A cooking utensil with improved heat retention includes an inner pot received within an outer pot and separated in a closely spaced-apart relationship to form a volume or chamber therebetween. The chamber is evacuated and sealed with foil leaves at the upper edges of the inner and outer pot. The vacuum created between the inner and outer pot, along with the minimum of thermal contact between the inner and outer pot, and the reduced radiative heat transfer due to low emissivity coatings on the inner and outer pot, provide for a highly insulated cooking utensil. Any combination of a plurality of mechanisms for selectively disabling and re-enabling the insulating properties of the pot are provided within the chamber. These mechanisms may include: a hydrogen gas producing and reabsorbing device such as a metal hydride, a plurality of metal contacts which can be adjusted to bridge the gap between the inner and outer pot, and a plurality of bimetallic switches which can selectively bridge the gap between the inner and outer pot. In addition, phase change materials with superior heat retention characteristics may be provided within the cooking utensil. Further, automatic and programmable control of the cooking utensil can be provided through a microprocessor and associated hardware for controlling the vacuum disable/enable mechanisms to automatically cook and save food.
CONTRACTUAL ORIGIN OF THE INVENTION
The United States Government has rights in this invention under Contract No. DE-AC36-83CH10093 between the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Division of Midwest Research Institute.