Slow Cookers and Hayboxes: Modern and Ancient

If I had to choose just one piece of equipment in my kitchen to save…yes it would be hard to choose, but for sheer flexibility, making my life easier and great results time after time, it would have to be my slow cooker. I am a number one fan of slow cookers. They are economical with electricity, you can leave them to simmer away quietly whilst you go out and live your life, and they will welcome you home with my version of “fast food”, something hale and hearty but something you have not had to slave away in the kitchen for hours over! I am also convinced that my slow cooker saves me large amounts of money. I can bulk cook in it and freeze several meals from one “cooking”; I always make all my soups in them and home-made soup is way superior to anything you can buy, plus way cheaper…I cook my Christmas puddings in them, I know it will make cheaper cuts of meat succulent and tasty, and in fact they remind me of the function of the low cool oven in the AGA of my childhood.  There are numerous recipe books out there for slow cookers. For those not familiar with a slow cooker, there are many types available. I do like the models which have temperature adjustment dial so you can choose, low, automatic or high. I usually cook everything on low anyway, but for some recipes, you may have to start on high and then switch to low for example. If you are buying one for the first time, get the biggest one to save money and really make it work for you.

Slow Cooker

The Slow cooker is actually the modern-day version of the haybox. Hayboxes used to be used quite regularly, and are still used as a primary method of cooking in many parts of the world.

 The concept of the haybox is the same as the slow cooker really but  you got the food up to boiling point first and then transferred it to the haybox where it would continue to cook to perfection slowly for hours in its insulated place. Hayboxes are easy to make, and easy to use. I think it is perhaps a really handy skill to know, because if your electricity went out for a long period of time…how would you cook?  We are told that a major solar flare could take our power grids out for a length of time, so better to know this now than have to worry at the time! To make a haybox…you can do it with cardboard, but my haybox is a wooden chest. It sits in my hallway, no-one would think anything of it being anything other than a wooden chest, and it is handy for when I want or need it. So get yourself a wooden chest.

Wooden Box

Line it with hay quite thick. Then add hay all round the sides. The idea is that you nestle your pot in the middle of the hay ‘nest and then put lots of hay on top as well, then shut lid. Like this.


Saves on electricity whilst we have it, and is how to cook when you don’t have it! Without electricity you would have to heat your food up on a fire. Then once it is piping hot, transfer to haybox and voila! Trial and error on timings, but pretty similar to a slow cooker. My great grandmother had another use for her haybox. She used to make one up with a stone hot water bottle in it, and take it with her on the train, to keep her feet warm, in the days before railway carriages were heated! My mother now aged 86 says she was fascinated by this as a child! I think I would be too. Anyway-build yourself a haybox for emergencies, and definitely have a go with slow cookers, they can save you a fortune and produce lovely food to come home to after a long day at work, out, or whatever. Will post up a few favourite recipes over the next day or two. Here is Great Granny Edith Maria Scott who liked to keep her feet warm!

Edith Maria Scott


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    sarasinart said,

    Very interesting post! I have never heard of a hay box. Thanks!

  2. 2

    Hi, I am Australian, my parents were both english and they always used an old suitcase packed with hay around a large sauspan, with an old pillow case filled with hay to go over the top. I have a modern day one called a dream pot, same principal but smaller better insulated and stainless steel.

  3. 4

    […] modern hay box cooking id: 2509cd | Credit […]

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