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Wonderbag: Product Review and Giveaway

What’s that on the kitchen counter? It’s a pillow! It’s a tuffet! No, it’s a Wonderbag!

cooking

Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. But this little cooking accessory truly is a wonder, and I’m excited to share it with you today. 

The Wonderbag* is based on an age-old cooking method of heat-retention cooking. There have been (and continue to be) hundreds of variations of heat-retention cookers. I’ve read of straw bale cookers,  plywood boxes, and cardboard solar cookers covered in foil. The basic idea? You bring your food (soup, stew, grains, beans, etc.) to a raging boil on your heat source, cover it, and place it in your heat retention cooker. The insulation of the cooker maintains the high temperature and continues to cook the food without the use of resources such as electricity, natural gas, or firewood. 

The concept of the Wonderbag may be old, but the company itself is using a completely new marketing idea: Buy one, give one. Every time a Wonderbag is sold, another Wonderbag is given to a household in Africa. And while this might simply be a convenient gadget for use in your kitchen while you shuttle kiddos from dance lessons to soccer practice and get dinner cooked all at the same time, for a family is Africa the Wonderbag can be life-changing. Here are just a few of the benefits to consider (taken from Wonderbag’s 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

I expect that some will balk at the $50 price tag, and if it was truly the cost of one of these little cookers, I might agree with you. But if you consider that $50 to be a donation to a wonderful company making a difference in African homes, and consider the Wonderbag that is sent to you as a thank-you gift, I think it might help change your outlook. 

packaged

The Wonderbag is made of insulating foam pieces enclosed in an attractive, wipeable fabric. I’ve read of some people machine washing theirs, but so far all of my spills have been easily wiped off. It’s quite large, so as to accommodate a wide variety of pot sizes, and it arrives vacuum packed like the photo above. 

Once I had “re-fluffed” my Wonderbag, I was excited to give it a try. The basic idea is that your food goes into a pot, the pot is heated on the stove top, then transferred to the Wonderbag. The foam “lid” is placed over the pot and the drawstring is pulled tight to retain the heat in the bag and continue “cooking” the food.

wonderbag

 

Learning to make the best use of my Wonderbag was a trial and error process for me. It probably would have been made easier if I was the type to read instructions that come with products. But after a few tries, I had the process figured out and, to save you some trouble, here are some things I learned the hard way:

  • Liquid doesn’t evaporate in the Wonderbag, so if you’re making something thick (chili or stew) use less liquid. Or you can plan to thicken it after cooking with a starch such as flour or arrowroot.
  • This is not a slow cooker; it does not generate heat and will not “cook” things that are raw. Be sure that any meat in your recipes is already cooked all the way through before placing your pot into the Wonderbag. 
  • Your meal will cook most evenly and come out best if the ingredients are chopped into bite-size pieces.
  • I had the best results with my enameled cast iron pots with tight-fitting lids when they were filled very full. Glass lids did not retain heat as well and the food cooled more quickly. Large pots that were only half full also cooled more quickly. 
  • Heat your food on the stove-top at a boil, until all the ingredients are evenly warmed throughout. I usually allow about 10-15 minutes, depending on the pot size. 
  • As a safety measure, I lined the bottom of my Wonderbag with a silicone hot pad. The Wonderbag is supposed to withstand temperatures of up to 350 degrees, but really, how am I to judge the temperature of the bottom of my pot?

This is a photo of one of my first Wonderbag recipes, a beef stew. It came out edible, but not as tasty as I was hoping. My mistakes: the chunks of beef were too large, I added too much liquid, the pot was not full enough, this pot uses a glass lid. I made it again a week later in my Le Creuset pot, correcting my mistakes, and it was divine.

beef-stew

Now that my Wonderbag and I have a good understanding of each other, we are making some wonderful meals! I love to use it when I have to be out of the house around dinner-time. I can put a stew together at 3:00, put it in the Wonderbag, and be away from the house while it finishes cooking. I know dinner won’t burn, and I don’t have to worry about leaving the stove on while I’m gone. I also use it at least once a week for cooking rice, grains, or dried beans. In the past, I’ve ruined my share of pots by letting them run dry while cooking beans or grains. The Wonderbag allows me to put in a hot pot and forget about it until dinner-time. 

The only disadvantage, from the perspective of my large family living in a small house, is storage. The Wonderbag is quite large. But thankfully, it’s also rather attractive and comfortable. We keep it laying around and the kiddos use it as a pillow when it’s not working in the kitchen. It has also served as a shield during staged battle scenes, but I try to discourage that use whenever I happen to catch it.

I think the Wonderbag is going to make an excellent addition to our summer campouts, and if you do regular camping or RVing, I think you’ll be thrilled to have one. I’m also looking forward to using it to cook during the summer, without heating up the kitchen. And I keep thinking it’s the perfect thing to use for a pot of overnight, steel cut oats, but haven’t had an opportunity to experiment. 

I read one review on Amazon that said it was the perfect thing to keep ice cream cold on summer picnics, and I wish I’d had it last summer for the Sweet Pea’s Paleo ice cream cake. Now that I own one, and I understand how to make the best use of it, I keep finding more and more uses for it! Truly, a kitchen workhorse that I didn’t know I needed until I had it.

Ready to try it out for yourself? Wonderbags are available at Amazon.com

Review posts are my opinions on items that were sent to me free of charge. The items were given to me, but the thoughts and opinions are my own. I do not provide reviews of every item sent to me and only review items that I find to be truly worthy of recommendation.

Wonderbag is giving away one of their products to a lucky reader! To enter:

Show Comments


 

  • This is sooo cool!!! Reply
    Kim Campbell January 20, 2014 AT 7:27 pm
     
  • I first saw that last month on Amazon and I wondered how well they work. Thanks for the review, it is quite an intriguing device! I really like the donation angle too. Reply
    Amber January 20, 2014 AT 10:59 pm
     
  • Thanks for this giveaway and what a great idea! This is another great idea that really gives back to the world. Reply
    Julie January 21, 2014 AT 6:43 am
     
  • I heard about these from a friend. So cool! Wondering if I could do broth? Reply
    Erin January 21, 2014 AT 7:08 am
     
    • I haven't tried it yet myself, but have read that it works well for broth. Basically any recipe that requires a long, slow simmering time will work very well in the Wonderbag! Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 9:41 am
       
    • One of our Wonder-gals makes stock from scratch, stop by and check out her recipe: http://thewonderbag.blogspot.com/2013/10/recipe-waste-not-want-not-making-stock.html Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 2:22 pm
       
  • Very nice! What is the fabric made out of? Reply
    Janet T January 21, 2014 AT 7:34 am
     
    • Janet, I'm not 100% sure on this. You could probably poke around their website and find out: http://nb-wonderbag.com It seems to be a high-tech synthetic something or other, made to be liquid-, stain-, and heat-resistant. But it still has a nice hand to it, like a cotton muslin. Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 9:44 am
       
    • Hi - the US Wonderbag is made with polyester fabric (30%), poly-cotton blend (70%) and is 100% insulated repurposed foam chips Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 8:55 pm
       
  • I have never seen anything like this! What about casseroles? I wonder if there is a way to adapt it for that . . . . Reply
    Mary Mann January 21, 2014 AT 7:59 am
     
    • I've been wanting to try some casseroles, too. I expect that it should work, but you'll probably need to adjust the liquid quantities. Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 3:30 pm
       
    • You will need to adjust the liquid quantities, but you can not use a traditional glass casserole dish as it will not retain heat properly. Use with copper, steel, aluminum, cast iron, enameled cast iron, or glassware pots in standard sizes with short handles and tight fitting lid. Use the right sized pot for the food you want to cook in order to best retain heat. Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 8:57 pm
       
  • Would it make a difference if my kitchen is quite cold? Reply
    CW January 21, 2014 AT 8:21 am
     
    • Yes, it will make a difference in how long your food will stay hot. But it should not render the bag completely useless. You may need to adjust your times so that your food gets a longer than recommended cooking time on the stove-top, and shorter than recommended time in the Wonderbag. I've had my Le Creuset pot stay quite toasty up to 9 hours in my kitchen which runs about 65-70 degrees. If your kitchen is colder, it's fair to expect that your results would be different. Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 3:28 pm
       
  • My question was if you could convert any slow cooker recipe to cook in this but you pretty much answered that for me. So what is the fabric used and is the Wonderbag washable? In other words can you take the cover off of the foam insulation and throw it in the washing machine? Reply
    Kris Philpot January 21, 2014 AT 8:47 am
     
    • Kris, I've had good luck with some slow-cooker recipes. Things like soup, stew, and baked beans that are already pretty much cooked going into the slow cooker and just need a slow, steady heat. I wouldn't recommend it for cooking huge chunks of meat, like a whole chicken or something. Look at the previous comment where I tried to answer what the fabric is. It's not removable, so the folks I've read about washing it in the washing machine have put the whole thing in there. I haven't tried it, and the manufacturer doesn't recommend it, but some have said it worked for them. So far, I've kept it clean just by wiping up spills with a rag. Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 9:47 am
       
    • We recommend spot cleaning the Wonderbag. Also, line your bag with a dish towel and potholder before placing a pot into the bag to protect the bag from spillage and heat (do not place a bag higher than 350F into the bag) Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 8:59 pm
       
  • Would you recommend making stock in the Wonderbag? Reply
    Landon G January 21, 2014 AT 9:51 am
     
    • I haven't tried it yet myself, but have read that it's great for stock-making. Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 11:42 am
       
    • One of our Wonder-gals makes homemade stock in the Wonderbag. Stop by and check out her recipe: http://thewonderbag.blogspot.com/2013/10/recipe-waste-not-want-not-making-stock.html Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 2:22 pm
       
  • Where are they made? Very cool! I have never heard of this way of cooking. Reply
    Cynthia January 21, 2014 AT 10:23 am
     
    • That's a good question and I don't know the answer. Might be a good question for their Facebook page? Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 11:43 am
       
    • Hi - The Wonderbags are produced in a factory in South Africa where we employ local people. We do write about the people who work with Wonderbag on our blog: http://thewonderbag.blogspot.com/search/label/Wonderbag%20Donation%20Chronicles Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 2:20 pm
       
  • I'm confused on how it works since it isn't like a slow cooker. I'll check out the website to get more info. Thanks! Reply
    Jane G January 21, 2014 AT 11:39 am
     
  • Do they come in different colors? Reply
    Melody January 21, 2014 AT 11:40 am
     
    • Yes, there are different colors. Though on Amazon there is only the choice of the blue one in the post, or a red patterned fabric. Reply
      Erin January 21, 2014 AT 11:45 am
       
    • Hi - In the US we have Blue Batik and Red Batik available on amazon.com/wonderbag. Hopefully someday we will launch more variety. Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 2:21 pm
       
  • You won't believe - but I have 2 Wonderbags at home. It is a bit of a mind shift to start using them. BUT.... they really do save time from cooking - especially when you want to do really basic things like cooking rice or stews. An added bonus is they can keep your beers or ice cream cool when you need to take it along for a picnic away from home :) Reply
    Grant January 21, 2014 AT 11:52 am
     
    • The work wonderfully for keeping cold items cold! Especially when you put ice packs in the base of the bag. Reply
      US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 9:00 pm
       
  • I love the wonder bag. I have used a Wonderbox and taught classes for over 15 years. These work great, save energy, easy to use. I can't say enough good things about these. I love that Wonderbag donates one bag to needy individuals in Africa. They have been used there for decades. Reply
    christine January 21, 2014 AT 12:03 pm
     
  • this is fantastic as another alternative cooking source. I can't wait to try to make some bread in my Wonder Box..... I have watched many of the older u-tube videos on WonderBag - it looks fantastic! Reply
    Vicki Davis January 21, 2014 AT 12:27 pm
     
  • This looks pretty cool! Reply
    April N January 21, 2014 AT 2:14 pm
     
  • Thanks so much for the great post!! Reply
    US Wonderbag Team January 21, 2014 AT 2:23 pm
     
  • After checking out the website, I don't really have any more questions about it, but I have to say that it looks really cool! Reply
    Hayley January 21, 2014 AT 11:23 pm
     
  • Would love to try this. Does it take longer to cook than a slow cooker? Reply
    Anna January 21, 2014 AT 11:31 pm
     
  • I bought mine in South Africa last november. Since then i use it at least 4 times a week, just fantastic.... And no burned food anymore! And no overcoocking eighter. Soups, rice, stews,.... Everything i put in it! Reply
    Christel January 22, 2014 AT 5:19 am
     
  • Very interesting - I would love to try it out! Reply
    Tracey January 22, 2014 AT 12:30 pm
     
  • This sounds very cool. I'd love to try this! Reply
    dtkids January 22, 2014 AT 12:37 pm
     
  • This would be great to have! Reply
    RAchel Clark January 22, 2014 AT 1:10 pm
     
  • This looks great! Will it work if I only have pots with glass lids? Reply
    Kirsten K January 22, 2014 AT 1:59 pm
     
  • I wonder if I could take cooked meals to the beach so we don't have to head home for dinner when we're having fun in the summer? Reply
    Lisa F. January 22, 2014 AT 2:48 pm
     
  • Very cool! Reply
    Diane January 22, 2014 AT 7:30 pm
     
  • This looks so cool, I would love to try this! Reply
    jen January 22, 2014 AT 9:51 pm
     
  • How long does it take for food to finish cooking? This would be once you've cooked it on the stovetop & put it into the bag or even oven to bag... Reply
    Meta January 23, 2014 AT 2:04 pm
     
  • Awesome!! Never heard of such. Reply
    Karen January 23, 2014 AT 10:02 pm
     
  • What an awesome product and philanthropy! Reply
    Jenn X January 23, 2014 AT 11:45 pm
     
  • neat idea Reply
    dacmac January 24, 2014 AT 9:13 am
     
  • I can't wait to try this while camping. I have a small, two-burner propane stove and often that is not enough space to cook several dishes. To use the burner only to initially bring the dish to a boil, but then remove it to continue cooking elsewhere inside the Wonderbag, will give me the space of the two burners for side dishes or coffee, etc. Reply
    pardnik January 24, 2014 AT 12:18 pm
     
  • Will these be available on Amazon again soon? Reply
    Belinda January 24, 2014 AT 2:18 pm
     
  • My husband was just telling me about this. He would be thrilled if we won one. Reply
    Sorena Maes January 24, 2014 AT 2:43 pm
     
  • I don't really have any questions. I think this is such a wonderful idea. A great way to save energy at home and help those in need. Reply
    Lydia January 24, 2014 AT 2:44 pm
     
  • Can I travel with it full, so long as I'm careful? This would be great for days when we're going to be gone most of the day--I could pack a hot picnic. Reply
    Jennie B January 24, 2014 AT 3:08 pm
     
  • Does wonderbag come in colors other than blue and red batik? Reply
    Rebecca N January 24, 2014 AT 3:38 pm
     
  • This looks wonderful! Looks like there could be lots of ways to use it, and I'm excited to try it! I love that it saves time, energy, water....a true GREEN product - and easy to use as well as economical. Does it come in different sizes? Or will cooking different amounts be ok? Reply
    Marji E January 24, 2014 AT 3:57 pm
     
  • I would love to win this so I could donate it to my Sponsored Child in Haiti. Her family are peasant farmers and they would greatly appreciate something like this! Reply
    Andrea L. January 24, 2014 AT 4:36 pm
     
 
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