Powerless Cooking with Wonderbag Slow Cooker
Before the days of electric slow cookers, ovens, and stoves, there was fireplace cooking and hay boxes. When they couldn’t plug in a slow cooker and keep their food simmering for hours, home cooks simply lined a box with hay, popped a boiling pot of stew into it, covered it, and let it cook in its own heat for hours. It’s the Crock-Pot’s grandmother, who never quite got Twitter.
Heat-retention cooking goes far beyond the hay box, however. Classic clambakes cook with heat retention: Put rocks on a fire, layer seaweed, seafood, more seaweed, and a tarp, and let bake for about a half-hour. The solar oven, which captures heat from sunlight, then retains it in its well-insulated boxes.
And now? The Wonderbag has hit the U.S. market. Essentially a well-insulated bag, the cushion is filled with recycled insulation, sown up in patterned prints by Moshy Mathe, and distributed as replacement, no-energy slow cookers. "I grew up on a farm where we didn’t have electricity so my grandmother, she used to make stock and she’d take it off the stove and just wrap it and wrap it in blankets, and just leave it," founder Sarah Collins said.
Then in 2008, Collins’ home in South Africa went with spotty electricity for four months. "We’d have it sporadically like twice a week, and I was thinking, this is ridiculous," she said. "One night, I woke up in the middle of the night and I remembered my grandmother, and I thought, 'Why isn’t anyone doing heat-retention cooking?'"
Anecdotal evidence aside, heat-retention cooking does work, and science backs it up. Food must be at a temperature of more than 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) to be considered safe; the Wonderbag has been tested to keep 4 liters of water above 65 degrees Celsius for more than six hours. For the first four hours, if left untouched, a stew can be kept between 87 to 93 degrees Celsius (188 to almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
So bring a pot of vegetables, beans, and meat up to a boil, wrap the pot in the Wonderbag, seal it for five hours, and you’ll have chili without plugging anything in. Transport hot stews and casseroles without worrying about reheating them at your destination. And even reserve a bag for cold items (like ice cream) to keep frozen foods from melting on your way home.
It’s deceptively simple. "People in the beginning are like, we don’t believe this," Collins said. "But we’ve been through every test, labs, and once you start to get used to the way it works, you can cook brilliantly in the Wonderbag because of the efficiency."
Part of the efficiency is, of course, reducing the amount gas, electricity, and water that go into everyday cooking. A Wonderbag can reduce a family’s fuel usage by up to 30 percent (and fuel is getting expensive), and their carbon dioxide emissions. Collins suggests halving the amount of water used in recipes for the Wonderbag, as less water is evaporated during the cooking process thanks to the insulation. And every time a consumer buys one online on Amazon, another bag is donated to a family in need in Africa.
"It’s the Toms shoes of food," Collins said. "The point is the world needs it; we are running out of fuel." And even though 600,000 Wonderbags are already in use, Collins is aiming for 100 million Wonderbags by 2015. No big deal, just making the world more eco-friendly, one bag at a time.
Slow Cooked Cashew Chicken with a Wonderbag
This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wonderbag, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #WonderBag http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO
We recently went camping with our two little boys and after a weekend of starting, tending, and cooking over an open fire, I was absolutely exhausted! If I had been able to cook this Slow Cooked Cashew Chicken with a Wonderbag, I could have enjoyed a nice walk with my family or some quiet time with a good book instead of having to keep such a close eye on the camp fire. For me, not having the conveniences of a modern kitchen was just a weekend discomfort but for women all over the world, the preparation of meals plays an important role in their socioeconomic prosperity.
While researching for this campaign, I read a statistic that women living in poverty and in developing countries spend anywhere between 4-6 hours on cooking for their families. That’s precious time that could be spent furthering their interests in school, work, or by simply having more time to spend with their family. Imagine what you could do with an extra 4-6 hours a day?!
That’s where the Wonderbag comes in! A simple idea with dramatic results, the Wonderbag is essentially a fuel-free, portable slow cooker that uses revolutionary insulation pockets to finish cooking a meal away from open flames. No open flames means a woman can fix a meal, pop it in the Wonderbag, and continue living her life! You see what I mean about a simple idea with dramatic results?! The effects Wonderbag has on women’s lives and the environment are amazing:
I know you all are probably thinking “That’s all well and good but how well does it cook?!” I totally understand and was kinda skeptical too so I decided to try one of my favorite recipes, Slow Cooked Cashew Chicken with a Wonderbag and I’m happy to report it was a smashing success! My 4 year old son even got in on the Wonderbag action. He enjoyed pulling and securing the drawstring and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to him about energy conservation. Total win/win! A word to the wise, though. Don’t turn your back on your kid because you just might find this…
Here’s the recipe for the Slow Cooked Cashew Chicken with a Wonderbag. Of course, you can use a standard slow cooker but it won’t be nearly as fun! D
What Is A Wonderbag?
At its simplest, a wonderbag is a well insulated sack that can keep items at their original temperature for hours on end. For example, if you put a bag of frozen vegetables in the sack, they will remain frozen for several hours even without the addition of ice or some other cooler. Likewise, if you put hot stew or some other food in the wonderbag, it will maintain that temperature for several hours.
When it comes to keeping food warm, the ability to maintain a set temperature means that the food will continue to cook. In some cases, this can cut the amount of fuel used in half or more. The drawback, however, is that the food can take several hours longer to cook when compared to applying a constant rate of heat.
A wonderbag is similar to thermos cooking in the sense that you must heat the food up prior to placement in the vessel, however it does not need to be fully cooked. Because wonderbags can come in all shapes and sizes, however, they are much more flexible in terms of what they can accommodate. For example, you can simply tuck a whole pot of covered stew in the wonderbag and retain the heat from the vessel along with the heat in the food.
By contrast, transferring food to a thermos leads to a loss of the heat that could have been provided by keeping the food in the same vessel. Aside from that, while a thermos can also keep foods cold, they are not always as efficient as wonderbags.
Powerless Cooking with Wonderbag Slow Cooker - Recipes
Wonderbag is a simple but revolutionary non-electric, portable slow cooker. Wonderbag’s clever insulation allows food that has been brought to the boil to continue slow cooking or warm while in the bag. No plugs. No Fuss. No electricity required, so it’s worry-free.
To slow cook, simply bring food to a boil on a stove, let simmer (5 minutes for rice and grains, 15 minutes for root vegetables, meat or presoaked beans), then put the pot with lid into your Wonderbag, close tightly, and slow cook to perfection up to 12 hours. Because it is not on direct heat, it will never overcook or burn. Wonderbag is perfect for bringing delicious home cooked meals to potlucks, dinner parties, tailgating, or camping. Itâs perfect for holidays when stove and counter space are at a premium.
Powerless is powerful. Wonderbag isn’t just a powerless cooker it’s an instrument for change. 3 billion women still cook over wood fires, a major source of health, environmental and socio-economic issues. By drastically reducing time spent cooking, the Wonderbag empowers women across Africa to participate in more activities outside of the home enhancing their quality of life. Using the Wonderbag helps save water, reduces the carbon footprint, minimizes deforestation, smoke inhalation…
Wonderbag Review – A Revolutionary, Environmentally Friendly Slow Cooker (Plus A Simple Curry Recipe!)
I never had a slow cooker before, as I’m being vegetarian we don’t really make meaty stews at home. So I was a little bit reluctant as I thought: I don’t really need one, do I? However, I’ve heard many people use their slow cooker for preparing veggie meals too and so I had a little search. Turns out, there are a whole range of meals you can make in a slow cooker. Curries, veggie stews, soups, even veggie enchilada and child sin carne. I’m up for everything which saves time and I like the idea of cooking everything in the same pot. Especially for hearty, wintery meals.
What is Wonderbag?
I came across Wonderbag not long ago when I was looking for slow cookers. Never heard about it before, but Wonderbag is the award winning eco-friendly slow cooker that uses heat-retention to cook your food. What it does is, after bringing the food to boil, simmering for a few minutes, then placing into the Wonderbag, then the Wonderbag will continue the cooking process. Without using any energy, it cooks evenly and consistently, no supervision needed. It is a highly efficient and energy saving way of cooking, thanks to the special technology Wonderbag uses. It saves money and time, because after reaching the boiling point and the pot is placed into the Wonderbag, you can even leave home to explore the outdoors and later return to a fully cooked, fresh and healthy meal.
Use it both indoors and outdoors
Apart from its price being the same as a regular slow cooker (if not a little cheaper), has the advantage further money saved on the energy. It’s also portable, wich makes it perfect for outdoor use. In fact, camping (don’t forget your puffy camping blankets!), clamping, picnics but even serious outdoor adventurers like professional mountain climbers could use Wonderbag. It’s of course very lightweight and can be squashed down, therefore it takes up less space.
What I liked about it
- Setting up the bag and cooking with it was very easy
- It also came with a recipe book full of great ideas and recipes
- It helps to keep ready meals warm without using extra electricity. If dinner is delayed for some reason (because a family member stuck on a delayed train heading out from Waterloo station…) just put it in the Wonderbag to keep the meal warm. No need heating the dinner up again
- The cooking time in the Wonderbag can be 1-2 hours more than in the stove, but that’s time saved not spending it in the kitchen
- In summer there will be no overheated kitchen
Buy 1, donate 1
Sarah, the founder of Wonderbag has created it because she grew up in rural Africa and she always wanted to do something to empower women living in very poor conditions. Because Wonderbag needs no energy, no plug, most importantly it saves money. Furthermore, reducing time spent cooking and collecting firewood frees up time for other important jobs and education. Finally, it also means less wood being burnt and therefore less toxic fumes being inhaled. The company’s ethical approach is very straight forward. For each large Wonderbag purchased the Wonderbag Foundation donates another one to a family in Africa.
Recipe: curried sweet potato and brown lentils with mushrooms
Now, onto my Wonderbag recipe. I have prepared a very easy curry, using brown lentils, sweet potato and mushrooms. Please see the recipe below. The cooking time may vary for different pans, but it took about an hour and a half for me using my cast iron casserole dish. If you’d like to try another veggie curry, why not check out this recipe: Vegan Paneer And Butternut Squash Curry
Full Review of the Wonderbag Non-Electric Slow Cooker
Now that you know the global impact of this product, what about the impact for you and your life? After having this Wonderbag for just a week (and falling completely in love with it!), let me break down the pros and cons for you.
Pros of the Wonderbag
1. It's gorgeous! This may seem a little shallow on my part, but one pro for me is the fact that the Wonderbag is just so darn nice to look at! There are many different fabrics and colors to choose from so you can match your decor.
2. It saves money on electricity (or gas) to run your stove/oven. AND saves on the electricity to cool the house as the oven heats everything up!
3. It's safer. I'm not saying that crockpot cooking is inheriently dangerous, but the Wonderbag is safer in that is can't short out or overheat!
4. No burned food. With a traditional crockpot or slow cooker, the heat is retained artificially. But with a Wonderbag the heat gradually lowers over the course of the cooking time. Which means no burned food!
5. It saves time. Not being required to stand at the stove top while the "pot is on" to keep it from scorching the bottom means you get to go do something else while your food is cooked to perfection!
6. It can be used anywhere. Whether "anywhere" for you is rural Africa or your off-grid house, or even a family camping trip - or anywhere in between - as long as you have a place to bring your food to a boil before "bagging it" the Wonderbag is perfect for you!
Cons of the Wonderbag
For me personally, there were no downsides to using the Wonderbag. But I can see a few points that others might not like, so I'll mention them here.
1. Short handles only. If you are used to cooking in pots with long handles, you'll need to get some with short handles as the Wonderbag doesn't accomedate long handles.
This wasn't a problem for us, and I don't think would a problem for many people. but there you go.
2. Storage. Again, even in our tiny house this wasn't enough of a downside to be considered a con. The Wonderbag is currently living on the top of the piano, but it's so pretty that I don't mind at all!
Recipes to Try With the Wonderbag
From my several Wonderbag attempts this week I found that crockpot recipes worked perfectly without any time adjustments so long as the food was brought to a boil for at least 15 minutes before adding it to the Wonderbag.
This means that crockpot freezer meals need to be adjusted. You're not just going to put a frozen roast in the Wonderbag and have it magically be cooked when you come home from work!
I did try cooking a roast in the Wonderbag and it didn't work. It was probably user error, but it just didn't work. I browned the meat in butter, then added all the liquid for the stew. Brought it to a boil for 20 minutes then added it to the Wonderbag. 4 hours later I checked it, and though it was HOT it wasn't cooked much more than it was before.
I removed the roast, cubed it, and this Irish Roast Beef and Cabbage Soup was born!
I also made my normal yogurt recipe, but instead of finishing it in the dehydrator I used the Wonderbag to perfect results!
Cooks While You're on the Move
Not only is the Wonderbag cordless, it can travel. It's perfect to take on camping trips or if you're on your way to a potluck. It's versatile, too: it can hold one wide two-quart pot or one tall eight-quart pot.
You can cook all manner of one-pot meals in the Wonderbag: chili, gumbo, beans, stew, rice, or even chicken stock. For my next camping trip, I'm thinking it would be great to put in a nice stew and have it cook while we drive to the camp site. After setting up and going for a hike, we'd have a fully cooked meal ready and waiting.
Actually, after seeing this video, I'm thinking a pot roast would be even better:
Wonderbag: How To Cook A Meal With A Non-Electric Slow Cooker
Would you believe me if I told you that it is possible to cook a meal, in your car, without electricity or a power source and have it ready when you arrive at your travel destination? That ‘s a long question but it is totally possible! While it does require a few minutes on the stove, the rest of the cooking is done without any added heat source – right inside the Wonderbag!
The Wonderbag is a simple but revolutionary heat retention slow-cooker, which continues to cook food, which has been brought to the boil by fire, cook stoves or any conventional method, for up to 12 hours without the use of any additional fuel source.
Up to 12 hours of cooking, y’all, without any added fuel source!
We live way out in the middle of the woods and our electricity is very prone to going out, sometimes for days. So cooking soups, stews, etc. in a regular, electric, slow cooker doesn’t always pan out. And even though we’re looking into getting a whole house generator, we don’t have one yet. So, I was very intrigued by the Wonderbag because it requires very minimal time on the stove top, before going into the bag to cook. Clay and I teamed up with Wonderbag to test out their awesome non-electric slow cooker and show you our results.
This means that, even if our electricity goes out for days, I can bring the food to a boil on the propane camp stove, put it in the Wonderbag to finish cooking, and not use all our fuel on one meal.
The ingenious non-electric slow cooker uses heat-retention to make the most perfect chili, eggplant parmesan, biriyani, korma, poached salmon, fall off the bone lamb curry, puddings, french toast and more – the Wonderbag has inspired so many delicious recipes, some by celebrity Chefs like Marcus Samuelson, that they have their own cookbook! Savvy chefs can pop a dish from the stove into their Wonderbag , place it in the trunk, and open a perfectly slow-cooked hot meal when they arrive at their campsite, the slopes or their family gathering.
This product is amazing! It also helps families in Africa by limiting the time women and young girls spend gathering firewood.
The Wonderbag is a simple but revolutionary heat retention slow-cooker, which continues to cook food, which has been brought to the boil by fire, cook stoves or any conventional method, for up to 12 hours without the use of any additional fuel source. The South African invention is saving lives from smoke inhalation, combating deforestation, providing time women to work and for children to go to school and decreasing the incidents of assault (82% of assaults happen while women and girls are gathering firewood).
I tested it out by cooking a pot of Great Northern Beans. I was skittish to try meat on the first go, until I knew exactly how the Wonderbag would cook.
It took me 2 tries to get it right. The first time, I soaked the beans in water for over 24 hours. I only boiled them for 20 minutes because that is what the included Knorr guide suggested. However, these are large beans so I recommend boiling them for at least 30 minutes, after soaking 24 hours. I also recommend placing a piece of aluminum foil between the pot and the pot’s lid, to help seal in the heat. My lid has a stem vent and I think it let too much heat escape because, the first try, the temp was down to 120 within 6 hours and the beans were still slightly firm.
My 2nd attempt had much better results! The beans came out perfect. I had cooked chicken breasts in my regular slow cooker and then used the beans to make a pot of White Chicken Chili. It turned out perfectly.
So, the next time, I’ll attempt the entire recipe in the Wonderbag, allowing it to cook for the chicken recommended time. I’m excited to use it for more and more recipes.
It comes in shrink wrap. You have to stretch it out and then break loose, inside, all the foam beads because they will have clumped together. Shake it out. Then let it sit for an hour to retain it’s shape and you’re good to go!
If you’re going to be camping, traveling or simply want a slow cooker that doesn’t require a ton of time on the stove, I highly recommend the Wonderbag! This will make a great Christmas gift too!
Slow Cooking without Electricity: DIY Plans for Hay Boxes, Wonderbags, and More
When I first discovered the Wonderbag, I remember thinking “What a cool idea – I’m amazed no one’s ever thought of that before!” Turns out I was just displaying my ignorance to myself: the concept of cooking with insulation, or “retained heat cooking,” has been around for ages (and is very common at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage – I just missed it somehow). Essentially, once you bring a soup, stew, beans, rice, or other food cooked in liquid to a boil, you can place it in the insulated box and let it cook. You don’t need to use any more fuel. It’s slow cooking without the Crock Pot!
Hay boxes and other insulated cookers are like rain barrels in the sense that they all contain just a few basic elements: in this case, a container and an insulating material (which doesn’t have to be hay). So, you could simply use a cooler and a quilt. Unlike some of the other DIY projects we’ve featured here, though, a hay box could be designed to fit in your kitchen… even to work with your decor. So, I gathered up some project plans for various insulated cookers, with the hopes that you’ll let your imagination run wild… and that you’ll start cutting way back on your electricity or gas use for cooking.
The Original: the Hay Box
The hay box cooker probably originated somewhere in Scandinavia, but can now be found all over the world… you could see how such a simple device would be very popular in the developing world. Want to make one of your own for camping, or for the kitchen? It’s pretty easy: the folks at Root Simple have created a very thorough overview of hay boxes. Want more of a step-by-step plan? As you might have guessed, there’s (at least) one at Instructables. And if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make your own box from pallet wood:
Wonderboxes and Wonderbags: Stylish (and Powerless) Slow Cooking
So, after looking at some plans, the only difference I can see between Wonderboxes (which came out in the sixties) and Wonderbags (which are only a few years old) are the number of pieces: the former has two, the latter one. Each involves fabric and insulating material (generally pieces of polystyrene foam, though you don’t have to use that… anything that will retain heat will work). There’s lots of room for design fun here as these projects involve fabric and sewing. For the Wonderbox, I found plans at iwillprepare (including a printable PDF version of the instructions), and at Food Storage & Survival. Prefer the bag-style cooker? There are instructions for those at New Life, New Purpose.
Need some help figuring out what to cook in one of these? We’ve got you covered there, too, with this recipe booklet.
Have you made your own hay box, or other powerless slow cooker? Share your plan with us…
Coming home to a hearty veg soup is not something many would say no to. Imagine, if you didn’t have to stand beside the stove, carefully watching while it cooks to perfection? Do all the prep work, bring it to a toasty simmer and pop into your Wonderbag. Presto, dinner is served.
We hope these easy slow cooking, Wonderbag recipes stand you in good stead during times best left for curling up on the couch.
Still curious about how the Wonderbag is changing the lives of many? Read our article on what the Wonderbag is.
We also created a step by step how-it-works guide for cooking in the Wonderbag.