Cooking Without Electricity – Solar Oven Cooker
At least during good weather, especially the summertime, cooking without electricity can be simple and easy while using a solar oven cooker.
Over the years I have built several ‘homemade’ solar oven cookers and I have also purchased one (which I still have and still use). It seemed to be one of the better cookers out there and it hasn’t let me down yet…
Here’s more about it, and I’m curious if any of you have a solar oven…
This solar oven was not cheap, however I suppose that you get what you pay for. We have cooked many meals (and breads) in it, and I’ve even refinished the wood around the edges with marine varnish to further protect it from the elements.
This particular solar oven gets hotter than others during optimum weather and sunshine. The ‘Sun Oven’ will even get hot enough (even up to 350 or higher) to treat as a normal oven appliance with regards to keeping track of the cooking time (so you don’t overcook the food).
It depends on the weather, how much sun is in the sky versus clouds, etc..
There are two features that I particularly like about the Sun Oven, the reflector assembly and the oven’s ability to tilt at an angle facing the sun.
The reflector is made of four highly reflective metal sheets and they do an excellent job of collecting available sunlight. I really like the fact that the assembly is hinged in such a manner that allows it to fold up very easily when you’re through.
This solar oven has an adjustable rear leg which allows tilting to an optimum angle towards the sun. Simple, but clever.
There are countless foods that can be cooked in a solar oven. By the way, because they typically cook slower, most all of the moisture is retained for a delicious tasting meal.
The tray platform inside the oven measures 13 x 9 inches, so be sure that you get a pot that fits. One pot that fits nicely is the ‘Graniteware’ 8.2 x 8.2 x 5.8 inches Covered Round Roaster. Remember, whatever you use, be sure the pan and cover are black – for best solar energy absorption.
One of my favorite simple foods to cook in any solar oven is the potato. A baked potato cooked in a solar oven will probably be the best you have ever tasted. The reason being, the inside of the potato remains completely moist.
When through, slice it, add a pad of butter, sprinkle some chives, a sprinkle of salt and a few twists of crushed pepper, and oh my goodness you have yourself a delicious baked potato.
Tip: Add about half an inch of water to the bottom of the pot, and cover with a lid.
Experimenting with different foods in a solar oven is fun. There is hardly a chance of burning anything. That coupled with the moisture retention, always results in something delicious.
Question: Do any of you have a solar oven? Tell us about it…
I have a GoSun Oven and other than it limited width (2 inches) it works great. I’ve been using it a lot since I got it a few months ago. I’ve since bought a 4 inch Rand tube with a tray on eBay and I’m going to make a Sun Oven out of it when I get time.
We have the one that we made with the kids last summer as a homeschool science project, which we have tinkered with quite a bit. It got hot enough to bake apples in but not enough that I would rely on it to actually cook a meal. THIS summer, however, I have big plans. Oh yes, big plans.
I bought one at a scratch and dent sale, so it’s a little battered. Still works, though! I pulled it out for the first time a couple weeks ago. I made zucchini bread as a test and then had to leave so I wasn’t able to turn the oven or monitor. Although the top was a little crusty it wasn’t burned after four hours. The oven got up to 350 in a little more than an hour.
I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but use hot pads! The glass and the reflectors and the latches all got really hot.
I’m embarrassed to say that I brought a SunFlair solar oven for DW last Christmas and it still has never been used. Thanks Ken for this article and the incentive to do something about that.
I just bought a Sunflair oven this past September and used it once then as well as several times during these last 2 hot weeks. We live in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada where it is generally always windy being close to Lake Ontario. I found I had difficulty getting the temperature even close to 200 degrees with the wind buffeting the oven around until I remembered how hot it always gets in my 20-yr old Toyota Echo and stuck the oven on the inside back of the car, behind the headrests. The breeze is eliminated and the oven reaches temperatures up to 230 degrees just after noon especially if preheated before I eat lunch. I thought of buying an aquarium to put it in, but it would have been too heavy and risky to move and break. Hope this helps those of you also having trouble maintaining a decent temperature due to windy conditions.
I’ve used our All American Sun Oven many times and always with excellent results. BBQ pork, quick breads and chilli’s all came out great and without heating up the inside of the house.
Ok, another hole in my preps, but I think at $300 for a All American I might try my skills at building one, can use Chromed Stainless Steel for the reflectors and the lining of the box, use some ceramic glass insulation for the liner, add a few things and a nice wooden exterior of the unit, should only cost about $4-500 HAHAHA, . but ohhhh the fun of building it yourself :-)
I thought of building one, but making one that is portable and light would be beyond my abilities. It would have to be a permanent structure and I don’t want to take up the space. I got mine for $75 at a scratch and dent sale.
Stop whining about the price. If I wanted to get one it would be $640 plus shipping. And that’s from Amazondotca. Really need to look at making one.
KK…most griping spend $90 a month on cable, AND half that amount each month for cell phones.
Oh wait…I don’t have either!! :-)
You should at least try to build one. It’s fun and educational. And after the third or fourth attempt and it’s still horrible then you might think about buying one. We tweaked with version one quite a bit last summer and had all kinds of fun in the process. It gave me lots of ideas for V2, which is still on the drawing board until I have all of the parts necessary. Either way, it gets the old brain working and beats watching tv.
Nothing magical about these. One can easily duplicate the performance of commercially available units. You’re paying for convenience and durability. Mylar sheeting is easily obtained for use on reflectors, but won’t be nearly as durable. Glass mirrors are quite reflective, but fragile. I’ve heard that a lot of the temperature advantage these things have comes from the door seal. Another issue with homemade units is the door. Finding untinted tempered glass in a useable size (for free) can be difficult.
If you build it, we know it will work, but will it need a fork lift to move it?
@ antique collector
NO “ouch”, you remind me of TIM ALLEN from the TV show, if you make it, make it great. Hence the over weight oven lol
Antique Collector,the fork lift is just for the prototype. NRP will probably need a crane for the finished oven…LOL!!
Bill Jenkins Horse
You are so right. rolwl :-)
@ Bill Jenkins Horse & antique collector
Com-on-Man…… that’s cutting to the core… HAHAHAH
BUT, if y’ar gona build something, build it to last.
I made one out of a cardboard box, plastic sheet for lid, tape hinge. foam insulation covered with foil and a car sun shade in silver for the reflector. My unit can easily tilt towards the sun with the use of a brick to prop it up. the brick is the heaviest part of the unit. it cost me $1 for the sunscreen at the dollar store. When I dry herbs I have to prop the top door open a bit so it doesn’t get too hot.
I just cooked country pork ribs in a slow cooker with my homemade sauce.
Great dish for solar ovens.
Sadly for a long time, the sprays covered our skies 5 out of 7 days.
Gone for a few weeks now, but I’m sure they will return since they’ve been spraying here since I’ve lived here.
I have the Sunoven solar oven. I know I should be cooking in it, but until now, our skies had no all day sun.
Are there certain types of cookware (glass, cast iron, ceramic, etc…)that work better than others? And are there certain types that should never be used?
I have made several from cardboard boxes and old clothes. They don’t get much over 250 but thats enough to cook most foods. Wish the cost was not so high for a manufactored one. Would have to use it alot to balance the cost with the money saved on electricity.
Would you still feel that way if there was no electricity??
I didn’t buy mine to save money; I plan on using it in a grid down situation on sunny days.
If enough were sold, economy of scale would bring down the price dramatically. Not $50 in parts in one of these, but they are labor-intensive to assemble, and not many are sold. They could be sold for much less, but the manufacturer would go out of business before enough profit was realized.
I have a sport sun oven and it works great at 7600 ft. You don’t even need the reflectors. Even works in partial shade.
I’ve heard that a good one will work so long as you have enough sun to cast a shadow. That’s quite a lot of the year where I live.
We have one like the model pictured. Been using it a lot to save on electricity and keep from heating up the house this summer (and saving more electricity from having to turn ac on to cool the house more). Foods turn out great.
Thanks for the post Ken. We also have that same stove, my wife found it on craigslist slightly used with a couple of pots included. Very easy to set up and operate. One feature I like about it is the sun-aiming device at the front. A small plastic piece with a hole in it that allows you to properly adjust the direction and angle to match the current sun conditions. Just for fun I set it up and we boiled over a pot of water, took a while but we did it. Our set up also came with a clever water sanitizing indicator. Supposedly you drop this little thing into the water and it will either sink or float (can’t remember) after the water has been at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. Your post has inspired me to dig it out this weekend, as we are currently in a heat wave in this part of the country, and cook up some potatoes! However, I dread the day when we HAVE to cook on it even though it might be fun now.