Saving Fuel With a Rocket Stove and Hot Box

A group of volunteers in Africa is teaching low-income residents how to cook with less fuel by using a rocket stove and hot box.

| April/May 2014

Hot Box in Kitchen Drawer

This hot box, named “The Wonder Box,” fits snugly in a kitchen drawer.

Photo by Elma Hunter

I work with a small group of volunteers in the Western Cape of South Africa that’s showing the region’s low-income residents how to save precious fuel by using a hot box to cook their food. Inhabitants of these shanty areas rely on purchased gas, paraffin or hand-gathered wood for fuel. Our volunteers teach those interested how to prepare a meal with a hot box and a 16-brick rocket stove, which uses 75 percent less fuel than a conventional stove. When a pot of food has reached a hard boil on the rocket stove, the cook transfers it from the rocket stove to a hot box to finish cooking without fuel.

We call our hot box design the “Wonder Box,” and it’s made by sewing soft cotton or broadcloth into a circular shape that will wrap around your cooking pot. We use polystyrene beads, which are a form of insulation commonly used as packing material for electronics, to stuff the Wonder Box shell. You can also stuff the cushions with wool or nylon materials, newspaper, sawdust, hay, or wood shavings. To learn more about making a Wonder Box of your own, go to Vuka Energy Savings

Elma Hunter
Stanford, South Africa

If you try a hot box, you should return the food to a boil on the stove if its temperature has dropped below 140 degrees Fahrenheit before the food has finished cooking. See a DIY video in How to Build a Rocket Stove Using Cement Blocks. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Chicken Apricot Stew Recipe

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Time in hot box: 3.5 hours


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