Now don’t get me wrong… I like the deluxe solar cooker too. They both work great!
Solar Cookit $35
So… how do solar ovens work?
There are 4 basic principles you need to follow. Solar cookers work by converting sunlight into heat. The dark pot holds in the heat that will cook your food. That’s the power of the sun!
Sunlight = Free Fuel. You need to set up your solar cooker on a clear sunny day. This should be in an area that’s protected from a strong wind. Solar cookers do not work on cloudy days.
Converting Sunlight into Heat. It's best to use a thin black pot for cooking. Dark surfaces absorb heat and get very hot in the sunlight.
A thin, shallow pot with a lid works best. The lid is used to hold in heat and moisture. I like the black speckled graniteware.
Glass containers can also be used. If you spray paint the glass container black, it’s even better!
Spray Painting Tips: Before painting your jar, put a strip of masking tape down the side of the jar. This creates a little window so you can see inside the jar while the food is cooking. Spray the jar with the lid and band on it so you don't get paint on the rim and threads.
You can also paint a gallon glass jar black and use this to
Using Reflective Material. The oven focuses the reflective rays of the sunlight onto the pot when using foil or some type of reflective material. You can make homemade solar ovens using an old satellite dish or cardboard covered with foil.
Retaining Heat. Put your black pot in a turkey bag or some kind of transparent bag. This helps keep the heat around the black pot while still letting in the sunlight. This is especially important when it’s cold outside.
I have also found that temperature and moisture content are higher when using a bag. You can use a piece of plexi-glass over a box cooker. You get the idea.
Elevate Pot. There needs to be airflow under the cooking pot. This way the heat can get to bottom of the pot as well as the sides. You don’t want your pot sitting on the cold ground. You can use rocks , sticks, blocks, baking rack, or a trivet!
Just follow the basic principles and be creative!
Women in Africa are now using solar cookers instead of having to gather fuel and keep a fire going all day. The women are safe from the danger they face when they go outside of the camps to gather fuel. Using the Solar ovens also gives them more time to learn other skills. They have some very unique ways of keeping the oven from moving or blowing over in the wind!
Solar Cooker Project
So how do I use my solar oven?
First, make sure you have the needed equipment: solar oven, black cooking pot, a clear bag,
and something to keep the pot up off the ground. And don’t forget -- a good recipe!
You need to start the food early in the day, by at least 10:00 a.m. Think of using it like you’d use a crock-pot. Most crock-pot recipes work just great in solar cookers. You normally don’t need to worry about overcooking it. I usually check it after 4-hours.
You can use clothespins on the underside of the slit where you connect the back panel to the bottom of the solar oven. This helps in holding the oven together.
Solar Cooking – Here’s some examples:
Split Pea and Potato Soup. It's delicious and cooks up in less than 4 hours. You can look through the “window” to see when the peas are smooth and the soup is creamy. Then you’ll know it’s done.
You can pick up the jar with a hot pad, but do not immediately open it! You'll get burned. It's under pressure and will explode just like a jar coming out of a canner.
Ingredients 1 c. split ½ c. diced potatoes 2 T. small cut up onion (1 T. dry) 1 bullion cube (1 t. powder) 2 dashes of pepper
Put peas, potatoes, onion and bullion in your black painted jar. Fill jar with water to 1-inch below the neckline of the jar. Screw on lid and ring. (Oil the rubber seal of the lid so it doesn’t seal!) It cooks up in about 4 hours, but time will vary with conditions and solar ovens. Watch the soup for a smooth consistency. Enjoy!
The other thing I found solar cookers to be good for is melting honey in my glass jars. Have you ever tried to melt your honey in the crock-pot. It takes ALL DAY!
I wondered if the honey would melt down in the solar cooker, so I tried it. I came back 2 hours later to find my honey at almost 200 degrees! I killed it! I let the next jar sit in the solar cooker for an hour – stirring it at the 30-minute mark. It was perfect! So much easier…
I also made an enchilada casserole and froze it in the black pot. I put the frozen casserole in the solar cooker and let it bake for 6 hours. The extra time was to accommodate for the casserole being frozen. It came out perfect. The cheese melted and was hot.
So get creative when cooking with solar and have fun!
You can find tried and tested solar oven recipes on websites or use your favorite crock-pot ones.