I enjoy experimenting with harnessing energy from the sun. I have built several solar cooker ovens over the years, and I also purchased one, the All American Sun Oven.
I’m updating this post because I just realized that this solar cooker is more than 10 years old! I don’t remember exactly what year I bought it. But I believe it was sometime around 2008. That makes it about 13 years old. And you know what? It still functions like new, despite the nicks and scratches over time. I did varnish the wood a few times to help preserve that part.
I’ve had it for many years. First bought it while living in a part of California where the sun shines all summer long. Because of that, we were able to use the All American Sun Oven quite often!
Now, many years later, we live in New Hampshire. Not as sunny all the time. But we still get to use it.
Some of you might be wondering how often you can actually use a solar oven when it’s not always sunny… Well, certainly not as much. It obviously depends on the weather and clouds.
Even on partly cloudy days, you really need a day when there’s more sun than clouds. However, maybe surprising, but this All American Sun Oven is very efficient and will warm up / heat up nicely when there’s just enough sun…
So, why did I buy it? Good question. It is expensive (even back when I purchased it). I justified the purchase for preparedness sake, coupled with enough days during the year to actually use it. Cooking without electricity (and/or fossil fuels) was appealing. Kind of a self-sufficiency thing…
During years past, I have built several solar cookers too. It was fun to do. Then I bought this one. At the time, it was branded as “Sun Oven”. Though today it’s called the All American Sun Oven.
It has been a reliable and HOT cooker during the many years I’ve had it. My homemade solar cooker does not get as hot, but high temperature doesn’t really matter when it comes to slow cooking most foods.
The Ultimate Solar Appliance
(view on amzn)
I believe that a lot of people have it in their head that food must be cooked at 350 degrees in the oven, because it’s the most referenced temperature in recipe books for oven cooked foods.
But guess what… so long as the internal temperature of most foods is heated to 165 degrees, then it becomes safe to eat.
For example, a solar cooker that maintains 225 degrees for a long enough time, will easily cook the food up to 165 degrees. Of course, the higher the temperature of the solar cooker, the faster your food will reach 165 degrees.
When I lived in sunny California, my homemade solar cooker had a hard time getting hot enough during the winter months when the sun was lower in the sky, and obviously colder outside. Whereas the All American Sun Oven does much, much better because it’s more efficient at capturing the sun’s rays and keeping the heat inside (insulation).
For those of you starting out with solar cooker cooking, I want to tell you one of the secrets to getting even more deliciousness out of many meals, especially baked potatoes. OK, here it is… add some water to the pan, and keep the pan covered. Simple! Of course, spice it up to your delight.
Great for baking potatoes. Again, add water into the pan, and cover it. Oh boy, does that taste good!
Since solar cookers generally cook slower than a conventional oven (except for the solar cookers that truly hit 350 degrees or more on a good day like this one), a long slow cook at say, 275, combined with a bit of moisture for the food to draw in, will turn out scrumptious!
Kind of like a slow cooker / crock-pot.
The food won’t burn (it generally doesn’t get hot enough to burn) and won’t overcook (exception being solar cookers that truly reach conventional oven temperatures).
We also used our All American Sun Oven to slow cook beans throughout the day.
Bake your own homemade bread too!
Cooking Sweet Potatoes in the Solar Cooker:
For long cooked meals, to maintain a high enough temperature may require that you rotate the solar cooker a few times during the cooking process to keep facing the sun.
During the summer months when the sun is high in the sky, rotating the solar cooker repeatedly to face the sun is generally not required (unless you’re really trying to optimize temperatures).
During the Spring, Fall, and Winter when the sun is lower in the sky, you will probably need to keep up with it.
One problem during months when the sun is low in the sky is that more obstacles will get in the way and shade an area. So, unless you have a fairly wide open space, surrounding trees will become an issue.
I updated this post, given that it’s summer time, and I have my All American Sun Oven out on the deck, ready for some solar cooking!