A solar oven uses the power of the sun to cook. In our climate, that means that the majority of days we can cook our meals outside without using additional energy, saving our precious fuel storage. Overcast days may decrease the temperature of the oven and, in turn, increase cooking time.
Solar energy is a clean, inexpensive, abundant, renewable energy. We have experimented with several and like the Global Sun Oven best. It can reach temperatures up to 400° but usually hoovers between 300-325°. It is easy to use, safe, portable, and almost impossible to burn food. I have baked bread, cobblers, chicken, roasts, cakes, and some incredible chili … not to mention an 18 pound turkey.
Let us review the science that makes solar cookers work. It is not the sun’s heat that cooks the food, but the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet radiation penetrates the atmosphere when the sun is high in the sky. For example, in the northern hemisphere the sun is low on the horizon from November through March so its light passes through more atmosphere to reach the earth. This screens out most of the UV rays—that’s why it’s difficult to get a tan in the winter. When the sun is overhead, light rays pass through less atmosphere, so less UV radiation is screened out.
A solar cooker works like a one-way lobster trap. It lets UV light rays in and then converts them to longer infrared light rays that can’t escape. Infrared radiation has the right energy to make the water, fat, and protein molecules in food vibrate vigorously and heat up. That explains why you need a fairly clear sky with the sun at least 45 degrees above the horizon for enough time to cook your meal. Optimal cooking occurs when the UV Index is 7 or higher. Don’t give up on days with lower UV Index, just cook more forgiving foods such as those you would cook in a slow cooker. Bake bread on days with higher UV Index.
Solar ovens work best between 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. Some directional adjustments may be required during the cooking process to take best advantage of the sun. It is important to start cooking early enough in the day to ensure enough sunlight to complete cooking. If you start bread too late in the day it will raise and raise and raise and never cook. Solar ovens are incredible, however they have significant limitations.
We strongly encourage everyone to add a good solar oven to their emergency cooking options. You can find plans on the internet or there are many commercial brands available. Research well before purchasing. Some designs are more efficient than others. A good solar oven can help you stretch your fuel storage much farther. Quite frankly, I’m always amazed at the miracle of solar cooking.
A good site on solar oven to explore is solarcooking.org
This picture was taken on a chilly 10° day in January. I put the oven up on a table because I was worried about cold transfer from the ground. I’m not sure that was necessary. It reached a high of 360° on a winter day.
Solar ovens require periodic adjustments for optimal performance.
The Global Sun oven comes with a levelator tray that keeps food level regardless of the angle of the oven. In order to take best advantage of the sun, periodic adjustments are necessary to aim the oven as the sun moves across the sky.
Cook a turkey by removing the levelator tray, placing the turkey in an oven-safe roasting bag, and putting the bagged turkey directly on a small towel on the bottom of the oven.
Just about anything can be baked in a sun oven. It is quite difficult to burn food. For optimal temperatures use dark, non-reflective cookware. However, I have used bread pans, glass pans, and muffin tins and they all turned out great.
Sun ovens use safe, abundant, renewable energy. This oven is a valuable tool for provident living and preparedness. Foods can be safely cooked outside without heating up the kitchen on those hot summer days. We actually have two so I can bake dinner and dessert at the same time.
This homemade solar funnel cooker was created from Dr. Steven Jones’ original idea. It utilizes a canning jar as a type of pressure cooker to speed the cooking process. Step by step directions can be found by clicking here.
This post was written for Marjory Wildcraft at www.GrowYourOwnGroceries.org. Visit Grow Your Own Groceries for great ideas on producing your own food.