How to Use a Thermal Cooker (Plus 9 Recipes)


Lady Rain works as a daytime stock trader and writes about crafts and hobbies. She likes travelling and making papercraft models.

A thermal cooker

A thermal cooker

What Is a Thermal Cooker?

Basically, it's a very big vacuum flask that can cook and keep warm for hours without using power. Like a Thermos, it has a layer of vacuum insulation that helps retain the heat in the food for many hours. The heat cooks the food slowly in the same way as a slow cooker would. It's popularly known as the Magic Cooker, other names include Wonder Cooker, Eco Pot and Self Cooking Pot.

The best thing about a thermal cooker is that it continues the cooking process without using any electricity or gas. Slow cookers consume a lot of power and tend to dry up some of the liquid in the food. Sometimes food gets burnt at the bottom if it is left to cook for too long without being stirred.

Problems like these are not encountered in thermal cooking as the food will never dry up or get burnt. Once the food is inside, there is no need to keep checking or stirring the pot. Most meat will turn out tender, moist and cooked to perfection, while the vegetables and potatoes retain their shape and texture. No wonder it's called a magic cooker!

Thermal cooker with inner cooking pots.

Thermal cooker with inner cooking pots.

Different Models

Small models (3 litres) come with one stainless steel inner pot with a lid and one outer insulated pot. Most larger models (6 litres or more) come with two stackable inner cooking pots—one large pot and one small pot plus the outer insulated pot.

With two inner cooking pots, you can prepare two separate dishes simultaneously with one cooker. Try preparing a casserole in the large pot and rice in the small pot, or soup in the big pot and dessert in the small pot, or even make a cake in the pot. Some of my recipes for thermal cooking are included below for you to prepare some great dishes using a thermal cooker.

How to Use

There are only a few simple steps to cooking with a thermal cooker:

  1. Prepare the ingredients and put them into the inner cooking pot that comes with the cooker set.
  2. Put the inner pot on the stove and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the recipe.
  3. Turn off the heat and transfer the inner cooking pot from the stove to the outer thermal pot, close the lid and leave it to do the rest of the cooking. How easy is that? It will save you so much time and believe me, you will have more time to pamper yourself.

After the minimum required cooking time, the meal is ready to serve. Even if you are not ready to eat, the food stays warm for a few hours so you can always enjoy warm meals without having to reheat the food.

The bigger the cooker, the longer the food will stay warm. A six-litre cooker will retain heat for 8 to 10 hours, with a heat loss of 3 or 4°C per hour. The more liquid you have in the cooking, the longer the food will stay hot. The recommended instruction is to fill the pot with over 50% and up to 80% full with food and liquid. If you fill a six-litre pot with food, that amount might even be good for two meals for a small family.

The thermal cooker can also be used as a cooler because it retains the temperature of the food. It is great for storing chilled food like salad, desserts and ice cubes when bringing food outdoors in summer.

Food Safety Standards

The safe temperature for hot food should be above 60°C to prevent the risk of food poisoning, while cold food should be stored below 4°C. If any of the cooked food needs to be reheated, make sure it is reheated above 60°C to minimise the risk of food poisoning.

Advantages of Thermal Cooking

  • Cooking time on the stove is less than 20 minutes (yay!).
  • Great for casseroles and slow-cooker recipes.
  • Food stays moist and tender and vegetables retain their shape and texture.
  • The thermal cooker can be used for making cakes or muffins.
  • Food does not get overcooked, dried up or burnt.
  • Cooking can be done on the gas stove, electric stove and open campfire (great for camping).
  • Thermal cooking saves energy because cooking time on the stove is less than 20 minutes (definitely less money to pay when the gas bill arrives!).
  • No scrubbing of burnt food and less washing to do because everything can be served from the pot if nobody complains!

9 Thermal Cooker Recipes

Scroll down for the recipes!

  1. Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce
  2. Steamed White Rice
  3. Steamed Brown Rice
  4. Homemade Soy Yogurt
  5. Small Carrot Cake
  6. Easy Homemade Chicken Stock
  7. Special Chicken and Mushroom Rice
  8. Peanuts and Goji Berries in Beef Broth
  9. Hearty Mixed Bean Soup

Spaghetti Bolognese Sauce

Boiling Time: 10 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 30 minutes in the thermal cooker


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled, washed and chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 capsicum, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 4 button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 500g beef mince
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Fresh oregano, chopped finely
  • Fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil in the large pot.
  2. Sauté the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and garlic for a few minutes.
  3. Add in the mince and cook for several minutes.
  4. Add in the remaining ingredients and 1 cup of water.
  5. Bring the pot to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and transfer the large pot to the thermal cooker.
  7. Leave for 30 minutes and serve with cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese.

Steamed White Rice

Boiling Time: 2 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 30 minutes in the thermal cooker


  • 2 cups of uncooked white rice
  • 2-3 cups water (depending on the type of grain)


  1. Wash and rinse the rice to get rid of excess starch.
  2. Put the rice and water in the small inner pot and bring to a boil on the stove, stirring constantly.
  3. Let the rice boil on high heat for 1 to 2 minutes without stirring.
  4. Remove the pot from the stove and transfer it to the thermal cooker.
  5. Cover the lid and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Note: The small pot of rice can also be placed together with stew or soup in the larger inner pot and both inner pots are placed in the thermal cooker.

Steamed Brown Rice

Brown rice tends to take longer to cook in a normal pot and the cooking process seems a bit tricky most of the time. The grains absorb more water and dry up pretty fast, sometimes leaving the rice half-cooked or burnt at the bottom.

With the thermal cooker, cooking steamed brown rice is a breeze! Just follow the above recipe for steamed white rice. If you prefer very soft brown rice, add another half cup of water to the rice. You will get perfectly cooked fluffy brown rice.

Homemade Soy Yogurt

Cooking Time: A few minutes on the stove

Incubating Time: 6 hours in the thermal cooker


  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar or honey (not required if soy milk is sweetened)
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon commercial yogurt (with cultures)


  1. Mix cornflour with 2 tablespoons of soy milk until the cornflour dissolves.
  2. Pour the mixture and sugar or honey into the rest of the soy milk and heat in a small saucepan until just before it starts to boil.
  3. Set aside and allow to cool to lukewarm temperature.
  4. Add in the commercial yogurt cultures that will help to make the homemade yogurt.
  5. Stir and mix the cultures into the soymilk.
  6. Pour the mixture into a container to be incubated in the thermal cooker.
  7. Put a trivet in the pot and place the container on the trivet.
  8. Slowly pour hot water into the pot, be careful not to topple over the container of soymilk mixture.
  9. Continue pouring the water until it is about one inch high.
  10. Close the lid of the thermal cooker and let it stand for at least six hours.
  11. Check the yogurt and see if you have achieved the required tardiness.
  12. Once set, chill the yogurt in the refrigerator before consuming.

Note: This recipe can also be used for making normal milk yogurt. The cornflour ingredient is optional because yogurt made with milk is much thicker than with soy milk.

Small Carrot Cake

Boiling Time: 15 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 1 hour in the thermal cooker


  • 1 large egg
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup orange juice


  1. Mix the egg, oil, sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended.
  2. Fold in the carrots.
  3. Lastly, fold in the rest of the ingredients and add the water.
  4. Line the bottom of a small cake tin and grease the sides of the tin.
  5. Pour the cake batter into the cake tin (only half of the tin should be filled).
  6. Cover the top of the batter with baking paper.
  7. Wrap the cake tin with aluminium foil, allow a bit of room on top for the cake to rise, and tuck the sides of the foil under the tin.
  8. Put a trivet in the large inner pot and place the cake tin on the trivet.
  9. Pour water into the pot until the water covers the bottom half of the tin.
  10. Bring the pot to the boil and let it boil for another 15 minutes.
  11. Transfer the large inner pot into the thermal cooker.
  12. Leave the cake to cook in the thermal cooker for at least 1 hour.

Serve when you are ready to eat!

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

Boiling Time: 15 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 2 hours in the thermal cooker


  • 2 chicken frames/carcasses
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water


  1. Put all the ingredients in the 6-litre inner pot. Fill the pot with water, up to about 3 inches from the top of the pot.
  2. Bring the pot to a boil. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the inner pot to the thermal cooker and close the lid.
  4. Leave the pot of stock soup to cook for 2 hours in the thermal cooker.
  5. When the stock is ready, let it cool. Skim away the excess oil that is floating on top.
  6. Transfer the chicken frames to a large plate and try to remove all the chicken meat from the bones. Keep the meat in ziplock bags for freezing or use it immediately for stir-fry recipes.
  7. Pour the stock into containers for storing. The stock can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week or kept in the freezer for a few months. Use to prepare your favourite soup recipes.

Special Chicken and Mushroom Rice

Boiling Time: 5 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 30 minutes in the thermal cooker


  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • A handful of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced or cubed
  • 2 Chinese sausages (lapcheong), sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Heat up the oil in the inner cooking pot. Add in the sliced red onion and fry until fragrant.
  2. Add in the Chinese sausages and chicken. Fry until the sausages are slightly brown.
  3. Add in garlic, mushrooms, carrot, soy sauce and oyster sauce. Keep stirring until all the ingredients are cooked.
  4. Pour in the rice, water, salt and pepper. Bring the pot to the boil.
  5. If the water dries up a bit, add in more water so that it just covers all the ingredients.
  6. Continue boiling for 2-3 minutes. Put the lid on and quickly transfer the inner pot to the thermal pot.
  7. Cover the pot and leave to cook for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Peanuts and Goji Berries in Beef Broth

Boiling Time: 10 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 60 minutes in the thermal cooker


  • 3 litres water
  • 500 grams beef spare ribs
  • A handful of goji berries
  • 1 cup blanched peanuts
  • 1 dried cuttlefish
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Give the peanuts and goji berries a rinse to remove any dirt. Put them into the large inner pot of the thermal cooker.
  2. Cut the beef into chunks and put them in the pot.
  3. Wash the cuttlefish, discard the strip of hard bony bit that is on the body of the cuttlefish. Cut into strips with a pair of scissors and add the strips to the pot.
  4. Add in the rest of the ingredients (garlic, ginger, salt and pepper).
  5. Pour 3 litres of water into the pot, cover with the lid and cook on high.
  6. Bring the water to the boil. Lower the heat and let the broth boil for 10 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat, transfer the pot to the thermal cooker and let it cook for about 1 hour. The peanut broth will be ready to serve after 1 hour.

Hearty Mixed Bean Soup

Boiling Time: 10 minutes on the stove

Cooking Time: 45 minutes in the thermal cooker


  • 2 litres beef or chicken stock
  • 1 cup mixed beans
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 potato
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1 teaspoon mixed herbs
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Wash and rinse the beans in cold water.
  2. Cut the carrot, potato and celery into small cubes.
  3. Cut the onion into small pieces and fry them with a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan.
  4. Put all the ingredients into the large inner pot of the thermal cooker, cover with the lid and start cooking.
  5. Bring the pot to the boil, lower the heat and boil for another 10 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat and transfer the inner pot to the thermal cooker. Close the cooker and let it cook for 45 minutes.
  7. The soup will be ready in 45 minutes, or you can let it stay hot in the cooker until mealtime.

Questions & Answers

Question: Why does my carrot cake come out undercooked and over moist? Cooked twice with the same result.

Answer: If the thermal pot does not retain heat well enough, the cake could be undercooked. Next time, reboil the water after 30 minutes to bring the temperature up again.

Question: Where can I buy an inner pot for my Saratoga Jacks 5.5-liter thermal cooker?

Answer: Check with Saratoga Jacks if they sell inner pots separately.

Question: Can you reheat pre-made frozen meals in a thermal cooker?

Answer: Yes, a thermal cooker can be used as a steamer to reheat food. Pour some water in the inner pot and use a trivet at the bottom, then place the container of food on the trivet. Bring the water to a boil for five minutes and transfer the pot to the thermal cooker to continue heating for another 15 minutes.

Question: Can you quickly pan fry meat and then add Vegas and sauce as it continues the cooking process?

Answer: Yes, you can par fry your ingredients and then bring to boiling temperature before putting the pot in the thermal cooker to continue cooking.

© 2013 lady rain

Comments and Feedback Welcome!

Cheryl on June 15, 2017:

I love my thermal cooker. I throw dinner together before we take off in our RV. I put the thermal cooker in the sink with towels around it to keep it stable. By the time we get to our destination, dinner is done!

Jacqueline Neo on May 11, 2017:

Hi! Would like to ask if I fry vegetables at 6am and store it in the thermal pot till 6pm, will the vegetables turn bad?

Cindy Miller from Utah on March 28, 2017:

Great article with informative information. Thanks for sharing....I love my thermal cookers, I have several types. The Saratoga Jacks, Shuttle Chef, Wonder Bag and have even tried using this method in a cooler with blankets. They all get the job done, some more efficiently than others. :)

Mandy Ballenden on March 08, 2017:

I have an eco pot and love it. I am looking for Lemonade scone recipe to cook in it. Does anyone on here have a recipe for this.

Leah Smith on February 12, 2017:

We have one and its great for camping. These sites are great for recipes. Love mine. Doesn't take long to prepare and can relax or do as you please while it cooks.

Tuckers on December 27, 2016:

Very informative thank you

YC on October 31, 2016:

May I know what brand and model you are using?

Rebecca Paz on September 01, 2016:

I am using thermal cooking for years and it's really great and recommendable! I wonder if i can use thermal cooker for creme brulee?

Lia on July 30, 2016:

I have been using a thermal cooker for a year and I LOVE it! There's a brand called Tiger and Thermous that are better quality than the thinner inner pots someone mentioned. These brands are more expensive, but worth it! I make lentil soup and brown rice at the same time. The pot was used a lot on our last camping trip. I made dinner in the morning and it was so nice to open up the pot and have a perfectly cooked meal piping hot! The fuller the pot is the longer it can retain heat! I wish I would have known about this thermal cooker when my boys were little! It would have been very convenient and time saver. Gas is not expensive where I live, so that is not a concern! Good luck in the kitchen everyone!

Guest on July 01, 2016:

Can I use the thermal cooker only to keep the food hot? The soup will already be fully cooked.

Elaine on March 30, 2016:

Just started using this incredible cooking method. Had guests for dinner i served up lamb shanks all prepared in the morning and put in thermal pot to be ready for dinner. The most delicious shanks i have ever cooked. No fuss so easy. Pea and ham soup? Again minimum of effort can leave in pot all day without fear of overcooking. At Easter i had roast dinner. I only have regular stove and didnt want to have two roasts getting cold while baked vegies finishing off in oven. Just popped roasts in therml cooker to keep hot until serving..

lady rain (author) from Australia on February 06, 2016:

Olivia, I am glad you find the information helpful.

olivia carlin best on February 05, 2016:

thanks for the guide. it was helpful

lady rain (author) from Australia on November 02, 2015:

Taranwanderer, it would be great if you are able to whip up a delicious meal with a thermal cooker. I am sure the wife would be very impressed :)

lady rain (author) from Australia on June 24, 2015:

Annette, if you get a good quality thermal cooker, the larger inner pot should have a thicker base. Try lowering the heat if you have to cook for more than three minutes on the stove and add more liquid in the pot, that will prevent the food from burning. Hope that helps.

Annette on June 23, 2015:

Hi, I have a thermal cooker, with the two inner pots, and I have a terrible time with the food burning easily while it is on the stove for that initial cooking time, as the stainless pots are so thin. I would like to use this for when I go back to work soon, instead of my really big slow cooker, but this burning factor, and not really having many recipes for all day cooking, that my family likes, are big down points.

Dudley Jennings on April 13, 2015:

I have been using this versatile cooker for some years now and don't ever regret purchasing it. Such a time saver.

lady rain (author) from Australia on May 13, 2013:

livingsta, what I like about a thermal cooker is I don't have to worry about forgetting to turn the stove off or leaving the power on when I go out. Thermal cookers are definitely great for people who do not have a lot of time to do cooking.

livingsta from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:

This looks very economical.I did not know thermal cookers were this economical and so easy to finish the cooking process. You have even made a carrot cake with it. Wow! Thank you for sharing this with us. Voted up and sharing!

lady rain (author) from Australia on May 11, 2013:

randomcreative, thermal cookers have been around for many years and most people use them as outdoor cookware. They should get more popular in the future if people know how to use them in their home kitchen. These cookers are great energy savers, too. Thank you for commenting :)

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 10, 2013:

I had never even heard of a thermal cooker before. You learn something new everyday. Thanks for the great information and recipes! The thermal cooker looks like a very versatile kitchen tool.

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