THE ELECTRIC KITCHEN
Thermal cookers provide alternative to the slow-cooker
We had heard about the thermal cooker, a device that acts as a slow-cooker but uses no additional energy once the inner pot is brought to a rolling boil on the stovetop. It's supposed to cook using heat retained by placing the inner pot into a well-insulated outer pot.
Imagine that - a slow-cooker that has no plug-ins or temperature controls and uses no additional energy. This sounded like a great concept, but we had our doubts, particularly concerning food safety. So we turned to the experts at the Hawaii Department of Health Sanitation Branch and asked for their assessment. A summary of their views:
» The appliance is safe to use if the manufacturer's recommendations are followed.
» With its heavy insulation, food should remain safe inside for up to 12 hours. Some dishes could hold longer if the liquid is thicker, or more viscous, than water.
» The ingredients in the pot must reach an internal temperature of 203 degrees on the stovetop before the inner pot is transfered to the insulated outer pot.
» Dishes must be liquid-based, such as stews, chili, curries, gravies or soups - not large chunks of meat.
» Do not use frozen meats or poultry. Even if liquid boils around these meats, they might still be frozen. This would greatly affect holding time and leave meats undercooked.
The thermal cooker can't completely replace the standard slow-cooker, since you can't use it to prepare a large piece of meat, such as a pot roast. But it can replace the slow-cooker for liquid-based recipes that require simmering.
We tested the thermal cooker on our favorite recipe for Sweet-Sour Spareribs. The result? We were amazed and impressed that the cooker managed to simmer the pot of ribs to tender perfection in one hour.
Three additional features add to its convenience:
» Thanks to the cooker's sealed, insulated pot, foods stay warm and transport easily.
» The inner pot is made of heavy stainless steel, which allowed us to sear the meat at high temperatures on the stove and use the same pot in the thermal cooker - true one-pot cooking!
» No need to worry about a heat-generating electrical appliance being left unattended.
Thermal cookers are available at Marukai, Shirokiya and Don Quijote stores and come in sizes from 4.5 to 8 liters - perfect for small to large families.
These recipes are written for standard cooking on a stovetop or in an oven. To adapt them for a thermal cooker, use the same ingredients and follow the same steps, using the inner thermal pot.
Bring ingredients to a boil, making sure the internal temperature of the meat reaches 203 degrees (this may require 10 minutes of boiling). Place the inner pot into the insulated outer thermal pot; seal and let sit for the same amount of time as called for in the original recipe.
5 pounds spareribs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 small pieces ginger, crushed
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Cut spareribs into 1-1/2-inch pieces. Sprinkle with soy sauce and flour; mix gently.
In large saucepan, heat oil. Brown spareribs with garlic and ginger; drain fat.
Add remaining ingredients and simmer 55 minutes to 1 hour. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 900 calories, 62 g total fat, 21 g saturated fat, 185 mg cholesterol, 1,300 mg sodium, 41 g carbohydrate, no fiber, 35 g sugar, 41 g protein
2 pounds oxtail pieces
2 quarts water
2 large carrots, in 2-inch pieces
1 cup shelled raw peanuts
5 dried red dates
2 teaspoons salt
Put oxtail pieces into large sauce pot; add water to cover. Boil 5 minutes; drain and rinse oxtail pieces.
Add 2 quarts water and remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to boil; simmer 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 250 calories, 17 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 800 mg sodium, 8 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 18 g protein.
Baked Beans with Portuguese Sausage
1 pound Portuguese sausage
1 can (1 pound, 15 ounces) pork and beans
1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark molasses
1 tablespoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook sausage in water 10 minutes; drain and slice.
Put sausage, beans and onion into 3-quart baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients and stir into bean mixture. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour. Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 350 calories, 14 g total fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 1,250 mg sodium, 45 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 23 g sugar, 16 g protein
Hawaiian Electric Co. presents this weekly collection of recipes as a public service. Many are drawn from HECO's database of recipes, accessible online at www.heco.com