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Haybox cooking (also called retained-heat cooking) is an age-old method that can be used to conserve energy not only during times of crisis, but anytime. Depending on the food item and amount cooked, the use of a haybox or insulated cooker saves between 20% and 80% of the energy normally needed to cook a food. The longer an item usually takes on a stovetop, the more fuel is saved. For example, with a haybox, five pots of long-cooking dry beans will use the same amount of fuel to cook to completion as just one pot cooked without a haybox.


The principle of retained-heat cooking is simple. In conventional cooking, any heat applied to the pot after it reaches boiling temperature is merely replacing heat lost to the air by the pot. In haybox cooking, food is brought to a boil, simmered for a few minutes depending on the particle size (5 minutes for rice or other grains, 15 minutes for large dry beans or whole potatoes), then put into the haybox to continue cooking. Since the insulated cooker prevents most of the heat in the food from escaping into the environment, no additional energy is needed to complete the cooking process. The hayboxed food normally cooks within one to two times the normal stovetop cooking time. It can be left in the haybox until ready to serve, and stays hot for hours. "Timing" is much less important than in stovetop cooking: stick a pot of rice, beans, or stew in at lunch time, and it will be ready when you are, and steaming hot, at dinner time.


The haybox itself is any kind of insulated container that can withstand cooking temperatures and fits relatively snugly around the pot. Hayboxes have been made using hay, straw, wool, feathers, cotton, rice hulls, cardboard, aluminum foil, newspaper, fiberglass, fur, rigid foam, and/or other suitable materials as insulation. The insulation is placed between the rigid walls of a box, within a double bag of material, or lining a hole in the ground. "Instant hayboxes" have been created by wrapping a sleeping bag, blankets, and/or pillows around a pot. The most effective insulating materials create many separate pockets of air, which slow down the movement of heat. 2 to 4 inches of thickness (depending on the material) are necessary for good insulation. Some materials, such as aluminum foil or mylar, actually reflect heat back toward the pot. Important characteristics of any insulating material incorporated into a haybox include:


- It must withstand cooking temperatures (up to 212 degrees F or 100 degrees C) without melting.

- It does not release toxic fumes (any kind of foam insulation needs to be covered with aluminum foil or  

  mylar) or dangerous fibers (fiberglass also needs to be covered).

- It can be fashioned to be as snug-fitting as possible around the pot. A little pot in a big box will not cook

  as effectively; it's better to wrap pillows, towels, or blankets around it to fill up the space.

- It can be made to form a relatively tight seal, so that heat does not escape from the cooking cavity.

  Since hot air rises, a container designed to open at the base rather than the top will retain more heat.

- It is dry, and can be kept dry, since wet materials don't insulate as well. An inner layer of aluminum foil

  or mylar helps keep cooking moisture from entering the walls of the box. Mylar, which can be salvaged 

  from used food storage containers, balloons, etc., tends to be a more durable inner layer than aluminum



Cooking containers, too, should have tight-fitting lids, to prevent the escape of heat and moisture.

Since water is not lost in haybox cooking the way it is during extended stovetop simmering, the amount of water used to cook grains and beans is normally reduced by one-quarter. Instead of adding 2 cups of water per cup of dry rice, try adding 1 1/2. Also, the larger the amount cooked, the more effective haybox cooking is, since a full pot has more mass and therefore more heat storage capacity than a half-full pot. Haybox cooking is ideally suited for a family or large group, or anytime there's a reason to cook in quantity. If you're cooking alone, try cooking full pots of food using a haybox, then reheating small portions for individual meals--this too can conserve fuel.

Retained-heat cooking has many other advantages in addition to energy and water conservation. As mentioned, it makes "timing" less critical, since it keeps meals hot until serving time. Once the initial boil-and-short-simmer stage is past, it also eliminates the danger of burning the food on the bottom of the pot (the sad fate of too many pots of grains, beans, or other foods left simmering too long without stirring on the stove). Hayboxed food can actually be better for you, and tastier, than food prepared exclusively on a stovetop, because most of the cooking takes place in the 180 degrees F to 212 degrees F range, rather than at a constant 212 degrees F (lower temperatures preserve more flavor and nutrients, as they also do in crockpot cooking and solar cooking).


If you want to prepare multiple items for a meal but have only a limited number of flame sources, hayboxes can also greatly facilitate the logistics of food preparation. For example, you can bring your beans to a boil, simmer them 15 minutes, put them in a haybox; then bring your rice to a boil, simmer it 5 minutes, put it in another haybox; then prepare your vegetable stir-fry or soup, etc. At the end, you'll have a uniformly hot, unburnt, multi-dish meal, all off a single flame, probably consuming less total fuel than you would have used simply to cook the longest-cooking item alone without a haybox. You'll also have used one-quarter less of your drinkable water supply in preparing the food.


Presoaking and draining beans always makes them easier to cook, as well as to digest. A few particularly long-cooking foods, such as garbanzo beans, may need reboiling part-way through the cooking process. For health reasons, meat dishes should always be reboiled before serving.


Hayboxes are second only to solar cookers (which, however, are dependent on sunshine) in their potential to conserve resources. They're easy to build, easy to use, and have many other advantages. Y2K or no Y2K, they deserve a place in every home.

retained heat cooking.



Use 1-1/2 times water to rice. For example, 3 cups of water for 2 cups of dry rice. Cooked the conventional way, the rule is to use twice as much water as rice. The fireless cooker requires less water because less water will be lost as steam. You can vary this according to how much rice you need. For example:
Bring 3 c. of water to a boil, stir in 2 c. regular white rice. You may add salt and a little cooking oil, if desired. Cover with tight fitting lid and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Don't peek or you'll lose the steam! Quickly put pan in your cooker. Leave in cooker for at least one hour.
You can turn this into a flavored rice dish by adding bouillion and spices to the boiling water or sauteed onion and celery, etc.


In a heavy pan, place potatoes. Cover with water. Bring to a simmer, put lid on tight, simmer for 2 minutes then put pan in the cooker for an hour minimum.

I use potatoes boiled this way for home fries, potato salad, and "riced" potatoes. If you plan on mashing them, you can peel and cut as you normally would, bring to boil for 1-2 minutes with the lid on tight, and place pan in the cooker for 30 minutes. Drain and mash the normal way.


In a mixing bowl, combine 1 c. of cornmeal with 1 c. cold water. Using a whisk to blend helps. Bring 2-1/2 c. of water to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp. salt. Gradually stir the cornmeal-cold water mixture into the boiling water. Bring back to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 minute then put in the cooker for at least 1 hour.

Serve with milk, margarine, butter, honey or sugar as corn meal mush. For fried mush, chill in a loaf pan. Slice and fry in margarine or butter. Serve with honey or maple syrup.

For Polenta:
You may add 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese to hot cornmeal when you remove it from the fireless cooker. This is optional. Cool or chill polenta. Slice and fry polenta in butter or margarine. Serve covered with your favorite pasta sauce.


Prepare using amount of water to cereal recommended on the box. Bring water to a boil, add cereal and return to a simmer for 1 minute, then put in fireless cooker for one hour minimum. This is most useful for old fashioned oatmeal which requires long cooking time when cooked on stove top. Put cereal in the fireless cooker before going to bed and you'll have hot cereal ready in the morning.


Whole wheat grains make a good breakfast. It's also good mixed with hot rice. Many people store wheat, so I wanted to offer this method of cooking it.


*      1 c. wheat berries

*      4c. water

*      butter or margarine salt

If you have time, combine the wheat and water in the pan and let it soak over night or all day. Simmer 15 minutes without lifting pan lid, then place in cooker for at least 4 hrs.




*      3 c.water

*      1-1/2 c. pearl barley

*      1 tsp. Salt

Bring water to boil with salt, stir in barley, cover and simmer for 1 minute. Put in cooker for 1-1/2 hrs. This recipe can be varied by using bouillion in the boiling water--but use less salt. Also, other spices could be used as well as sauteed onion.


The base of many soups is stock; beef, chicken or vegetable.




*      3 lbs of beef shortribs or 2-3 lb chuck roast
use whatever beef is the best buy

*      2 carrots, cut in thirds

*      2 onions, cut in half

*      2-3 stalks of celery with leaves, cut in half

*      pinch of dried thyme

*      pinch of dried parsley

*      a couple cloves of garlic, if desired cooking oil or shortening

Cut chuck roast into chunks or cut ribs apart. Heat oil in stock pot. Add meat to hot oil and brown meat. Add vegetables to pot for the last bit of cooking, long enough to cook them a little bit. Add a couple of cups of hot water. Stir, getting any browned bits loosened up from bottom of pan. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Add water to make pot 2/3 full. Add seasonings. Bring to boil again. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Quickly, without moving the lid and letting any steam escape, put in cooker for at least 3 hrs. All day is fine. When removed from the cooker, bring to a simmer again for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning by adding salt to taste and pepper. Strain through a collander. Save meat for hash, tamale pie, etc. Put broth in refrigerator and let fat congeal on top for easy removal, if desired.

(It Ain't Kosher) BORSCHT



*      4 c. beef stock

*      2 c. of peeled, diced raw beets or 1 can beets

*      1 small onion, chopped

*      half a small head of cabbage, chopped

*      2 Tablespoon cider vinegar

*      salt and pepper to taste

*      sour cream

Put beets, cabbage and onion in pot with stock. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Put in cooker for at least 1 hr. Add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream. Left over boiled potatoes added to this is good, too.



*      beef stock with meat, as above

*      2 beef bouillion cubes

*      1 c. frozen mixed vegetables or 1-2 cups of fresh veggies of your choice

*      1 c. egg noodles

Bring stock to simmer. Add bouillion cubes and dissolve. Add vegetables. Return to simmer. Add noodles, cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Place in cooker for at least 30 min.



*      beef stock with meat, as above

*      2 beef bouillion cubes, if desired

*      1 small onion, chopped

*      2 garlic cloves or a bit of garlic powder (not salt)

*      pinch of dried oregano, crumbled

*      1 bay leaf

*      1 c. frozen mixed vegetables or 1 c. diced fresh veggies of choice

*      1 c. potatoes, cubed

*      1/4 c. barley

*      small amt. vegetable oil

*      1 tsp. Worcheshire Sauce

Sauté onion in vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add stock with meat, bouillon, oregano, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. Add veggies, potato and barley. Bring to a simmer again. Simmer 2 minutes and place in cooker for at least an hour. Stir in Worsteshire, remove bay leaf and season to taste.




*      1 lbs. Hamburger

*      2 stalks of celery, sliced

*      1 large onion, chopped

*      2 cloves of garlic or garlic powder to taste

*      ˝ head of cabbage, coarsely chopped

*      2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

*      a 15 oz. can whole or stewed tomatoes

*      a 16 oz.pkg. frozen mixed vegetables

*      2 bouillon cubes, optional

*      1 tsp. dry parsley, crumbled

*      ˝ tsp. dry thyme leaves, crumbled

*      pinch of oregano, crumbled

*      fresh ground pepper

Cook hamburger until pink is gone but not yet brown. Drain off fat. Add celery, onion and garlic to pot. Cook for a minute. Add cabbage, cook till cabbage is a bit limp. Add all other ingredients. Add enough water to fill pot 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 3 minutes. Place in cooker for at least 1 hr.




*      2 lbs. chicken parts...could be a whole chicken, or other parts according to your taste and budget

*      1 onion, cut in ˝

*      2 stalks celery with leaves, cut in ˝

*      1/2 tsp. dry parsley, crumbled

*      1/2 tsp. thyme leaves, crumbled

*      1 garlic clove or garlic powder to taste

Put all ingredients in soup pot. Add about 2 qt. water. Bring to a boil; boil for about 5 minutes and skim off any foam. Reduce heat and simmer with cover on for 10 minutes more. Put in cooker for at least 3 hours. Remove from cooker and adjust seasoning of salt and pepper to taste. Strain stock. Set meat aside to use in soup or other meal. Cool broth and refrigerate. When chilled, skim layer of fat off broth. Save chicken fat for cooking, if desired.




*      6 c. chicken stock

*      1 carrot, diced

*      1 stalk celery, diced

*      cooked chicken meat

*      1 c. dry noodles

*      2 chicken bouillon cubes, if desired

Bring stock to a boil, add other ingredients. Simmer for 2 minutes. Place in cooker for 1 hr. Adjust seasonings.





Same as chicken noodle recipe with the substitution of 1/3 c. regular rice in place of noodles.




*      1-2 lbs. beef cut in cubes

*      cooking oil or shortening

*      1-2 cloves garlic or garlic powder to taste

*      1 large onion, cubed

*      2 c. potatoes, peeled and cubed

*      2 carrots, sliced

*      1/4 c. catsup

*      pinch of thyme, crumbled

*      pinch of parsley, crumbled

*      1/2 c. frozen green peas

*      2 Tab. flour dissolved in 1/3-1/2 c. cold water

*      salt and pepper

*      1 tsp. Worsteshire sauce

Heat about 2 Tablespoons of cooking oil or shortening in soup pot. Add cubes of beef. Before totally browned, add onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes more. Add 3 c, hot water, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add potatoes, carrots, catsup, thyme, and parsley. Add water to fill pot 2/3 full. Bring to boil again and simmer 5 minutes more. Put in cooker for 3 hrs. minimum. Remove from cooker, bring to simmer. Add frozen peas, Worsteshire sauce, salt and pepper to taste. May add a couple of bouillon cubes if broth doesn't seem rich enough. Stir in flour and water mixture to thicken. If not thick enough, mix a little more water and flour to add in. Stir until thickened.



I almost always sort and rinse dried beans the night before. I cover the beans with cold water and let them soak over night. The best way to cook beans in the slow cooker is to simmer them for 15 minutes, put pot in the cooker for 4-8 hours, then simmer again for 15 minutes and return the pot to the cooker for another 3-8 hours. I seldom manage to do it this way so I do the next best thing which is to simmer the soaked beans for 30 minutes, then leave in the cooker for 8 hrs, take the beans out of the cooker and bring to a boil on the stove. I test for doneness and may need to let them simmer for 20 minutes or so. This still is a considerable savings on propane when camping.

Using this technique you can make bean soup, cook kidney beans for chili or pinto beans for Mexican dishes. You can use whatever recipe you're fond of and just change the technique to use the fireless cooker.

For those who don't have a favorite recipe:



*      2c. great northern beans or navy beans

*      1 small onion, chopped

*      1 stalk celery, chopped

*      salt and pepper

*      parsley

*      optional ingredients: ham hocks, sausage, bacon, bay leaf, paprika, chicken bouillon, left over ham scraps.

Soak the beans overnight. I throw away the water and rinse the beans again, adding fresh cold water. My theory is the beans won't cause as much gas if fresh water is used. This isn't scientific; just my theory. I've been told that it will help keep the beans from getting tough if you use cold water only before cooking and if water needs to be added to beans which are cooking, to use boiling water.


Supposedly, change in temp makes them tough. Again, only opinion! I'm also told not to add salt until towards the end of cooking as the salt can make the beans tough.  Cover soaked beans with fresh cold water, add parsley, celery and onion. Add a bay leaf if you like. I add whatever meat I happen to have. I occasionally have hamhocks but usually it's a left-over piece of ham which I dice up and add. If I have sausage, I fry the sausage up enough to get rid of the extra grease, then add it. Bacon you could either fry till halfway done, then chop and add or fry till crisp and either add or use as garnish when the soup is done. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes without peeking, lid on tight. Quickly put simmering pot into your cooker, being careful not to jostle the lid and let steam escape. After 8 hours return soup pot to the stove and bring to a simmer. Taste and test beans for doneness. Add a pinch of paprika if you like. Salt and pepper to taste. If I didn't have any meat I add a couple of chicken bouillion cubes and a teaspoon of cooking oil to give it a richer flavor. If you want a thicker soup, you can mash some of the beans to thickenit.

The following recipes are traditional crock pot recipes that can be used with your haybox cooker.


Apple Brown Betty



*      3 lbs. cooking apples

*      10 slices of bread, cubed (about 4 cups)

*      ˝ tsp. cinnamon 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

*      1/8 tsp. salt 3/4 c. brown sugar

*      ˝ c. butter or margarine, melted



Wash apples, peel, core, cut into eighths; place in bottom on crock. Mix bread cubes, spices, salt, sugar, butter; toss together. Place on top of apples and cover. Cook on low setting 2 to 4 hours. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

BBQ Beans from canned beans



*      2 lg. cans pork and beans

*      1 cup brown sugar

*      2 med. onions, chopped

*      1 lg. bell pepper, chopped

*      1 lb. bacon 1 regular size bottle BBQ sauce



Empty beans into slow cooker. Add brown sugar, onions, pepper and BBQ sauce. Fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper to remove excess grease. Cut into small pieces and add to bean mixture. Cook on low

for 2 to 4 hours.


Broccoli & Cheese Soup



*      Chopped frozen broccoli

*      2 cups cooked noodles

*      3 tbsp. chopped onions

*      2 tbsp. butter

*      1 tbsp. flour

*      2 cups shredded American cheese

*      Salt to taste

*      5 ˝ c. milk



Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Stir well. Cook on low for 4 hours. 8 servings.

Broccoli Rice & Chicken



*       2 pounds uncooked chicken

*      1-1/4 cups uncooked converted rice

*      1 can Cream of Broccoli Soup

*      1 ˝ cups chicken broth

*      pepper, to taste



Place rice in a lightly greased crockpot. Sprinkle with parsley and pepper. Top with chicken pieces. Mix together the soup mix and broth. Pour over chicken and rice. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.


Corn Chowder



*      2 cans (16 oz) whole kernel corn, drained

*      2 to 3 medium potatoes, chopped

*      1 onion, chopped

*      ˝ teaspoon salt, pepper to taste

*      2 cups chicken broth

*      2 cups milk

*      1/4 cup butter or margarine



Combine first 6 ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours. Puree in a blender or food processor, if desired, then return to pot. Stir in milk and butter; cook on high about 1 hour more. Serves 6 to 8.

Chicken for a Crowd



*      18 to 24 chicken pieces

*      1 c. maple syrup

*      ˝ c. soy sauce

*      1 can whole berry cranberry sauce



Mix together maple syrup, soy sauce and cranberry sauce. Boil chicken pieces for about 7 minutes. Drain and place into slow cooker; add cranberry sauce and mix to cover all. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, then on low for 4 to 6 hours, until tender. Drain and serve.


Bachelor's Easy Stew



*      Stew meat or hamburger

*      1 can Carrots, drained

*      2 small Potatoes -- quartered

*      4 Cubes beef bouillon

*      1 tablespoon Italian herbs

*      2 cups water



Put all ingredients in the crockpot. Add water and turn on crock pot on LOW for 8 to 9 hours. Thicken with a mixture of flour and a little cold water, if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with biscuits.


Crock Pot Dressing



*      8-inch pan cornbread  8 slices day old bread, toasted and cubed

*      4 eggs

*      1 med. onion

*      ˝ c. chopped celery

*      1-2 tsp. sage or poultry seasoning

*      ˝ tsp. black pepper

*      2 cans cream of chicken soup

*       tbsp. butter or margarine



Lightly grease crock pot. Crumble cornbread into mixer bowl. Add all ingredients except butter. Pour into crockpot, dot top with butter. Cook on high 2 hours or on low 3-4 hours.


Enchilada Casserole



*      1 (14 oz.) can tomatoes

*      1 small chopped onion

*      1 clove minced garlic

*      ˝ tsp. ground red pepper

*      ˝ tsp. salt

*      6 oz can tomato paste

*      ˝ lb. ground beef, browned

*      1 can beans, drained

*      1 pkg. dry taco seasoning mix

*      2 cups shredded cheese

*       9 corn tortillas



Sauce: Blend tomatoes with onion and garlic in blender. Pour in medium saucepan. Add pepper, salt and tomato paste. Heat until boiling, then simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Place 3 tortillas in bottom of crockpot. Layer on tortillas 1/3 of ground beef, 1/3 tomato sauce and 1/3 Cheddar cheese, then 3 more tortillas. Repeat each layer 2 more times, ending with cheese. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours.



Green Chile Grits



*      2 cups regular grits

*      6 cups water

*      ˝ teaspoon paprika (optional)

*      ˝ to 1 teaspoon salt

*      4 to 6 oz chopped mild green chili dash cayenne

*      1 or more jalapeno chilis, seeded and finely chopped



Combine all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 9 hours or on high 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. If cooking on high add 1/4 to ˝ cup more water if too thick. Similar to polenta, you serve right away or you can refrigerate the mixture in a buttered loaf pan for a few hour or overnight, unmold, slice (˝ inch thick), and fry in butter until browned. Serves about 8

Ground Beef & Potato Meal



*      1 ˝ lb. ground beef

*      1 large clove garlic

*      1/4 tsp. pepper

*      ˝ tsp. thyme

*      6 med. potatoes

*      2 large onions

*      1 can cream of mushroom soup

*      ˝ c. water



Cook ground beef and garlic in skillet until lightly browned. Stir in pepper and thyme. Peel and slice potatoes and onions. Put ˝ potatoes and onions into buttered crock pot. Add browned beef and top with remaining potatoes and onions. Mix mushroom soup with water and spread over top of contents. Cover. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Squash Casserole



*      5 cups yellow squash, canned or frozen, or cooked and mashed

*      ˝ cup melted butter

*      1 can cream of chicken soup

*      2 slices cubed bread

*      1 cup sour cream



Place squash in slow cooker with butter and cook for 1 hour. Add soup as it comes from the can, and cook until hot. Add bread and sour cream and cook until bubbly.

Red Beans and Rice



*      1 pound small dried red beans, soaked overnight and drained

*      1 onion, chopped

*      3 cloves garlic, minced

*      salt and pepper, to taste

*      6 cups hot cooked rice

*      1 cup chopped green onions

*      1 ham bone, cracked



Place beans in crock pot and add remaining ingredients, except rice and green onions, with 1-1/2 quarts water. Cover and cook on high 2 hours. Turn heat to low and cook, covered, 10 to 12 hours. Remove ham bone and mash some of the beans against the side of the pot to thicken the remaining liquid. Remove meat from bone and return meat to pot. Season with salt, pepper and serve with rice, topped with chopped green onions.


Crock Pot Rice Pudding



*      2 ˝ c. cooked rice

*      1 ˝ c. scalded milk

*      2/3 c. white or brown sugar

*      3 eggs, beaten

*      1 tsp. salt

*      2 tbsp. vanilla

*      1 tsp. Cinnamon

*      1 tsp. nutmeg

*      ˝ c. raisins

*      3 tbsp. soft butter



Combine all ingredients. Pour into lightly greased crock pot. Cook on high 1 to 2 hours. Stir during first 30 minutes. Recipe can be doubled.

Split Pea Soup



*      3-1/2 cups. dried split peas

*      1 cup Carrots, diced in half inch sections

*      1 cup Onion, finely chopped

*      ˝ cup Parsnip; peeled and diced (optional)

*      ˝ cup Celery with leaves, chopped

*      1 teaspoon Dried thyme

*      ˝ teaspoon Salt

*      ˝ teaspoon Pepper

*       3 cans 13.3/4-oz. chicken broth

*      3 cups Water

*      large Smoked ham hocks

*      Garnish: Garlic croutons, chopped Parsley



In a 4- or 5-qt. slow cooker, combine everything except ham hocks and garnish. Add ham hocks, submerging them in mixture. Cover; cook on low heat setting for 8 to 9 hours., until peas are very soft. Remove ham hocks; skim fat from surface of soup. Trim fat from hocks. Cut meat from bones and shred; stir into soup. Ladle into 6 bowls. Garnish each serving with garlic croutons and parsley.