Last updated on January 28th, 2013
Solar Cooking – Convenient and Cost Effective
Since Ken and I are always looking for ways to become more self-sufficient, we started prepping with food storage. As we began to store the foods we normally eat, the question arose, “How will we cook this food in a SHTF scenario if there is no electricity?”
Well, several answers came to us right away. Of course, we already had one solution for cooking without electricity, our Coleman camp stove which requires white fuel (or propane or unleaded gas on certain models). I suppose you could always barbecue, but what happens when you run out of charcoal or lighter fluid or propane?
And so we embarked on making our own cost effective frugal solution, a solar oven. I am blessed in the fact that my wonderful husband, Ken (a.k.a. MacGyver), can make almost anything out of almost everything. Shortly thereafter was born our homemade solar oven made out of an old wooden toy chest!
I have been cooking with a solar oven for several years now. Ladies and gentlemen, (whoever does the cooking in your homestead), this is one of the best inventions since ‘sliced bread’! Not only is it cost effective because it uses free power, but it’s especially cost effective if you build your own.
Solar Oven Convenience Factors
There are also many convenience factors. First of all, as a very busy woman working full time, anything I can do to help speed up dinner after an exhausting day is a plus. One of my favorite features of the solar oven that Ken made was that the temperature maintained in the oven was about 250 – 275 degrees F. I would take some chicken and broccoli in a pot, maybe with a potato or two, and put it out in the oven in the morning before going to work. When I get home, dinner is cooked to perfection.
It was like having a giant crock pot in the back yard! Cooking foods at a lower temperature for a longer period of time, keeps them very tender. Almost all of the moisture stays in the pan keeping all the flavor in the food. There is no stirring needed. It is also virtually impossible to burn something in this solar oven, believe me, we tried on purpose as one of our experiments. As always, it is our hope that you will learn from our trials and errors. This oven is also big enough that it can hold more than one pan at a time.
We have cooked salmon, chicken, pork roast, baked potatoes and baked yams to name a few, along with baking focaccia bread and brownies! Another great plus to having the convenience of a solar oven…say goodbye to a hot kitchen in the summer! Now there is no need to heat up your kitchen by turning the oven on or 2 or 3 of your stove top burners on a hot or humid summer day!
After about a year of playing and experimenting with the homemade solar oven, Ken decided to buy a commercially built one. His natural curiosity got the better of him. He wanted to evaluate the design of it compared to his design. Hoping to perhaps pick up a pointer or two, which could perhaps help to better his design. So we purchased a ‘Sun Oven’. At a cost of about $280, it appears to be one of the highest priced solar ovens on the market, and it’s price may not be for everyone.
I have read reviews on the Sun Oven on several other sites and people really seem to like it. I found both advantages and disadvantages. First of all, it only holds one pan at a time. For someone like me who loves to cook, this was an inhibiting factor. Another reason I don’t like it very much is that the internal temperature will easily get up to 375 degrees F. That is the temperature you would normally use in your regular kitchen oven. This makes the Sun Oven cook much quicker than our other oven, so I don’t have that convenience factor of putting dinner out and leaving it until it’s time to eat. You need to treat it like a normal oven and watch the time.
One of the things I do like about the Sun Oven is that you still have the availability of using a solar oven and not having to heat up your house on a hot summer day. With the Sun Oven, you can start cooking later in the day, as it cooks at a higher temperature. It is designed so that it folds up into a pretty compact ‘package’ about the size of a suitcase. The handle makes it convenient to carry to a different location or to store somewhere else during the ‘off’ season.
Solar Oven – Give It A Try
So the bottom line is try a solar oven! Your personal needs, geographic location and amount of cooking you normally do, will decide the size of your oven. If you decide to build your own, drop ken an email. I’m sure he would love to help!
You’ll be surprised at what a conversation piece they are when you have friends over for a barbecue! Give it a try!
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