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Save Energy! Cook with an Insulated Hot Box

Save Energy! Cook with an Insulated Hot Box

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!

Green Options Media is a network of environmentally-focused blogs providing users with the information needed to make sustainable choices. Written by experienced professionals, Green Options Media’s blogs engage visitors with authoritative content, compelling discussions, and actionable advice. We invite anyone with questions, or simply curiosity, to add their voices to the community, and share their approaches to achieving abundance.

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By Brian Liloia, Green Options

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8:31PM PST on Jan 30, 2010

Thanks for the info. :-)

12:59PM PST on Dec 30, 2009

What a great concept, thanks for the info!

9:16AM PDT on Oct 6, 2009

Interesting, and it sounds like an indoor version of "dutch oven cooking". Sort of a power free version of cooking in a crock pot. I'll have to try this.

7:01AM PDT on Oct 5, 2009

Thanks. I have tried the sun cooking method in Australia, with all the sun we have, but was not very successful. I will try this one for sure.

7:07PM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

I stumbled across this blog a while ago:

It's all about cooking in a basket, as she calls in. She has instructions on how to make one as well as recipes designed for this method of cooking. It's an interesting read... though I still haven't taken the plunge and tried it.

3:18PM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

The Fireless Cook Book, written 100 years ago, has instructions on building a fireless cooker and many recipes. You can download it for free at

I cook on a Chambers range which uses the same principle and bakes and cooks on retained heat, which saves lots of energy. I love it!

8:45AM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

Also, once you've brought pasta to a boil, you can turn off the heat, put towels on top, & let it cook in its own heat for 12 - 15 minutes; c. 4 minutes for fresh pasta.

7:47AM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

A couple weeks ago I picked up a cookbook "Cooking Without Heat" that uses this same method. I haven't really looked at it much because I wasn't sure it works. If you all say it does, maybe I'll give it a try!

7:22AM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

I used to do this when, back in late '60s my hubby and two boys lived in a log cabin with a wood burning stove. He made the 'cook box'... and I would bring all the good stuff, in a thick pan, to a rolling boil, and put in the cookbox. Hours later, dinner was ready. I didn't do this for fish... or raw pork, but for grains, veggies, etc. It works! Saved wood for the stove...

7:06AM PDT on Oct 3, 2009

Great article! Every little bit counts. I'm reminded of that old proverb: Look after the pennies...

I'll be trying this in the next couple of days for sure. Thank you!

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