Friday, March 23, 2012

Thermal Cooking 202. The Heat Retention Method using a Saratoga Jack Thermal Cooker

 Recently I was made aware of a new type of  Thermal Cooker called the Saratoga Jack. In the past I've covered the thermal cooking method (AKA the Heat-retention method) in my  Powerless Cooking Class Notes.  For more on this amazing cooking method look HERE. It's not, in fact, a new method!  If you want to learn more about the heat retention method I also recommend this e- book: Retained Heat Cooking ... the Wave of the Future Again .  It's only 55 pages and under 10$ and I learned A LOT from reading it. xoxo! Special thanks and hugs to author Leslie Romano!  I've used my  Solar Oven  as a sun-less thermal cooker! can be done. However, I really love this new Saratoga Jack because it's not encased in fabric in any way. That is something that has been bothersome in the past for me when cooking this way because I've needed to launder hay-basket fabrics and things. was really hard to adjust to a new cooker and have to figure out if it was going to stay hot and keep food at a safe temperature. That is something you have to do whenever you use a cooker like this. For the record. Check temperatures!

I love this cooker! It's the size of a crock pot with a 7 liter capacity. Yup...that's enough space to cook food for 6-11 people. 
 It has several pieces. Basically that thermal outer unit that clasps closed and then two pots with a lid that fit inside the outer unit. These are all stainless steel. Ahhh. No mess. Really that's a big perk in sanitation for me. The cooker does cost right around 100$, but the quality is such that I would not doubt that we'll have this unit for many years to come without any problems. 
One thing to be very alert and aware of when using a thermal cooker of any kind, is that it is very important to check the temperature of meals before serving to your family.  Some important safety guidelines for getting started are here

So for my first run, I decided to cook some whole grain KAMUT® in the smaller pot and in the large pot  on the bottom, cook some beans. I figured if those two basic staples could be done then I could do most anything! 
In the large pot I brought the dry white beans and pinto beans and water to a boil, covering with enough water to go 3/4 the way up the pot. Cover with the lid so it can get hot as well. That makes a difference. 
In the small pan I put KAMUT® and water and a little salt. Again, I'm going to do more with this but for my first run, I wanted a simple basic. I allowed the water to come to a full rolling boil and checked the temperature. 
The beans pot came to a boil as well. I let both of them boil about 4 minutes. Checking the temperature was around 212 degrees (yup...that also makes me sure my thermometer is calibrated correctly). 
Put the large pot in the thermal case, remove lid. The smaller pot perches perfectly inside the large pot.  cover the whole thing with the hot lid. Cover. Clasp lid closed. Walk away. In this case, it was 3 A.M and I was ready to fall asleep. So...I decided that I'd give it the full eight hours. I'm nice that way. Plus, I needed the sleep.  Another thing with cooking this way is that it's better to not open the cooker and "check it". Let it do it's thing. That "not checking" has been really hard for me in the past because I've been so worried about safe food temperatures. I still worry every time I use a thermal cooker. I'm just chef-like in that way I guess. However...I wanted a full science-type-experimental-run. If the folks at Saratoga Jack said it was okay to wait 8 hours, I wanted to see if it would really be hot and safe.
At 10 AM (ironically I'd been awake for several hours anyway) I checked the top pot of KAMUT®. The temperature was close to 165 degrees. A safe holding temperature.
Down below, I checked the beans. They too were still in a safe range. 
The KAMUT® was cooked perfectly and ready for breakfast! I was a happy girl. You know how I love my Whole Grain KAMUT®. Drizzle a little honey caramel sauce on that golden-happy-love-fest...and do a dance of joy.
The beans were tender and also perfect. 
At any rate, if you have any more questions, go see  the folks at Saratoga Jacks. I for one, am very excited to have this new little cooker around. I'm going to have a wonderful time with it. I can tell!

For some printable Thermal Cooking Food Safety guidelines go Here.

There you go. 
Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

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