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Solar Cooking

The golden rule of solar cooking is: GET THE FOOD ON EARLY, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT OVERCOOKING.
 

 

Reasons to use a Solar Cooker   ~ Types of Solar Cooking days  ~ Easy and Hard foods to cook ~ Solar Recipes

 

I began my venture into solar cooking more than 20 years ago. We started with 2 cardboard boxes, one inside the other with the gap between filled with insulation. Flashing found at a builder's store made up the sides and bottom. A piece of mirror was taped to the box flap. We used a stand-up dressing mirror for the sun reflecting into the box, and used a piece of glass to cover the top ... voilà, we had a solar cooker! It worked great! I never even used a thermometer in it... I made banana bread, cooked chicken... you name it, I tried it.


 
To see our more handbuilt recent cooker, scroll to the bottom. 

 Cooking Guidelines 

Most recipes take slightly less liquid when cooked in a solar oven.

Time for cooking depends on the temperature of the food as it is placed in the oven, as well as the brightness of the day.  

Allow plenty of time.  Foods hold well in the solar oven without scorching or drying out.  

Focus oven and check food about once an hour when you're just getting started.  Later, you'll relax and tend the cooking only once every two or three hours.

Most recipes calling for a higher temperature will do fine if you give them more time.

High altitude adjustment: The temperature of boiling water is reduced as the altitude increases.  For instance the boiling temperature of water is only 203F degrees at 6000 ft. and this slows the cooking. Vegetables and dried beans may be difficult to cook at high altitudes because of this effect. You may try cooking your food in darkened canning jars with regular canning lids and rings tightened.  The rubber seal allows excess pressure to be released but a low increase in pressure is retained and speeds cooking. We only recommend standard canning jars and lids as they are designed for pressure.

 Types of Cooking Days

GOOD:  Clear and sunny.  Oven will preheat to 275° - 300°F (130° - 145° Celsius.)

FAIR:  Hazy or partly cloudy.  Oven will preheat to 200° - 225°F (95° - 105° Celsius.)

BAD:  On a completely cloudy day one cannot cook with the sun.  If the clouds move in and completely block the sun while cooking, simply finish the cooking in a non-solar way.

If food partially cooks and then rests in incubation temperatures, pathogens may grow in 2 or 3 hours. Partially cooked food should be removed from the cooker as soon as  feasible.

CHARACTERISTICS OF HOW FOOD COOKS IN A SOLAR OVEN

Easy to Cook: General Cooking Time 2 hours
(If started early, will be done on a fair day.)  White rice, whole grains, rolled grain flakes, cereals, most egg dishes, chops, ribs, fish and most poultry, puddings, crackers, cookies, brownies, fruits, green vegetables, shredded vegetables.   

Medium to Cook:  General Cooking Time 3 hours
(If started early, ready by noon on a good day or by evening on a fair day.)  Cornbread, gingerbread, medium-sized roasts, quick breads, yeast rolls and buns, soufflés, root vegetables such as potatoes, turnips, brown rice, some beans such as lentils, black-eyed peas, black beans, large amounts of easy to cook foods

 Difficult to Cook:  General Cooking Time 4 - 5 hours
(If started early, ready for late lunch or dinner on a good day.)  Whole turkey, large roasts, stews and soup and bean pots (unless brought to a boil before placing in solar oven), most yeast breads and cakes, pre-soaked pinto beans, field peas, garbanzo beans, small navy beans, soybeans, kidney beans, red beans, yellow peas, dried peas, split green or brown peas.

Solar cooking is simply harnessing the sun's energy to cook food. This is an excellent way to keep the house cool in the summer, costs nothing to use, and is a great alternative to conventional cooking.

There are two things needed to solar cook.

1. Solar cooker

2. Dark pot to cook in - this can be either a granite ware, cast iron, or an aluminum pot painted black on the outside. The thin walls of the granite ware or aluminum, is actually a good heat conductor

If you are not able to find black or darkened pots and pans for use in your solar cooker, you can cook your food in jars. Canning jars are preferable because they are designed for high pressure and heat. Regular clear jars can be used if you do not seal them too tightly in order to diminish the possibility of exploding. You can paint them black for better heat absorption.

Solar cooking is not only fun but it's a great educational tool. You can even make a solar cooker out of a pringles can!

Solar Box Cookers, constructed using cardboard, newspaper, aluminum foil, and a piece of glass will typically cook at temperatures between 225 - 275 F. 

It is a real oven, and will cook most anything you would put in your oven at home. They are considered a slow cooker, usually taking about twice as long as your conventional oven.
 

Reasons to use a Solar Cooker   

1. Put your food out early and you can run errands etc, and not worry about your home burning down, and the food can be left unattended for hours without fear of overcooking or burning.
 

2. Unlike your oven, the solar cooker does not add heat to the kitchen.

3. There's no need to rotate the oven to follow the sun, though it will improve cooking times.

4. You can take a solar oven to the beach or camping, and you can also use it to pasteurize water.

5. A Solar Cooker is very portable. Often, during emergencies,families have to move quickly. The Solar Cooker is lightweight and carries like a suitcase.

6. Solar Cookers will cook any food without dangerous flammable fuels and fire. A Solar Cooker uses no fire to cook food so there is no chance of accidental fire. It is easier for a cook or a bystander to get burned from falling pots or wandering hands during use. Cooking fires must be tended to constantly. This creates an increased burn risk to a child or an adult.
 
7. The Solar Cooker is safe to use in emergency situations, and every day. While the oven itself will get very hot, the glass and reflectors do not. The glass lid may get hot to the touch (140 degrees F.) but it will not burn the skin when casually touched. The reflectors do not give off heat.

8 .Solar Cookers produce no smoke during the cooking process. A solar oven produces very little smell because moisture is retained in the food. It is the moisture molecules from the food released into the air that we smell when baking in a regular
oven. The gas or electric burner constantly replaces air in the oven and the moisture is therefore released into the room, drying out the food. Solar cookers only use sunlight to cook food and smoke is not a byproduct. When the food retains its moisture it is less likely to burn.
 
9. Food is less likely to burn, does not need stirring and will not stick to the pan when solar cooking. This allows for easier clean-up, saving precious water and lessens stress in emergencies.

 

 

We have  built a newer model... a black wooden box, with fold out lids that can be closed up when not in use. the inside of the box is painted black. After the food is placed inside, a piece of glass is placed on top. Two flaps were hinged to the top, and mirrors attached. These flaps can be positioned to the suns rays, reflect them into the box, where the sun's heat is trapped.

~ SOLAR RECIPES