Friday, January 7, 2011

Retained Heat Cooking

In the winter I like to read books and look through the internet to learn new things to help my homesteading, So a couple of months ago I found a interesting way of cooking that saves energy and work. I would've said a new way of cooking, but it's not new it is revived. It has been around for a very very long time. When I tried to look up how old, I found talk of it going clear back to medieval times, and who knows it could even be older. It came back into use during the late 1800's and then again during the wars of WWI, WWII, and clear up to the 1950's or so. It was so popular that there was several cookbooks written on it (between 1880's-1950's). They also made insulated boxes, and sold them in stores. So what is retained heat cooking or fireless cooking as it is sometimes called. Well it is when you use some kind of heat source to heat a pot of food of some kind very hot for a short time. Food is usually boiled. Then the pot is put into a box surrounded by hay, straw, dry leaves, news papers, blankets, rags, pillows or any kind of insulation. It could even be put in the ground and covered by the insulation. Then the pot is set aside for a long period of time to cook slowly from the retained heat of the pot of food. The idea is very simple. The great things about retained cooking is that you use less fuel because you aren't cooking it for hours, you use less water because it's not being boiled away, it uses less spices because the steam isn't wafting it a way. The food rarely ever over cooks and it never burns. It doesn't heat up the house in the summer to cook this way. A long time ago they would heat it and tuck in the box. Then go out for the day and work in the garden or what ever and when it was time for supper all they would have to do is unwrap it and serve it up. It would be great for when you go on trips. Just prepare it and put it in its box and wrap it up. Then when you are hungry to eat something hot on the road all you do is unwrap it and eat. There are so many possibilities. It is a lot like a slow cooker but without using any electricity. I have only used it once so far, but it worked wonderfully. I boiled a chicken in a pot on the stove for about a 1/2 hour and then put it in my clothes basket in the middle of about 5 layer of blankets and towels. I left it in the basket for about 4 hours. Then later when I took it out it was still really hot and fully done. The thing is that the chicken that I cooked was one of my older layers that are usually tough if not cooked for a really long time (about 4 hours on the stove). While it was in the basket I was making noodle to go in the broth that the boiled chicken would make.
I definitely plan on using it again. I liked it so much I wanted to share it with you all. I plan on cooking with it a lot this summer. I'll get it all put together and cooking before I head out to take care of the animals and work in the garden. If you would like to learn more about retained heat cooking, things like how long to cook different kinds of food. You should do like I did and google retained cooking or fireless cooking, both are the same. There is to much to learn about it for me to be able to fit it all in on this post. I have added a bunch of pictures that I have found to help show how it is done. There are also few pictures of when I cooked my chicken this way.

This is the inside of the basket I used to make my retained heat box. I had put a cast iron trivit on the last blanket that I used in the cloths basket, I put it there to keep the bottom of the hot pot off the blankets and plastic basket. The pot is really really hot when you put it in there.

Here is the pot snuggled in the basket of blankets all around it.

As soon as the pot is in the basket, cover it up quickly. So most of the pots heat is retained to use to cook the food.

Here is the pot all covered up and starting to slowly cook. Now all you do is wait.

You can google this book and actually find it on line some where. It's the whole book. I can't remember where I found it, but I know it's out there.

Here is another interesting cookbook with recipes in it for retained cooking or fireless cooking like a lot of books call it.

Here is a picture that I found of a lady cooking with a fireless cooker box. This picture is probly from the turn of the century. 1900

This is a hay box. It is kind of self explaining. You put your pot in and cover with hay. Works like my basket with blankets.

Here is something like what I did. But with a smaller basket.

Retained heat cooking is used over in third world countrys because it doesn't use a much fuel to cook something. Here are some ladys in Africa.

Here is one made of a crock and some stock pots in two sizes and some foam insulation in between the two pots.

Another basket but this time filled with news papers. It still works. There are so many way to do it. Pick one that works best for you.

I saw this one being sold on the internet somewhere. Not sure where.
Well I hope you all enjoyed this post God bless



  1. I had never heard of this but it makes sense doesnt it? I will have to look up the books on Gutenberg (I think that's how you spell it). They have old books on their site for free. Good to learn new things. Thanks for the info!

  2. My Mom made a dutch oven made with using a flower pot and the bottom of the pot as the lid and uses insulated insulation inside of it which works great! We also have a solar dutch oven as well.

    Amy @ Pine Pod Farm

  3. I never heard of this. Very interesting though and I will definately look into this further! Thanks Kelly.

  4. Dear Kelly,

    Thanks for coming by my blog and saying "hello"!

    I've read about fireless cookers in my old women's magazines, but I'd never seen pictures of one. I'm always looking for new ideas, too, so this was a real treat.



  5. Thank You for coming by and saying "hi" today.

    I like this post some that would help during the summer when we are sweltering here in the south.

    Your daughter's wedding photos were lovely congrats on the new grandbaby tht will soon bless your lives.


  6. I've never heard of that before! That would be good to take on the road for a long trip, to save eating out on the way.

  7. Kelly,
    I have a silly, technical blogging question for you: how do you post pictures or illustrations on your blog that you have not taken yourself? I have tried MANY times to copy and paste pictures from the internet or other sources without success.
    Your pictures are lovely. Can you advise?


  8. What a fascinating way to cook foods, I have never heard of this before. Thank you for sharing this very interesting post.

  9. I tried to make one of these boxes before. With hay. I didn't trust it to actually cook meat all the way through. I have been working on making a solar oven for this summer. Now though, I will try this method again.

  10. I found The Fireless Cook Book on
    Thank you for your post it's fun to see the pictures of the different ways people have used retained heating.

  11. Very interesting. I love learning new (to me) ways of doing things that could save energy. Thank you for sharing this.

  12. Oh wow!!! How interesting! I will have to try this. I found the Fireless Cookbook for sale on Amazon