Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Haybox Cooking - also known as retained heat cooking

What is a haybox? It’s basically an insulated box in which you place your partly cooked food. The heat energy held in the pot and the food completes the cooking process without any external heat input.

Haybox cookers are so called because the early versions used hay as insulation. It is also referred to as fireless cooking or retained heat cooking.

Various forms of haybox cookers are used widely in the developing world to cut down on the use of firewood. This saves time spent in gathering fuel and helps reduce deforestation. Conservative estimates of fuel saving vary from 30 – 50 %.

The following extracts are from the book "Haybox Cooking - saving energy with Fireless Cookers" which is available from Amazon.


Cooking with a haybox needs more planning than conventional cooking. They also cannot be used for high temperature cooking such as baking or frying. However, when one has got used to this there are many advantages to using one.

Fuel saving: Using a haybox can easily save up to 50% of the energy required to cook food. This is because instead of the heat from a saucepan being lost it is trapped by the insulation and used to heat and cook the food. The energy saving is the same whether it is gas, electricity, wood or charcoal.

Tasty, nutritious food: The slow cooking in a Haybox retains much of the flavours and nutrients in food.

No risk of burning food: When cooking on a fire, sometimes food needs to be left to simmer on a low heat. This has to be frequently checked and the food stirred to prevent burning at the bottom. With a haybox, the heat is directed to the pot from all sided and there is absolutely no risk of burning. The food can be left unattended till it is needed.

Reduce water usage: When food is simmered on a fire, much water is lost. However, when cooking with a haybox the water in the pot is retained and less water can be used. For example one uses two cups of water to a cup of rice when cooking on a fire. With a haybox this can be reduced to one a half cups of water to a cup of rice.

Only one fire needed: When cooking a variety of food (e.g. potatoes, vegetables and meat) on a stove top, at least three fires are needed. With a haybox this can be done with a single fire. Each item can be brought to the boil and then placed in the haybox, freeing up the flame for the next dish.

Convenience: With food left cooking in a haybox, there is no need to reheat food – it is ready steaming hot when you need it. It works like a slow cooker without an external heat input.

Reduces smoke inhalation: In many developing countries, open fires are used for cooking food. The smoke from these fires has been shown to result in many breathing related diseases. Using a haybox means less time spent leaning over a smoking fire and reduces this risk.


Haybox Cooking - Save Energy with Fireless Cookers

Fireless Cookers, Haybox Cookers & Retained Heat Cookers


A well constructed haybox can keep food temperatures well above 65 deg C after 3 hours. There are a number of factors that determine the effectiveness of a haybox.

Insulation: The thickness of the insulation is very important to the working of the haybox cooker. If kapok, polystyrene or cork is used, this must be at least 5 cm (2 inches) thick all round the pot. If straw, newspaper, cotton or chaff is used as insulation then it is good to aim for a thickness of around 10 cm (4 inches).

Thickness of pot: A thicker walled pot works better than a thinner one as it retains more heat. This will then slowly release heat while in the haybox and help cook the food and keep it hot for longer.

Lid: It’s important to have a tight fitting lid on the pot to reduce evaporation and heat loss. One can also wrap the pot in a towel before putting it into the haybox – this will help keep the lid on tight. When heating the ingredients up before putting it in the haybox make sure the lid is on the pot. This way the lid heats up to the same temperature as the pot. Putting a cold lid on a heated pot will lower the overall temperature.

Amount of food in pot: The pot needs to be at least 3/4 full of food to ensure that the food temperature remains above 70 deg C after 3 hours. If the pot is only a 1/4 full then after 3 hours the temperature could be as low as 55 deg C and the food will need to be heated up before eating.

Checking on the food: Fight the temptation to keep checking the food. Every time the lid is opened heat will escape from the pot thus slowing down the cooking process. Just trust the cooking process and leave things to cook in the retained heat.

For more advise on haybox cooking including food safety and delicious recipes check out our book which is available from Amazon and also from our website (for UK shipping only)

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