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Five of Seven
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If you want to cook foods which take a long time, but don't want to keep a fire burning for hours, here's one way to do it. I've had this project on my To-Do List for about 20 years and finally got around to making it. It evolved a few times from the original plan, but it does a good job of cooking peas, beans, etc. I've used it twice so far, and it retains heat well.


 

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Have you actually measured temp with a thermometer? I love the concept and was actually looking at a store bought version on amazon not too long ago. But many reviewers who had actually checked the temperature at different time intervals and reported it wasn't staying hot enough to keep bacteria from growing, so it was food poisoning waiting to happen. Yours looks a bit more insulated though. If it can be done safely I would love one!
 

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Five of Seven
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Discussion Starter #3
I meant to track the temperature the first time I used it, but I couldn't find my remote thermometer. I brought the pot to a rolling boil, dropped it in the bix, closed the lid and left it for 3 hours. When I opened it at 3 hours, the peas were cooked, so I took some out to eat then closed the box again. When I checked the pot 4 hours later, it was still too hot to leave my hand on the pot lid. I left it on the porch overnight, then checked it in the morning(15 hours after starting it). The peas were still hit enough to serve.
I've seen the bags on eBay, but they don't look very thick. I got the original idea for this from something Kurt Saxon wrote years ago, but he described a temporary cardboard box with straw or newspaper as insulation. I wanted something a bit more durable.
If I made another one, I'd probably build the wooden box(and make it lighter). I found this box and decided to recycle it.
 

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Have you actually measured temp with a thermometer? I love the concept and was actually looking at a store bought version on amazon not too long ago. But many reviewers who had actually checked the temperature at different time intervals and reported it wasn't staying hot enough to keep bacteria from growing, so it was food poisoning waiting to happen. Yours looks a bit more insulated though. If it can be done safely I would love one!
Concern over bacteria growth in such a situation MAY be overblown, depending on how the food is initially handled. If the food is initially brought to a temperature that pasteurizes *in the same sealed pot that is used in the hay bale cooker* then the time spent below those "safe" temps is largely irrelevant.

Consider the can of beef stew you see on store shelves. It is below "safe" temperatures and yet is perfectly safe for years because the contents have been cooked to a point that bacteria cannot survive and kept sealed from contamination.

In a hay bale cooker, once pasteurization has occurred, the few remaining hours below temp don't raise a significant risk if the container is sealed. However, if the pot is not sealable (like a pressure cooker) or the temps haven't been brought to safe temps for the required length of time, such cooking CAN be dangerous.

The margin for error on semi-sealing pots is based on common sense and your comfort level. I wouldn't worry as much about acid foods as some others.
 

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Verrrry interesting. I wounder how that would work with a pressure cooker to cook down the dog bones.
 

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We do basically the same thing without the premade box. We dig a hole and line it with rocks. Then build a decent fire with oak or hickory wood to build up coals and set the pot on them.. Cover it with dirt and walk off and forget it.. a few hours later your food will be done, still hot, and some of the best tasting food you can eat..
 

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I've cooked stuff at supper time, left it on the stove to cool over night and ate it in the morning cold, it takes quite a while for bacteria levels to get high enough to do any harm.
 

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If you want to cook foods which take a long time, but don't want to keep a fire burning for hours, here's one way to do it. I've had this project on my To-Do List for about 20 years and finally got around to making it. It evolved a few times from the original plan, but it does a good job of cooking peas, beans, etc. I've used it twice so far, and it retains heat well.


What kind of foam did you use, and how did you get it to not stick to the vessel when you removed it after the initial curing?
 

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This is the same consept as the "duplex fireless stove" manufactured in Muncie Indiana and used at the end of WW1 and beginning of WW2. I have one sitting beside me right now. I addition to what I see, they have 2 stones that are heated and placed one under and the other over the cooking pot. The pot you are showing looks exactly like the "duplex" pot!

Wade
 

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Five of Seven
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Discussion Starter #12

I used this foam. It was a bit sticky, but not too bad. I sprayed a layer of foam in the bottom of the box to hold the pot at the right height. I wanted the top of the pot even with the top of the box(below the lid). Then I cut the foam layer because it's hard to predict how much it will expand. I used the dried trimmings around the sides of the pot when I sprayed foam around it. I also had some trimmings from the lid. When I put the pot in the box and sprayed foam around it, I figured it would stick a little, but after it dried I just used a knife to cut around it. I thought about wrapping the pot in some non-stick aluminum foil, but it seems to work fine without it so far. The first couple of times I cooked with it a little foam stuck to the pot, but not enough to worry about.
Yes, I think the pot I used came from some kind of thermal cooker, but any pot could work as well, I think.
 

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" I, also, was wondering how you got the foam insulation to not stick to the pot!"

FWIW, heat candle wax in a double boiler, brush a liberal amount on the outside of the pot. Foam in place. Fill pot with boiling water and remove.

(edit to add: you may want to fill the pot with ice water and ice before foaming. The foam can get quite hot as it sets.)
 

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"Slick"
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To keep foam from sticking, you could also wrap with plastic cling film.
 
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