Hay Box Cooker




Introduction: Hay Box Cooker

pushin 40(50 now,where did the time go?) partialy disabled veteran, like to tinker with stuff, no...

Haybox or retained heat cooking is simply cooking a liquid based food like a soup or stew in it's own heat. During WWII cooking oil was rationed for the war effort this method became popular as a way to conserve cooking fuel. They used hay in a box because the air spaces in the hay trapped in heat and allowed the soup or stew to cook in it's own heat. Anything like hay, shredded news paper, rice hulls, cotton balls, corn husks etc will work as long as it packs loose and creats air spaces.

Step 1: Get a Container

Pretty much anything will do, i got this box at a army surplus store. A cardboard box will do as well, some people have even dug a hole in the ground and used that.

Step 2: Optional

If you have a wooden or metal box you might want to line it with that emergency blanket material, this helps trap even more heat.

Step 3: Get Your Material Ready

Get the material your using. In this case i use shredded newspaper because it's everywhere and it works well.

Step 4: Line the Box

Put a layer on the bottom of the box a bout 2 to 3 inches deep. This is what your stew will rest on.

Step 5: Prepare Your Soup or Stew

I don't have a pic for this step, but i hope it will be clear. Take the pot or kettle you will be using, make sure it has a lid, the tighter the fit the better. Put all the ingredients in the pot with water or broth,try to keep it as full as possible, the fuller the pot the larger the mass and therefore it holds more heat and cooks better. That's why this method is good for cooking for large amounts of people. Turn on the heat and get it to a roiling boil ( a good strong boil) and let it go for a bit. Some ingredients should be simmered for a time to increase the heat like beans, they should be simmered a bout 15 minutes after it boils. Potatoes or rice 5 or 10 minutes

Step 6: Put the Pot in the Box

After it's boiled for a bit put the box on the bottom layer of paper in the box. Make sure it's centered and stuff paper on the sides until it reaches the top of the pot.

Step 7: Finish Up

Make sure the lid is on good and put more paper on top of the pot, don't be shy with it either.

Step 8: The End

Now just shut the lid and walk away. This is fix and forget,4or 5 hours later it will be perfectly done and still hot for eating. This method won't burn food on the bottom either, i get it going at about noon and it's ready for supper.



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    41 Discussions

    This is how the Scots out with sheep and cattle would cook their oats: On the last embers of the night's fire, into a hay box overnight, then wake up to some perfectly cooked warm porridge in the morning!

    I dont see why you would want to do this, If you bring it to a boil on a stove. Why take it off? Only plus I see is less energy. Still in that sense, ill give it a plus.

    2 replies

    This type of cooking was used quite a lot during ww2 because cooking oil was a rationed item. This method allowed you to get the food cooked and save on fuel at the same time.

    the food can't burn, the cook won't get burnt, you don't have to stand over it in hot weather getting hot yourself, you don't get smoke in your eyes if you use wood, you won't have a child falling in the fire or onto the pot and if you save enough fuel to save some money up you might be able to buy some extra food or other necessities.

    I'm toying with the idea of making one, but I'm wondering if it can act more like a crock pot with the addition of heated bricks as an additional heat source. what do you think?

    3 replies

    I think there was an instructable where a gentleman used an old pressure cooker and put heated rocks in then whole chickens in foil (2 or 3) and more heated rocks on top put the top on and I can't remember if he put it in the ground or covered it with blankets, but it worked fine. I even bought a big one at a garage sale to try my self.

    if you get the bricks or rocks to hot they will melt the polyester. instead, try building a brick lined hole in the back yard. build a fire in it. to heat the bricks, put the pot over the fire to heat the food. after the fire dies down to coals place the pot IN the fire, cover with soil. leave covered til evening, uncover the pot, and serve the food. do be careful to keep the dirt out of the pot.

    Hmmmm, I never thought of that. I think it would work, maybe if the inside is lined with foil. Bricks or rocks retain quite a lot of heat for a long time. If you try it tell me how it worked.

    this would be great on camps etc. even on bikes, canoes etc. Get the meal started before you leave and the meal cooks while you ride/paddle. eat when you arrive.

    2 replies

    I have never been able to prove it , but some oldtimers think if it sloshes around to much it won't cook as well. I can't say for sure.

    the denser the soup, stew or meat the slower it looses heat.

    As a Scout, we tried this with a two gallon Dixie in a hole in the ground, lined with grass and straw. Made a beef stew with stewing beef, potato, carrot, onion, beef stock cubes and seasoning. Boiled it up for about 20-30mins on the fire, then into the hole, covered with more grass and the turf. Spent two or three hours playing football, larking about. On our return, opened it up - still hot and cooked beautifully.

    Save on fuel and time spent watching the pot boil!

    use an old ice box cooler (called an esky here in Australia not sure what you call them where you are) great use for one that the handles are broken on so no good to take camping/bbq etc, line with old sleeping bag - maybe one with a busted zipper and old blankets etc, wrap your hot pot in a towel and then all other insulating material, then into the cooler, close lid and leave it alone.

    Yes, ClayOgre, I used a pressure cooker for years in mine, till I burnt my pressure cooker (the haybox no doubt delayed that event for years, another of its advantages !).
    I see lots of questions about technique - lots of great ideas, there are also lots of ideas out there on the web, answer is, it all works !

    I have a book called "The Fireless Cook Book" 978-1-4290-1146-4 ISBN which is a reprint of a 1913 Drexel Institute book with instructions and recipes. It is still available.

    4 replies

    Check abebooks.com first. Much better prices almost all the time. Many books on fireless cookery.
    Today they have 140 million books for sale.