A few weeks ago, several of our authors met up on a Saturday to test out some stoves we were given to review. Jayce will be posting some information and pictures on those soon. The subject of this post was an unexpected surprise to me. At our meet up were the owners of Saratoga Jacks, a local company that imports and sells high quality thermal cookers.
After the break you’ll find a complete unboxing and review of the 7 liter Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cooker as well as an introduction to thermal cookers and why they matter to preppers.
First things first, here are some pictures documenting the unboxing process.
Once the box is opened, there is an instruction sheet with some bad English translations. We’ve been told that a new set of instructions and a recipe book will be included in any cookers purchased in time for Christmas. The cooker is cradled by an upper and lower piece of Styrofoam to protect it while in the box.
What is a Thermal Cooker?
So, if you are like me you are wondering what a thermal cooker is and how does this fit into being a prepper? A thermal cooker is essentially a crock pot that does not use any electricty or fuel source to cook food. Given that cryptic explanation you might be asking yourself how this works. To illustrate this, let me explain how we recently cooked a nice dinner in our cooker. You might also want to review a post Jayce did several years ago on cooking oatmeal and cereals in a Thermos.
We started off by putting some rice in the small pot with some water. Next we put some chicken, chopped vegetables, potatoes and some stock and spices into the larger pot. Both pots were put on our gas stove and brought to a hard boil. After boiling for about 4 solid minutes we pulled both pots off the stove and placed them in the thermal cooker, sealing the lid.
Six hours later we opened up the cooker and had a nice, piping hot meal from straight from the cooker. The cooker is a highly insulated container which due to its insulation efficiency loses very little heat over time. When you place a partially cooked but hot meal into the cooker then seal it, the heat is contained in the cooker and the contents continue to cook due using the thermal mass of the meal itself.
From a prepper perspective this allows for a very efficient use of fuel. Rather than simmer something on the stove for hours you can instead minimize the amount of fuel consumed by putting the pots into the thermal cooker after a few minutes of heating. Your camping stove for example would be on for 5 minutes rather than for 40 minutes. We’ve also found that this is a great way to prepare food in advance to take along with us.
If we know we will be traveling for several hours we can prepare a meal in the thermal cooker and bring it along with us. After several hours, when it is time to eat, the meal has fully cooked without the need for continuous fuel use. This also removes the worry of leaving a crock pot on during the day while you are away. I don’t like to do this as it presents a possible fire hazard. A thermal cooker eliminates this concern for my family.
I don’t have direct experience with some other competing thermal cookers, but I do know that this product is made well from quality components. There are currently two sizes available, a 5.5 liter and a 7 liter model. In order to reduce heat loss to the air, you want to be sure to use the correct sized model for your needs. A partially filled cooker will not maintain heat with the same efficiency as a full cooker due to heat loss into the air gap above a partially full cooker.
The Thermal Cooker also makes for a nice cooler. In the same way that the cooker’s insulation seals in the heat, it can be used as a cooler to keep things cold for reasonably long periods of time. This provides a secondary usage for this tool and helps us to limit uni-tasker devices in our preps.
The 5.5 liter model will cook a meal for 3-5 people while a 7 liter will hold a meal for 6-10 people. You’ll want to use the model that fits the size of the meal you are cooking. Sometimes it isn’t convenient to cook a larger meal just to fill a cooker, and I don’t want to have to buy two cookers to handle both small and large meals. To that end I hope that Saratoga Jacks comes up with an add on to the 7 liter model perhaps consisting of an insulated sleeve and a small pot that would allow you to efficiently cook a smaller meal in the larger cooker without needing to purchase a complete cooker.
Word of Caution
One additional note that perhaps doesn’t need to be said. The thermal cooker is NOT meant to be heated directly. You heat the inner pots OUTSIDE the cooker, then place the hot pots into the cooker. The cooker has plastic components which will melt should you attempt to put the cooker over a flame or other heat source. Heat the pots, not the cooker! :)
Overall my wife and I have both enjoyed using this new tool. It has the potential to save us money on gas and electric bills and can reduce fuel consumption in an emergency. If you are interested in this, give them a call. If there is enough interest we may try running a group buy as well to save our readers some cash on these cookers.. Please post a comment below and we can answer any questions you might have about this review.