Turn any pan into a crock pot (slow cooker) -- AND it doubles as a cooler! Great piece of equipment on any boat going to remote places.


This is a guest post by Michelle Hannell — that’s Michelle in the photo above.   I was thrilled to get her analysis of using the Wonderbag on her boat crossing the Atlantic, as I’ve recently had some questions about its suitability on a cruising boat. I have a thermal cooker which I love — it takes up less room but is more expensive than the Wonderbag.

Says Michelle: I am a big Boat Galley fan and have found the Kindle version of the cookbook hard to put down! For me it’s been a great introduction to adapting to living on a boat with my husband and two kids and it was constantly by my side during our Atlantic crossing.  On our arrival in St Lucia I contacted Carolyn to thank her for her work and to give her the heads up on the Wonderbag, an insulated cooking bag that has been a real bonus to galley cooking. Carolyn asked if I could tell her (and you) more about it. Here goes…

My galley and the Wonderbag

Cooking with it…

The Wonderbag is an insulated cooking bag that works as a slow cooker. The ‘wonder’ being that unlike other slow cookers it doesn’t use any gas or electricity.

To use the bag you prepare a casserole or slow cook dish (there are heaps of recipes on the Wonderbag site) and then, when it is heated up and cooked to the right consistency, put the pan (with lid) into the Wonderbag. Once the pan is in place you put on the insulated lid, pull the drawstrings tight and that’s it! The meal cooks inside the bag for 6 hours and keep warm up to 12.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the real treat with slow-cooked meals is that once they’re prepared you don’t need to do anything else – except eat! In terms of the boat galley slow cooking in a Wonderbag means you don’t use hours of gas or electricity (money saving) and because your pan is insulated and kept at a consistent temperature you don’t lose as much water through evaporation. Being safely tucked away in the bag means you don’t have to worry about leaving a pan unattended (worry saving). This means you can go out for the afternoon, get on with jobs, play with the kids, home-school, sit and read and book etc while your dinner cooks away.

There’s more to the bag than just slow cooked meals. We have a Catamaran so although we’re not subject to the leaning of a mono we do bounce and slam over waves – not great for keeping pans on the hob! At times when I don’t have the hands/faith that two pans will stay in place on the hob I use the Wonderbag to keep one pan warm whilst I heat another. This is far safer and also saves on having to heat the oven.  For example, I’d make mash potato then put it into the Wonderbag while frying sausages. Or, I’d boil water add rice and then put it in the Wonderbag to cook allowing me to safely heat up veg/meat.

It also keeps things cool! 

Turn any pan into a crock pot (slow cooker) -- AND it doubles as a cooler! Great piece of equipment on any boat going to remote places.Being insulated the Wonderbag can also keep things cool and/or frozen. For instance, you could use it to carry meats, salads and cold drinks to a beach bbq. You can also use for when you have people on board for drinks. Rather than having to open and close the fridge we put the drinks in the Wonderbag and leave it somewhere for people to help themselves.

I also use the Wonderbag when defrosting the fridge. I line the bottom with a tea-towel (it’s a good idea to do anyway to mop up any spills) and then put in some ice blocks. I pack the bag with the contents of the fridge, snuggling everything in tightly and filling any gaps with cold cans and jars.

The Wonderbag can keep things like ice-creams frozen for 2 hours and meat frozen for 12 so you’ve got plenty of time to do a thorough job of defrosting.

Some Wonderbag tips

Use a pan with two side handles and a good fitting lid.

Don’t forget to put on oven gloves when you take it out of the bag!

Line the bottom of the Wonderbag with a tea-towel to soak up any spills/drips.

When cooking during a passage put the Wonderbag on the floor. It’s so padded that it doesn’t matter if gets kicked plus there were no worries of it falling off the counter.

When not in use I either squeeze the bag into the back of the cupboard or sit it on top of the counter.

You can flatten the bag completely and pack it away. You’ll need to fluff it up and allow it to spread out before you can use it again.

The bag is fully washable.

History of the Wonderbag

The Wonderbag started out in South Africa where they were used to enable low-income families to cook one nutritious meal a day without the need for so much fuel. Since then the Wonderbag’s popularlity and success has grown and is used worldwide by people in various places and situations including boat galleys. It is an eco, environmental, social (for every bag sold one is donated to a family in Africa) and nutritionally friendly cooking bag. See the Wonderbag site for more info.

Amazon is the online seller for the Wonderbag in the US — and one is donated to a family in need for every one sold:

To find out where to buy it in other countries, check out this page on the Wonderbag site.

Turn any pan into a crock pot (slow cooker) -- AND it doubles as a cooler!  Great piece of equipment on any boat going to remote places.

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  • Claudia Davis Reshetiloff
    Posted at 20 January 2014 Reply

    its on my wish list!

  • Heather Drost
    Posted at 20 January 2014 Reply

    Thanks for sharing! With no fridge this may be a nice way to get a lunch and dinner meal without having to put in cooler and then reheat…it can keep warm all day it’s seems!

  • Carolyn Shearlock
    Posted at 24 January 2014 Reply

    Oops, forgot to mention where I am — currently aboard Beagle Knot in Bahia Salinas del Sur on Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands

  • Melanie Willard
    Posted at 18 October 2014 Reply

    Could this be used to transport a cooked / finished crockpot dish just to keep it warm?

  • Donna
    Posted at 17 February 2016 Reply

    I use mine all the time!

  • Lizzy Belle
    Posted at 20 May 2016 Reply

    I sometimes just wrap a pot in an old duvet I have. Which is pretty much what the wonderbag is 😉 Even less expensive and since I already have that duvet in a closet, no extra room required to store something new (I live on a 29′ boat ;)).

  • Rosalind Franks
    Posted at 20 May 2016 Reply

    I want one maybe next year

  • Claire Bradley
    Posted at 20 August 2016 Reply

    The old name for this is haybox cookery, and it is a very old style of cooking. You can actually get old recipe books dating from over a hundred years ago, which give haybox recipes see https://www.forgottenbooks.com/en/books/TheFirelessCookBook_10005481

    Hayboxes also had a revival during the second world war in the UK, as it was important to make your fuel go far, as fuel was scarce. Basically, you just need to insulate the cooking pot, and using an old duvet works well too.

  • Cindy Balfour
    Posted at 15 December 2016 Reply

    I love my thermal bag but don’t use it nearly enough. When not in use its a pillow in the corner of the setee. Maybe it needs to be out and more visible. Will use it to make beans.

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