Looking for recommendations/information/opinions regarding thermal cookware like Air Core, Kuhn-Rikon DuroTherm, Thermos Vacuum Thermal Cookers, and the cheaper Sunpentown. -- These are the kind of pots that have multiple layers of stainless steel (or a second, outer, insulated container the stainless pot can go into), and some sort of vacuum sealing method, so all you have to do is heat ingredients, seal them up, and they cook as if they were in a slow cooker, but with no electricity or additional heating required.
Do these things really work? And, if so, do they work well enough to thoroughly cook things like short ribs which would normally take a good 3 or 4 hours on the stovetop? If so, what are the best brands? And I've read some reports online of AirCore pots exploding. Anyone have any experience with that?
My mom uses one of the Zojirushi (or maybe it's a Tiger) thermal cooker to make chinese herbal soup, she seems to like it. She also uses it to keep congee warm. I think it might work well for a slow simmer soup...don't think it would work well for a hearty stew type meals.
Mom gave me a smaller cheap no name thermal cooker (aunt got it as a freebie at her bank). It looks like the thermos one except the insulated container is plastic. It's really just a big thermos, doesn't really cook at all...but great for making yogurt.
I have a 4.5 litre Thermos shuttle chef and it's awesome! Even after 10 hours, when I open it, you can still see the steam coming off the surface of the food. I believe that the Shuttle Chef is the same as the Thermos Nissan Cook & Carry. Shuttle Chef is the European name, while the latter is the U.S. name (could be wrong - this was from my research a few years ago)
I also have a smaller (2 litres), cheaper brand one - I don't think it's as good as the Shuttle chef, but I read somewhere that the smaller ones in general are not as efficient as the bigger ones where heat retention is concerned.
There are a couple of things to note -
- Water will cool faster than a thicker liquid, and the pot will work best if it is close to full, because a large air pocket will cause heat to dissipate faster.
- You need to make sure your contents are heated through properly before putting them in the pot. If you have something with chunks of meat in it simmering on the stove for 10 minutes, that's not long enough because the centre of the meat will still be cold, contributing to the general cooling of the contents from within. I think this is where novices often fail. Also large masses like a pot roast, for this very reason, are not recommended for this method of cooking. But I think short ribs would probably be ok, as long as they were heated sufficiently to start with.
I love them for their portability and energy efficiency. Great for camping or road trips where you can have a stew cooking in the boot all day to be ready when it's dinner time that evening.
You can even cook a cake in one - though it's something I've never tried :)