I love to cook and try new gadgets. Recently, Wonderbag caught my attention. It’s advertised as a portable non-electric slow cooker. I was intrigued that I could cook in my kitchen with no electricity–think of what a game changer this is, People. Food made in a sustainable product that’s saving not only our home’s energy but the planets?!
The Wonderbag works without electricity as I mentioned. It’s a cloth bag that is machine washable on the gentle cycle. It is filled with a temperature-controlling material so it can also double as a cooler (hello, Ice Cream!).
I work outside the home. I have been a fan of the crockpot since the early 1990s. I like the convenience of having dinner ready when I am without much effort. We accumulated quite a few favorite crock pot recipes like Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Hot Cocoa, and EASY Crock Pot Lasagna. Over the past few years, my crockpot has been collecting dust because I switched to the Instant Pot, where I can make a meal for my family in less than an hour.
While I am a fan of both the crockpot and the Instant Pot, the Wonderbag offers a few things neither of these does. The Wonderbag is completely “set it and forget it”. There’s minimal prep work, just like with the crockpot and Instant Pot (browning meat, for example). The Wonderbag does require you to bring the entire meal to a boil for 5-20-minutes depending on the recipe, but beyond that, it’s doing its own thing without your supervision.
The Wonderbag uses heat-retention cooking. It’s an age-old cooking method. Its basic concept is bringing your food (soup, stew, grains, beans, etc.) to a full-boil using an outside heat source. Then you cover it and place it in your heat-retention cooking–in this instance, your Wonderbag. The insulation of the cooker maintains the high temperature and continues to cook the food without additions resources (electricity, firewood, gas).
The cost of a Wonderbag is $50. The cost also gifts a Wonderbag to an African home. Wonderbag markets their cooker: Buy one, give one. Every time a Wonderbag is sold, another Wonderbag is given to a household in Africa. While in my home, the Wonderbag is allowing me to work, or run my children between Drama and Robotics practice, and have dinner ready when we walk in the door, for a family in Africa, a Wonderbag can be life-changing. Consider these benefits to an African Family (from the Wonderbag website):
- Saves 30% of annual household income – saving money and easing poverty
- It reduces CO2 emissions
- Less deforestation because families need less firewood to cook
- It reduces toxic fumes which means less respiratory problems and other diseases, particularly in children
- It reduces time spent cooking, giving more time for child-care and other activities
- It saves precious water. When the pot is insulated in a Wonderbag at a fairly constant temperature, less evaporation occurs, so less water is needed
- It saves food. 20% of all staple food in Africa is burned, due to pots being placed on open fires and unregulated stove tops. With Wonderbag, no burning occurs
Out of the box, the Wonderbag is vacuum packed and will need an hour to expand. Once it’s opened, you break up the vacuum packed pockets and allow the “fluff” to expand.
After at least one hour of letting it “rest”, you can begin cooking. You use your own pot. I think this is a bit of a drawback to the product. I would prefer a pot to come as part of the package, but the Wonderbag does accommodate a wide variety of pot sizes, so it may just be personal preference.
It should be noted that the Wonderbag is NOT actually a slow cooker, therefore it will not generate enough heat to actually “cook” raw food like meat. Pots with tight-fitting lids works best.
We made Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup in our Wonderbag.
Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe Ingredients:
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 6 ounces fresh bacon
- 2 onions, finely diced
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 8 cups chicken stock
- (2) 14-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 3/4-cup Parmesan Cheese
- 1 Loaf ciabatta bread, sliced into 1-inch squares for croutons
Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup Recipe Directions:
- In a 5-6 Quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until lightly browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel to drain.
- Add the onions to the oil, season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions begin to soften and become translucent.
- Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for 2-minutes.
- Add one cup of the stock to the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Add the remaining stock, beans, bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme. Brind to a boil; cover and let simmer for 5-minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves and herb stems.
- Add the bacon (leave some for garnishing) and add Parmesan.
- Cook 5 minutes until the soup starts to thicken slightly.
- Place lidded pot into the Wonderbag for 2 hours.
To Make Croutons: Toss ciabatta slices with olive oil and grill in frying pan until brown.
To serve: Sprinkle soup with bacon pieces, drizzle with olive oil, add croutons and parmesan.
The soup turned out great.
It was hot. In fact, when the pot when in the Wonderbag, I could grasp the handles of the pot. I had to use oven mitts to move the pot once I opened the Wonderbag as it was far too hot to handle with my bare hands.
I think the Wonderbag is a great concept. I can see using it to transport food, for example, I told my mom I could start a soup and put it in the Wonderbag and by the time I got to her house (she lives 4 hours from me), it would be ready to serve.
The great disadvantage for me is its storage. It is large when “fluffed”. It is squishable, but for storage in a cupboard or pantry it does require far more room than a crockpot or pot.