Some time ago I purchased a Wonderbag “electricity free” slow cooker and then got nervous and never used it. That could be the end of the story, except that when Dave and I bought a cute little teardrop trailer I could not stop thinking about how nice it would be to only have to heat a stew for 10 minutes on the little stove, pop the pot in the Wonderbag, hitch up and drive for four or more hours, and then stop for a hot meal at a Rest Area. I also thought of a similar scenario with going for a long hike and returning to camp to devour cooked food. So this weekend I pulled out the Wonderbag and tested it. The rest of this blog post is about that test and if its TL;DR I’ll just tell you, the test was a success and I super recommend the Wonderbag to anyone wanting to save resources! If there’s something specific you want me to test cook in the Wonderbag, I’m open to suggestions. Leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!
The first thing to know about the Wonderbag is that it is BIG. I had previously unpackaged it, massaged it, and allowed it to inflate to full size (a process that is fascinating to watch), so I knew I needed to clear significant counter space for it or plan to tuck it somewhere on the floor.
In order to cook food in the Wonderbag you’ll have to heat a pan and the liquid in the pan up to boiling (generally for 10 minutes, but they also say 5 for grains, so I’m not sure why 10). I did this on the stove starting with a cup of unsoaked pinto beans with water and baking soda, which is my normal combo. I chose beans because, if they didn’t work I wouldn’t feel like I wasted a lot on an experiment. Also beans are either cooked or not, there’s really no in between. I chose a small amount because that’s apparently a limitation of the cooker. It does larger amounts better, I’m guessing that has to do with thermal mass. I used my 6-quart enameled cast iron dutch oven, so it was a tiny amount of food for such a big pot and I brought it to a boil for 10 minutes on the stove.
After boiling for 10 minutes into the bag it went!
At that point Dave and I went for a hike on Sandia Crest, ran a couple of errands, and then came home starving! The stakes were high; would the beans be ready? We talked about what we were going to have with the beans while we drove home. We were HUNGRY. The decision was made to have sausage and veggies along with the beans. I left the bag closed while I cooked up the other foods. It really looks like a big pumpkin when it’s all closed up.
After cooking up sausage and veggies, I opened up the bag and found perfectly cooked beans! YAY!
With sauteed zucchini, poblanos, sour cream, and a bratwurst it made a perfect meal.
This experiment was a grand success and I feel like I’m ready to start using the Wonderbag more frequently. This weekend I’m going to test it out while camping and, while I don’t think it will be very different, I’ll report on that too.
Some final thoughts:
1) Using it while camping in our t@g camper trailer will not be that different. I guess the biggest hurdle will be stashing it somewhere that no critters or nosy people will try to open it up. I’m thinking that I could put it in the galley and close the galley up.
2) Cooking with the Wonderbag is NOT technically fuel (electricity/gas) free when using it in tandem with a stove. In my environment it could probably be paired with a solar oven for totally fuel free cooking. (I mean, minus materials and manufacturing energy use.) That being said, 10 minutes on the stove as opposed to 2 hours for a pot of beans is super worth it. The utility of the Wonderbag increases exponentially when I’m boondocking (using my trailer without power) because of the decrease of propane use and the ability to leave the campsite while cooking (not to mention the ability to cook while driving).
3) Dave reports that washing the dutch oven after use was a dream. Because of the method of cooking no food stuck to the bottom of the pan at all.
4) I can’t wait to run more experiments with this puppy. If you have a special request please leave it in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.
5) The directions say that its a good idea to put a trivet or hot pad under your pot before putting it in the Wonderbag. I forgot to. Everything was fine.
6) This will really only work for grains, stews, and soups and you’ll likely want to reduce the amount of liquid you add. There is no evaporation after the first 10 minutes, so liquids will not reduce.