Wild Food School USA ™

Hay-Box or Fireless Cooking

Many years ago I remember reading an article or text from the 1920s or 1930s about hay-box cooking and thought how novel the idea was (and also how fuel efficient) and wondered why I hadn't heard of it before. It's not the sort of thing that survival and wildcrafting books tend to dwell on, yet it's a highly fuel efficient way of cooking food, albeit a bit bulky... which I guess is why those wildcrafting books don't cover it off.

However, if you have a more permanent base camp, or are purely home-based, then a hay-box cooker is practical. The principles behind the process could also be mimicked in the field too; indeed I have seen banana-leaf equivalents being used in Africa. In that instance dried banana leaves were layered on a rope net (to a depth of about 6 inches) which was then used to wrap around the cooking pot, and all the ends tied off at the top.

Insulated in this blanket of dried leaves the food was able to continue cooking through, using the residual heat of the cooking pot. In societies where biomass is generally the fuel for cooking, then being able to reduce the amount of fuel required has the added benefits of saving both money, and the unproductive time of gathering up fuel wood from the wilds.

The text which follows is from an early twentieth century text on fireless cooking and provides basic instructions for making your own hay-box cooker. Let it inspire you to explore this unusual cooking technique...


hay-box cooking