Steps to Successful Meals
Here are a few tricks we always recommend for success and safety while using our thermal cookers, no matter what you make.
ONE: Always make sure all ingredients are thawed.
Frozen food will cause the temperatures to drop abnormally faster inside your thermal cooker. Use fresh or completely thawed ingredients to ensure an even heat retention during your slow cook.
TWO: Always make sure your ingredients are covered in liquid and can be brought to a constant hard boil first to start cooking.
This means that your meal may start out looking more like a soup with a watered down sauce. However, this ensures everything will get to an even heating point. After the meal has been at a hard boil for at least two minutes we recommend that you stir in a thickening agent like gravy packets, or cornstarch. Boil for another two minutes before pulling your cooking pots off your heat source and placing them in the outer thermal unit. Your food will continue to slow cook throughout the day.
Example: In the case of something that is supposed to be saucy, like teriyaki chicken, we start with our pieces of chicken boiling in watered down teriyaki. Once it is to an even hard boil, we add more teriyaki sauce. We have added a bit of corn starch in order to thicken the sauce. Let it boil while stirring for a couple more minutes. Put it in the thermal pot to finish its slow cook and turn off your power source.
THREE: To get the maximum slow cook time make sure you always have the thermal cooker as full as possible.
Air is the enemy to heat retention. The less airspace you have inside your pots of boiling food, before you place the cooking pots into the thermal cooking unit, the better the thermal cooker performs. This is why we offer both sizes of the Saratoga Jacks thermal cooker. The 5.5 Liter model feeds 3-5 people. The 7 liter feeds 6-10 people. Because you are filling the cooking pots to capacity, and not wanting to waste food, use the appropriate size for your needs.
FOUR: Check the temperature of your meal before serving to ensure safe serving temperatures.
When your food is at a hard boil it is around 212 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take a few degrees at varying altitudes). A good “slow cook” occurs when you can sustain your food above 170 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours. You can do this in your cooker, by trapping the thermal energy off the boil, in the insulated thermal unit. Be careful when opening the unit as it can be very hot! Safe serving temperatures, according to the US commercial kitchen guidelines, are between 145 & 170 degrees Fahrenheit. It is the responsibility of the cook to test the temperatures to ensure food safety. Once the temperatures cool down to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the cook must either reheat or refrigerate, as they should always do with any leftovers from any other method of home cooking, as well. For information on food safety visit USDA.gov and go to the food safety section.
FIVE: If dinner is at six get it started and in the thermal cooker at the appropriate time.
Slow cook recipes, like pot roasts, take up to eight hours. Make sure you plan ahead for enough time to make that happen. Other recipes like soups and stews, especially ones made from prepacked dehydrated or freeze dried soup mixes, don’t need as much time.