The haybox, also known as the straw box or insulation cooker, is a great way to slow cook when you have a full day in the garden or camping and want to conserve energy. If you are homeschooling or like to experiment, this is your box!
The haybox is a thermally insulated box that utilises the heat of the food being cooked to complete the cooking process.
The haybox isn’t a new thing. Karl von Drais first invented it in the 19th century. It became popular in World War II as it didn’t need to use vast amounts of the rationed cooking fuel. The haybox is believed to save up to 70% of gas or firewood. The haybox has made a comeback in countries where firewood is scarce.
Hay was initially used when making the box. Shredded newspaper, rice hulls even corn husks also work as long as it packs loose and creates air spaces. The air spaces trap the heat in the box, so the soup or stew cooks in its warmth.
To make the box you will need:
- Two thick cardboard boxes that fit inside of each other or a wooden box and a cardboard box.
- Lightweight insulating material either old newspapers, straw, rice husks, repurposed styrofoam, pieces of fabric or wool.
- White glue and scissors.
1. Calculate the size of the inner box according to the size of the pan you will cook with. Make sure that one box enters the other with a distance of at least 10 cm between them. In this space goes the insulating material. So if you are using cardboard boxes, you need to place straw inside one box then fit the other box into the first box.
Adding some zing to my haybox.
I repurposed an old wooden file box. I reused an old calendar to create a funky look. Instead of using hay in between the 2 boxes, I recycled styrofoam and glued it to the box.
Remember, if you are using two cardboard boxes, lightly pack either shredded straw, newspaper or other materials collected into space between the boxes, making sure that it reaches the bottom of the box.
2. A cardboard box was then moulded into the box.
3. Now place some straw in the bottom of the box. This is what the pot will snuggle into.
4. Prepare the vegetarian stew or soup on a conventional stove. As a general rule: Boil soft foods (vegetables) for 3 to 5 minutes. Boil then simmer “hard” foods (beans or meat) for 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the stove and place immediately in the hay box, nesting it into the hay.
6.Place the lid back on the box. Go about your business. Do not open to stir the pot for at least 4 to 5 hours. If you open the box it will lose heat. If you put food in the early morning, it will be ready for lunch!
Before you serve
To reduce the risk of contamination, return the food to the heat and boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.
- On a conventional cooktop, boil one cupful of red lentils. Season to taste and simmer for approx. 15 minutes.
- Add some roughly cut carrots, potatoes and onions, tomatoes and fresh beans. Simmer for five more minutes. Add herbs to taste.
- Remove from the cooktop and place directly into the ha box. Cover with the hay or a towel and place the lid. After 2 to 3 hours, remove the pot and put it on the conventional cooktop. Boil for 5 minutes.
When serving, season to taste with black pepper.
Create your haybox, experiment, and tell us how it went.
The haybox can be integrated into homeschool activities. Chapter V of the Planet Schooling – How to create a permaculture living laboratory touches on the subject of the harvest, origin of food, eating your way to health, drying fruit and eating flowers! Purchase your copy here!