Fireless Cookers

Fireless cookers were very popular in the early 1900s to save labor and fuel, rather like our crock pots. Many books and magazines of the 1910s and 1920s contained recipes for them. An early wood bucket with an inner metal pail surrounded by sawdust [a portable insulating pail] is in the Tuskegee Institute collection. A more elaborate example, a two pot fireless cooker in a wooden case (pictured above) can be seen at the Woodrow Wilson House in D.C.

Food was heated in tin pots on the stove or fire, then placed in the fireless cooker. Soapstones, which had also been heated, were placed under and over the pots. In electric fireless cookers "the current is applied just long enough to bring the food to a proper temperature...then the current automatically shuts off, but the dinner continues to cook without expense..."

Cooking time varied. In a 1925 letter: "We prepared our dinner in the morning before breakfast, stowed it away in the electric fireless cooker and at night we set the table and served it." Recipes from Mitchell's book generally involved bringing the contents to a boil, placing the pot immediately in the fireless cooker and cooking...stews for 9-12 hrs, applesauce 1-3 hrs, string beans (with salt and baking soda in the water) 6-12 hrs, limas 1 1/2 hrs, and plum pudding 5 hours.

Mitchell detailed how to make fireless cooker or "hay-box", and a "refrigerating box", with suggestions for decorating the box for use in the dining room. Types of insulation were soft "hay, straw, paper, wool, mineral wool, excelsior, ground cork, Southern moss, sawdust..."


Frederick, Christine. Meals that cook themselves and cut the costs. New Haven: c1915
Greer, Carlotta. School and Home Cooking
Mitchell, Margaret J. The Fireless Cook Book [New York: 1909], 1913
Various references in books. Hearth Collection

Articles, pictures

The Fireless Cooker by Dr.Alice Ross
1910 article
Cyclopedia of American Agriculture, Bailey. 1908
Historicfoodie blog
Hay bucket picture c1920
Fireless Cooker Company
Copeman Automatic Cooker, c1912
Copeman Electric Stove Company
The Rains County Leader Texas, 1913
Journal of Home Economics: 1915. Pressure Cooker Versus Fireless Cooker for Home Use
Picture series to make fireless cookers; and types of fireless cookers pics.
Letter: c1925. dinner the electric
Britain's Mk II Medium Tanks
Our First Overland Trip to Colorado
Scouting for Girls: Official Handbook of the Girl Scouts. 1920 - Fireless cooker


DC Woodrow Wilson House. Washington, DC
KS Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum. Wichita
MD Belair Mansion. Bowie

©1999-2012 Patricia Bixler Reber