placing back into outer pot

Unconventional uses

Besides slow cooking, it is also a great food warmer and portable food container. Because of the air-tight cover, it is spill-proof and leak-proof. Ideal for packing food for picnics and pot lucks. I heard people used it to make homemade yoghurt. Or as chiller to chill wine or beer. Have you used the thermal cooking pot in ways other than thermal cooking?

Happy Souping, Phoebe