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Old 07-09-12, 12:15 PM   #1
bennelson
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Default Thermos Cooking

Last night, I experimented with cooking in a Thermos. Worked pretty well, and didn't heat up my kitchen...


A couple of years ago, I got turned on to steel-cut oats. I had a chance to visit Scotland, only briefly, for my work. At the hotel, they served a breakfast buffet that included the best oatmeal I have ever tasted! It was a far cry from Quaker Instant Oats. This was REAL food, with actual flavor and body. Turned out that all it was is properly-cooked steel-cut oats, a Scottish traditional food.

Recently, I heard a radio program again reminding us all of how we eat too much processed food, and that when we are eating carbs, we really need to focus on whole grains, and keep them as unprocessed as possible.

That’s really all I needed to get back to eating steel-cut oats. Just a couple of problems. Steel-cut oats take FOREVER to cook, and we are in the middle of a heat wave. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to simmer oats in a pot for an hour or even have a crock-pot of oats warming my already hot kitchen all day.

I had been thinking about solar-cooking lately (using a recycled fresnel lens pulled from a junked projection television) and that got me thinking about other ways of “low energy cooking” that will feed me, yet keep the kitchen cool.

In our pantry, I have a couple of Thermos brand insulated food containers. Instead of being tall and skinny for coffee or other beverages, these stainless steel containers are short, with a wide mouth, almost like a pint Mason jar.

So, last night, I dumped a scoop of steel-cut oats into the bottom of the Thermos, boiled a cup of water for two minutes in the microwave, and then poured it over the oats. I gave it a quick stir, and then screwed on the lid and left the container on the kitchen table overnight.

Basically, the oats soak in boiling water overnight, thoroughly cooking them, and absorbing all the water. Unscrewing the lid in the morning, I had hot, delicious oats all cooked up and ready. Even better, I can eat right out of the container I “cooked” in, cutting my dirty dishes in half.

I was also thinking that this same technique would work great while camping. I’m really not much of a morning person, and starting a fire in the morning to cook is one more thing standing between me and breakfast. It would be very easy to simply boil a bit of water over the evening camp-fire and pour it over the oats. In the morning, you’d have instant breakfast. (And it would be actual food, not some brand-name powdered beverage called “Instant Breakfast”!)

This was also the first time in a long time that I didn’t automatically add butter, sugar, or cream to my oatmeal. If you are eating “quick oats”, it really needs those things to give it any flavor at all. The steel-cut oatmeal really had flavor and character, much the same way that real home-baked bread is in a completely different class that store-bought white bread.

What about you? Do you have a great cooking trick that adds convenience, yet allows you to work with wholesome traditional foods? Let us know!

-Ben

PS: I might have to try Thermos cooking with rice as well!

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Last edited by bennelson; 07-09-12 at 12:16 PM.. Reason: added photo
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Old 07-09-12, 02:14 PM   #2
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I don't eat oats, but I eat rice, and sometimes barley too, so I just might try this trick on a camping trip.
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Old 07-09-12, 04:46 PM   #3
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Breakfast here is usually either oatmeal made from steel cut oats or porridge made from brown rice. I add vegetables, yuba, soy sauce or dried and fresh fruit. I like the thermos idea. I'll have to give that a shot. I have the same thermoses. One thing I do which is similar is start the cooking process, like you mention, and then add miso. Over night it transforms rather radically. Even in the winter I'm not too concerned about the temperature of food. So if it's cool I'm happy. Really I think the best for this kind of thing is to use the heat from the pilot of the stove, if you have one, to help the process.
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Old 07-09-12, 11:39 PM   #4
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I haven't tried the vacuum bottle before, but I have cooked plenty of things by bringing them to a boil then turning it off and setting a towel over the top.
I also made tomato sauce the other day by putting everything in the crock pot and setting it outside to cool, it was 95F outside and I didn't want that heat inside my house! it all cooked down nicely and kept the heat outdoors.
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Old 07-13-12, 02:06 PM   #5
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Great use for a thermos!

The principle is an old one, popular in days gone by particularly in Eastern Europe.

There are books written on the subject... you might find recipes you'd like to try.

The old way was to use a straw-lined box and to put a heated pot with food in the box, to be eaten later in the day... then on goes the insulated box lid.

The idea was updated by lining the box with a loose sack containing styrofoam beads.

I've seen plans where people use their favorite pot (wrapped in plastic) as a form and filling the space around it with one-part foam, etc.

But just for breakfast, you really hit the sweet spot!

-AC

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