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How to cook in a hot box (and save energy)

When I heard about cooking in a hot box on Pia Taylor’s Mother City Living blog last year, I knew straight away that I had to have one. I’m always looking for ways to reduce my energy usage, so a hot box seemed a perfect addition to my energy saving toolbox. I did a bit of research into where to buy a hot box, and settled on buying a Salathiso hot box, because the sales of these particular hot boxes don’t line the pockets of any business owner, but have brought hope and light into the lives of unemployed single mothers in Kayamandi (Stellenbosch, South Africa) by allowing them to generate a small income for themselves.

Salathiso hot boxes are simply two polystyrene-filled cushions in beautiful Shweshwe fabric that can be placed in a cardboard box for insulation, but I’ve been using my hot box without the cardboard box and it works pretty well. During winter I plan to use a cardboard box for extra insulation.

Here’s how to use a hot box:


Once you’ve brought your pot of food to the boil, remove it from the heat source and place it (still in the pot) in the bottom half of the hot box (I put a folded piece of newspaper under the pot for extra insulation and to soak up spills should they happen). Then fit the top cushion snugly on top. You can now leave your food safely cooking away while you get on with your day.

I’ve made a series of very successful dishes with my hot box over the past few months including stews, savoury mince and curries, and my absolute favourite thing to cook in the hot box is rice, because, for the first time in my life, now I too can cook rice perfectly.

It’s been easy to adapt my usual recipes for use in the hot box, all you need to do is reduce the amount of cooking liquid (because less is lost through evaporation in a hot box than on the stove), and leave the food to cook in the hot box for a longer period than you would do on the stove. For example I’ve found that 2-3 hours makes for perfect rice, while stew, soups and curries need between 6 and 12 hours for optimal results.

If you’d prefer to get started with some tried and tested recipes, check out this link (pdf).

In South Africa:

Salathiso hot boxes are available in Cape Town from Wendy Walton who is based in Diep River. You can contact her at or on 021 712 6424 (please tell Wendy I sent you). A hot box from Salathiso will set you back R140, but if used often will save you far more than that in electricity in the long run. (BTW these are still cheaper than other locally available hot boxes.)

In the UK & US:

Hot boxes (or hay boxes as they’re also known) don’t seem to be available for sale in the UK or US.  So how about making your own.  Try the links below for instructions:

Mother Earth News
The Prepared Home