This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
A fireless cooker is a contrivance for completing the cooking of food by retaining in it the heat received from a short cooking over a fire. It consists of a box with a hinged lid, containing mineral wool or other non-conductor of heat packed so as to fit around one or more cooking utensils. Hay, sawdust, or crumpled newspaper is often used for packing in home-made fireless cookers. The fireless cooker not only saves fuel, but saves time and trouble by making it possible to leave the food to cook without attention from morning till dinner-time or overnight. It is most satisfactory for foods which need long, slow cooking, which are not hurt by over-cooking, and which need not be crisp and brown, such as cereals, soups and stews, beans, boiled ham, and all dishes which may properly be steamed. Water can be kept hot in it. A fireless cooker is used most economically when gas or oil is used to start the cooking.
The pail covers must fit tight and the pails must fit the nests. The pads, if used, must fill the space between the box-lid and the top of the pails. The pail should be nearly full of food. If the quantity is too small, put it into a pan or small cooking-utensil made for the purpose which fits into or over the rim of the pail; and cook some other food in the pail, or fill the pail with hot water. The pan must be tightly covered.
Have the cooker near the stove. Let the food begin to cook in the dish in which it is to go into the cooker. Liquids and foods in particles need only be brought to the boiling point. Foods in larger masses must be boiled from five to ten minutes to heat them through. Open the cooker before taking the food from the fire. Cover the dishes, after placing one inside another if necessary.
Put them quickly into the cooker, put on the pads, close and fasten the lid at once. Keep closed till food is to be served. If opened, the food must be re-heated to boiling and put back.
Fireless cookers may be bought fitted with aluminum utensils and soapstone or metal plates to be heated and placed on and under the utensils. With these plates, food can be baked on a rack or roasted in a utensil.
A combination gas range and fireless cooker is now on the market. The oven is surrounded by non-conducting material so that after the food has begun to cook the gas may be turned off and the cooking completed in the oven without applying more heat. One of the top burners, set above a soapstone slab, has a hood which converts it into a second smaller fireless cooker.
Cooking by electricity is the most convenient of all methods, and the least wasteful of heat. With proper wiring there is no danger from fire. The current is either conveyed directly to each utensil or to a disk on which the utensil is placed. There is no fuel to be handled, no waste products to be removed. The heat is easily controlled. Electric toasters and chafing-dishes are seen upon many tables. But the apparatus, and in many places the current, is too expensive to be generally used. We may look forward, however, to the time when the cost shall be so reduced that cooking by electricity will be common.
For further development of topics treated in this section see: -
Snell: Elementary household chemistry. Ch. 9, 10, 11, and 12. Snyder : Chemistry of plant and animal life. Lassar-Cohn: Chemistry in daily life. Lectures 1 and 2.
Earle : Home life in colonial days. Ch. 3, The kitchen fireside.
Kinne and Cooley: Foods and household management. Ch. 3, Fuels and stoves. Morgan and Lyman: Chemistry. Green : Coal and the coal-mines. White : Fuels of the household.