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Modern day Thermal Cooker are a relatively new invention. They first made their appearance in the 90’s. It was a way to slow cook food without the use of electricity or low fire. Because of the prevalence in stewed cuisine in Asian culture, it is mostly sold in those regions. Most Americans have not even heard or know what a Thermal Cooker is. In fact, its rare to even find it in specialty cookware shop. You either have to order it online or get it from Asia.
Best Thermal Cooker List
Below, you will find a list of some of the best thermal cooker on the market. Since most of these were made for the Asian market, you probably get a recipe book in English. Options are also a bit limited, since there just isnt a large market for it in the states.
Tiger NFI-A800 Vacuum Insulated Non-Electric Thermal Cooker (Best Overall)
The model by Tiger is the best option for a Thermal Cooker. It comes in either a 6 or 8 quart size. The removable lid has two easy to grab handle and a glass lid for easy viewing. Although I personally would prefer a metal one for durability. Nevertheless, the pot is induction compatible and made in Japan. You can be sure of the best quality possible.
Thermos Thermal Cooker RPC-4500 4.5L (Best Alternative)
If you want a more familar brand, Thermos have their own version. Their 5 or 6 quart model uses a insulated technology to keep food above 160 degree for over 8 hour. Their inner pot has a easy to grab handle and it has a metal lid. During transportation, the lid locks into place for easy transport. You cant go wrong with this model. Its also a little more affordable. One downside is that there are reports of it not working on induction stove top.
What is a Thermal Cooker and How it Works
Unlike the slow cooker that is in most household, thermal cooker uses no electricity! Thats right, no electricity. They use the science of thermal insulation to maintain the heat of pot.
How it works is that the inner pot will be cooked in. Once it reaches boiling temperature, its placed in a thermally insulated container to keep it hot. The content will stay hot for around 6 hours plus.
This design is very similar, if not the same as those you get in thermos and coolers. Between the walls of those container, there is a void where air is vacummed out. Thermal energy needs a medium such as air to pass through. If it is missing, the energy is either reflected back towards the source or it finds another way for it escape. On the inner lining of these jars, you will often find copper lining to improve this effect.
While this type of thermal cooker is new, this method of cooking is not new. Arabs who live in the desert have been cooking this way for century. They would often begin cooking above ground and bury the food in the sand to continue the cooking. The residual heat from the sand and the insulating property of the sand will keep it hot.
Advantages of a Thermal Cooker
The main advantage of a thermal cooker is the saved energy. Since you are using the residual heat of the boiling pot, you dont have to keep the gas or electricity on for hours.
Another issues that is avoided is the possibility of fires. Since traditional slow cooking needs constant electricity or fire, you have to monitor it to prevent any fire hazard. With a thermal cooker, this isnt really a problem.
There is also the added benefit of a reduce odor. Since volatile steam and flavor compound is not lost, you retain more flavor and less odor in your house.
Portability is another great thing. If you plan on going to a picnic or just want to eat lunch in another location, just load it up and carry it. Since these jars are sealed, its unlikely to spill everywhere.
The main disadvantage to this type of cooking, is simply temperature control. Since the maximum temperature of boiled water is only 212 degree, it can only go down from there. While the thermal insulation is good, its not 100 percent efficient. If anything, it will drop to around 160-180 within 30 minutes. You can improve this effect by wrapping it in a towel. This should keep the food cooking for a long longer. Larger capacity thermal cooker also maintains it heat better. Smaller volume of liquid simply do not have enough heat stored.
Another thing to consider is the time the food is cooked. Some food needs to be cooked at a boiling temperature to properly break it down. Beans are a good example, the toxicity of phytohaemagglutinin needs to be cooked for at least 10 minutes at boiling temp for it to break down. In this situation, its best for you to just cook it a little longer on the stove top.
What Can You Cook in a Thermal Cooker?
Anything that requires a braiser or slow cooking can be cooked in a thermal cooker. Stews, soups, congee are things that do well in a thermal cooker. However, things that requires constant temperature cannot be cooked. Stuff like Rice should not be cooked in it. While there are recipes for rice, I recommend against it. You cant get the same texture from a dedicated rice cooker. You might be able to cook pasta in it, but its difficult to get the right texture via this method. Most likely you will over cook it.
A thermal cooker is a great thing to have. Its saves energy and money over a traditional slow cooker. Its safer and the electronics wont break down. Unfortunately its not as popular in the states as it is in Japan. But because of its trans portability and ingenious design, makes it a must have for a slow cooker alternative.
Like Asian Cookware? Check out our article on the .