This post originally aired years ago when we lived in ‘sunny’ California. I wanted to re-post it and discover if any of you currently have a solar oven or live in a climate where it would be useful more than just a few months a year ;)
We will be taking ours out pretty soon and start using it again…
Here’s the original article:
I enjoy experimenting with all things related to harnessing energy from the sun.
Living in a part of California where the sun shines all summer long, I use solar energy to produce electricity, heat water, and sometimes to cook with. Learning to harness the sun will not only potentially save you money, but it brings you closer to self-sufficiency.
During the past several years I have built (and purchased) several solar cookers. The solar cooker that I purchased is named “Sun Oven”, and has been a reliable and HOT cooker during the 2 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 cooking most foods.
(UPDATE) The solar cooker is now branded as the All American Sun Oven
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.
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.
My homemade solar cooker has a hard time getting hot enough during the winter (although I have plans to build a new one that will be better!), whereas the “Sun Oven” does much, much better because it’s more efficient at capturing the sun’s rays and keeping the heat inside.
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.
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), 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 cook 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).
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.
Okay folks, what about you? Anyone have a solar oven?