Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I want to marry my thermal cooker

We have been testing a new kitchen device. A thermal cooker has joined the family, and a most welcome addition it is! My friend VI has been singing its praises for a while, so I finally took the plunge and got one for myself. These things are not cheap (and from what I read on the Amazon reviews, the cheap ones may not be that good).

What IS a thermal cooker, anyway, you ask? It is a cross between an Asian style rice cooker (the big fat round ones), and, I dunno, a thermos? Here's a link that decribes it well. I bought the 6-liter Tiger for myself, and the 4.77 for a single friend.

Ever since it arrived, we've been brainstorming ideas on how to use it, and we have already tried 2:

Corn on the cob: Boiled for 2 minutes, popped into the thermal cooker for 4 hours, and served nice and hot. Came out a bit on the mushy side, and I was actually surprised that the Betty Crocker instructions (yes, my cooking is that basic, that I have to look up how to boil corn!) actually say boil for 2 minutes, and let sit in hot water for 8-10 minutes more. So, maybe not the ideal recipe.

Beef Stew: Used my regular crockpot beef stew recipe, and added an additional cup of water as I was paranoid it might not be enough for the initial boiling. Boiled in the inner pot for 10 minutes, turned off heat, and popped the whole thing with lid into the Tiger for, hmmm, 9 hours. Meat was tender, fully cooked, and everything was soft. The carrots were a little firmer than they are coming out of the crockpot.

Now, part of the reason we are so excited about this, is that we love to go camping in the summer, but hot dogs and hamburgers gets a little old. We are always looking for ways to prep food ahead and cook something more interesting. We love our crockpot, but umm, no electricity while camping? And who wants to be stuck at the campsite babysitting beef stew for 5 hours? Besides, that would take a lot of fuel!

With this new thermal cooker, you have to cook for 15-20 minutes to get the thing going first (that is one downfall vs. crockpots--no babysitting at the start, just dump it in and forget about it). However, after the initial babysitting, you are done. The outer thermal casing retains the initial heat, and keeps it cooking while you go off and play. Nice. And not having to time the hot food perfectly is convenient too.

Other recipes soon to be tested: Pork & Sauerkraut, Zatarains jambalaya, and Korean Beef & Beansprout stew. Looking forward to it--YUM!

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