Domestic and commercial cooking at many places in India involves an open pan or pot that is placed on an open flame. This results in increased wastage of energy because heat is lost along with the steam when cooking without a cover. Moreover, since there is no insulation on the cooking vessel, a lot of heat loss takes place from the sides of its surface as well, which further leads to the need for continuous cooking to maintain a constant temperature.
It is to change this situation that researchers of the Land Research Institute (LRI), along with the students and faculty members of Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, have designed the Eco Cooker – an innovative equipment for cooking that helps save LPG, especially in places where large scale cooking for the masses is taking place.
According to the research, the Eco Cooker helps save 75% fuel under laboratory conditions and offers about 60% saving on the use of LPG in domestic and commercial kitchens.
It works on the principle of retaining steam inside a closed vessel, so that the steam helps cook the food while retaining its flavours and nutrients.
The cooker consists of a modified regulator, which releases gas to maintain a constant temperature. Research by ICT indicated that the cooking process of pulses continues once a temperature of 90 degree Celsius is obtained and rice cooking continues above 75 degree Celsius. They used these facts and incorporated the features to overcome the shortcomings of open pan cooking. Using a burner of suitable size, the cooker helps in controlled gas flow to minimize heat loss.
Vessels are placed in a stack one above the other inside an enclosed system, which does not allow the loss of any steam. Thus, the steam generated in the lower vessel heats up the vessels above it. Each vessel is adequately insulated to ensure minimum loss of heat.
This way, temperature of the items being cooked is maintained well above 90 degree Celsius for a long time after the burner is switched off. So the cooker needs fuel only to bring the contents of the vessel to a boiling point, after which the burner can be turned off.
It can be useful in areas where a large quantity of food is prepared, such as community kitchens, canteens, hotels, etc. With the help of eco cooker, multiple items such as rice, dal, vegetables and meat can be cooked in one go.
Land Research Institute is an NGO involved in research work to create a positive impact in rural India. It constitutes of a group of technocrats who have come together for a common cause, most of whom have retired from their jobs.
LRI and ICT patented the design of the cooker and gave the patent rights to Aurangabad-based Sanjay Technoplast, which is an industrial organisation.
“Sanjay Technoplast has sold about 200 units of Eco Cooker till now. We used the first prototype in the institution canteen itself where 30 cylinders were being used per month. 15 of those were used for cooking dal, rice and curry. Since they have started using Eco Cooker, only five LPG cylinders are required for cooking dal, rice and curry every month,” says Kishore V.Mariwala, one of the members of LRI.
The LRI team meets at ICT once every two weeks to discuss different technologies that they can work on to help in the development of rural India.