Meet the Wonderbag. The "first non-electric slow cooker" uses an insulated bag made of poly-cotton fabric, polyester, and repurposed foam chips. You bring your one-pot meal to the desired cooking temperature, usually via the stovetop. Then you turn off the heat, pop the pot into the Wonderbag, and it will continue to cook thanks to the retained heat in the bag.
(Don't worry: when you purchase it, the Wonderbag comes with complete instructions and guidelines as to how long things need to cook on the stovetop and stay inside the bag.)
Oh, and by the way? It's environmentally friendly. Since it's not plugged in, you're not drawing on an already overtaxed power grid. Microsoft has invested in the company for just this reason: they believe cooking with a Wonderbag can help reduce emissions.
Not only is the Wonderbag cordless, it can travel. It's perfect to take on camping trips or if you're on your way to a potluck. It's versatile, too: it can hold one wide two-quart pot or one tall eight-quart pot.
You can cook all manner of one-pot meals in the Wonderbag: chili, gumbo, beans, stew, rice, or even chicken stock. For my next camping trip, I'm thinking it would be great to put in a nice stew and have it cook while we drive to the camp site. After setting up and going for a hike, we'd have a fully cooked meal ready and waiting.
Actually, after seeing this video, I'm thinking a pot roast would be even better:
The Wonderbag was created by Sarah Collins, who thought of the invention during one of Johannesburg's periodic blackouts. She combined a traditional way of cooking—i.e., heat retention—and designed a heavy, insulated bag that worked on the same principles.
The other great part about the Wonderbag? Not only does it conserve energy, it helps African communities cook without indoor wood-burning fires, which are dangerous and polluting. The first family who tested Collin's Wonderbag experienced a dramatic change: Children no longer had to spend the majority of their time gathering wood to cook meals, which means they were able to attend school.
For every bag purchased in the United States, another gets donated to a family in Africa. Check 'em out at Amazon: there's a red version and a blue one. If you don't need a Wonderbag yourself, you can still donate one.
Great kitchen tools making cooking and eating a lot more fun. Why not get a Moroccan tagine, a totally old-school slow cooker? And if you want even more convenience, consider the pressure cooker, which cooks flavorful meals in a snap.