Have you ever heard the term Thermal Cooking before dear Readers?
It certainly wasn't a term I was familiar with until recently. Also known as Vacuum Cooking, it's a great method to create delicious meals while saving on time, energy and power bills
The nice people at Billyboil kindly sent me a unit to play with, no strings attatched regarding writing a review or plugging their product, but I was genuinely impressed with it's ease of use and overall performance and just couldn't help letting you know how great it really is and how easy it is to use
The Billyboil is a nice little unit that has an insulated outer pot that acts as a thermos maintaining temperatures for quite a long time, and an inner pot that's just like a regular saucepan or stockpot.
It's perfectly suited for 'Wet Dishes' like casseroles, curries or braising, but you can also use it to cook rice, pasta or even breads or cakes!
I thought the best way to try it out would be with a dish I'm comfortable and familiar with so I'd have something to compare it to at the end of the day
The recipe I decided to go with is pretty much my tried and true Sweet and Sour recipe. I blogged about it a few years ago here: Cooking En Masse It's actually still one of my favourite posts, as it shows a little about what I love to do and what it's like to put your food and heart on a plate :)
I have cut down the process a little and have chosen more store cupboard ingredients along with the fresh veggies as this is more suited to the style of the Billyboil with it's camping/mobile application where you might have limited pantry access
Sweet and Sour Pork
* If you aren't lucky enough to have a Billyboil on hand, you can of course cook it gently on the stove top, in a slow cooker, or even a pressure cooker if you're pressed for time
500gm diced Pork
large tin/440gm tin Australian Pineapple Pieces
1/2 cup gf Hoisin Sauce
1 tab Sesame Oil
1 tab Arrowroot Powder
375ml tetra pack Chicken or Veggie Stock
1 big tab minced Garlic
1 big tab minced Ginger
1 large Capsicum
1 large Onion
2 large Carrots
2 large Tomatoes
For those who don't know, this is arrowroot. It's a great thickening agent that sets clear, works well with acid and doesn't need to be boiled to thicken up- it's also gluten free
You can use any cut of pork, but I used fore quarter chops and just trimmed off the bone and fat. They are such an economical cut of meat and well suited for this style of cooking
Mix the ginger, garlic and sesame oil into the pork and let it marinate for a while. Overnight would be fine, but even just while you prep the veggies will be OK
Slice the veggies into nice bite size pieces. They don't need to be too thin as you don't want them to mush
Using the inner pot, brown off the meat in a little oil. I always like to do this to seal it and add a little extra depth of flavour, but you can skip it if you don't have the time
Add in all the veggies
Combine the pineapple with all the juice, hoisin sauce and stock together, then pour into the pot and mix through
Bring the pot to the boil, then simmer for about 10 or so minutes to bring the temperature of the contents up to a safe region
Yes, the pot is quite full- I was greedy and made a huge batch. With wet dishes like this I always make extra to add to my Freezer Meal stash for busy days. The recipe given above is more manageable with just a nice generous amount for 4 or 5 hungry people. The inner pot has a 3.5 litre capacity and as you can see I filled it right up
As I don't want to give anyone food poisoning, I took the temperature of my dish after simmering so I had a bench mark to compare it to before serving, it was definitely nice and hot indeed
Quickly add in the arrowroot dissolved into a little water, and stir to mix through
Pop the lid on, and then put the whole pot into the outer unit and close it up immediately
Now go and do whatever you want to do for pretty much the rest of the day. The Billyboil website claims the unit will retain it's heat safely for up to 8 hours, so far I've only tested it to 5 1/2, but with fantastic results
I left my meal for about 4 1/2 hours, and as you can see the temperature was still well and truly in the Safe Zone at over 80*C. I could have left it for a couple more hours if I was busy and it would still have been fine, but it was dinner time and the family wasn't prepared to eat at bedtime- even for the sake of scientific investigation. They can be difficult like that sometimes... :)
Cooking the meal the Billyboil way really does work indeed! It's such a lovely gentle method of cooking that results in tender meat, veggies that still hold their shape and structure, and sauce with a lovely clean, fresh taste. I can definitely see it becoming a fixture around my kitchen as it will save so much time, effort and energy!
You can see how convenient this little package is for caravanning adventures- just get it ready in the morning while you're still plugged in on-site, and you can have a nice hot meal at tea time without having to plug in or get a generator going. It's also handy for people like my parents who live on a rural property that can be regularly flooded in and suffer power blackouts.
Last year they had to go a whole week without power and had to cook everything over an open fire. The Billyboil would have been a godsend indeed, as it only needs to be on the heat for such a small length of time and would save so much fuel and effort
So Dear Readers, what's your favourite 'Wet Dish' and have you heard of Thermal Cookers before?
Thanks to the nice guys at Billyboil for sending me one of their products to play with! For more information, or to find out where to buy a Billyboil of your own, check out their website Here
to answer any questions you might have about this energy efficient cooking style