If you’re excited by the possibility of cutting back on your home energy consumption and saving a few precious dollars on your energy bill, let me introduce you to the idea of hot box cooking.
A simple hot box provides a wise solution to preparing meals without the excessive use of your stovetop or oven. You can make a hot box (also called a “hay box”) for free, with very simple and recycled materials that you probably already have lying around your house, or with stuff that you can easily hunt down.
Essentially, a hot box is an insulated box. The box can be just that: a cardboard box, or even a large cooler. The more critical element is the insulation, which can be anything ranging from scrap polystyrene foam board, to straw, to towels, or even sleeping bags.
How to make a hot box
Grab a large cardboard box (one that will be large enough to house several inches worth of insulating material, and your favorite cooking pot).
Next, simply line it with your material. If you’re using straw or foam board, you might consider getting a second, smaller box to put your pot in to keep things separate and tidy.
Finally, put your pot in the fully insulated hot box, and make sure to cover it with some extra towels or insulating material. (If you have some sleeping bags, you don’t even need a box: simply wrap your pot in the middle of a bag or two.) Remember: the more insulation, the better! You want to keep that heat in!
Cooking with a hot box
This cooking method works best for things that cook slowly over time, like grains or beans, or even soups and stews. For example, to cook rice, first let the rice boil for five minutes (which is enough time for the heat to fully penetrate the grains), and then throw the pot (with lid) in the box. Check back in another three or four hours. Your cooking time may vary, but expect your food to finish between four and eight hours, depending on the food item.
The hot box has become a kitchen “appliance” essential for me over the past year. It’s a no-brainer way to cut back on energy consumption.
Be creative! Happy hot boxing!
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By Brian Liloia, Green Options