Thursday, March 19, 2009

Solar Cooking

I love my solar oven. The longer I have it, the more I recognize it's value and efficiency.

When you first try solar cooking, it's kind of a lark. You're amazed that it really works, and experimenting with different recipes is a whole new adventure.

Then one day, you begin to recognize its' true value. I think you have to have been using it for a while before it really sinks in. Longtime readers know that I've been baking our bread for some time now. With the solar oven, it has become so simple, I'm sure this is the method I will be using for years to come.

I'm beginning to realize that this is a real tool, not just a passing fad. I know that the idea of solar cooking is appealing, but when you get into using it on a regular basis, you begin to realize just how very much sense it makes.

As a society, we have become so accustomed to turning a knob and getting our power, it takes a while to wrap your head around the fact that you really can cook for free.

Now you do have to have a solar oven, but there are tons of options, from ones made from a simple reflective wind shield guard to gluing tin foil on to a piece of cardboard. There are many plans scattered all over the internet and I would love to see any of you try one or another of these.

I looked back on the blog and realized I hadn't really talked specifically about my Global Sun Oven, so I thought this might be a good time.

This shot is of the oven, when it is all folded up and ready to travel. The reflective panels fold flat over the glass lid, making quite a compact package. When folded up like this is is just slightly larger than my first solar cooker, the Hot Pot. You'll notice that there's a handle on the front of the oven, making it quite portable.

This shot shows the oven with the reflector panels fully up. You simply set it in the sun, aim it so it is facing the brightest part of the sun, and with good weather, it will usually reach upwards of 300 degrees within about forty minutes.

The box of the oven contains insulation which makes for excellent heat retention. The glass door sits on a gasket giving it a a tight seal. The thermometer is permanently attached so you always know the temperature of the oven. You can barely see it in this photo but there is a swinging shelf inside the oven. You can either place your food directly on the shelf or remove the shelf and put it directly on the bottom of the oven.

The foot you see here at the back of the oven is the reason for the swinging shelf. As the sun rises and sets across the sky, you can raise or lower the oven to get the most amount of sun. With the swinging shelf, your food always stays level. When the sun is directly high in the sky, you can remove the shelf and cook right on the bottom, but so far, we always just use the swinging shelf. So far, I've baked over a dozen loaves of bread, made a half dozen cakes and just yesterday I made a pot of chili Colorado. It's amazing to watch a pot of meat come to a gentle simmer and stay there for hours. The sun is a wondrous thing. We've also cooked several pots of beans, made chicken vegetable bake, cooked numerous pots of rice and reheated many leftovers.

The solar oven is perfect for reheating frozen food, you just put it in there and let it go for an hour or so and it's ready to eat. You rarely burn anything since there is no direct heat, and food is very rich, since there's little loss of liquid.

But really, the most amazing part of all this is I am not using propane or electricity to cook. While the solar oven was an investment, it is already paying for itself.

Here's a final picture of one of my latest cakes. I found these small two cup silicone bowls on the internet. They are a perfect size for a small two person cake, meaning we don't have a lot of baked goods sitting around the rig. This was a banana chocolate chip cake and it was yummy!

Do any of you readers use solar in your daily life? If so I'd love to hear about it. And if you're interested in a Global Sun Oven, send me a private email.


M said...

WoW! That's so cool...and fresh bread?! Mmmmm....

But you've gotta have sun...and we can go for days here without.

Thanks for sharing!

photowannabe said...

I read and saved an article from the Sunday paper a while back that talks about "The simple tool that saves women's lives" by Dr. Ranit Mishori. Its about a solar cooker project in Dafar and other places. Go to March 1, 2009.
Also visit
Great article and a wonderful cause.

Joe and Tracey said...

Having enjoyed some of that Chili Colorado, I can attest to the wonders of the solar oven! Thanks for sharing Kate and Terry.


Nancy G said...

Hi Guys.....I also have a gso. We were at Glendale Sahuaro Park for the solar cooking demo...Tom brought three and made ribs, carrots and green beans, and some potatoes and a sweet potato. Got my other half interested! I made some bread and should have brought more food to cook since we wound up there all day. Bruce had his fresnel lens one and made breakfast burritos and hamburgers for all...his is really hot as they were burning wood to demonstrate it all day. We wound up there all day and had fun. I will post some photos to the yahoo group as soon as I recover and enjoy a beer! iT WAS HOT out there today and we had a Folk Festival at the same time with great music and lots of people who never heard of solar cooking!

Anonymous said...

Great - I have been looking into solar cookers, sounds like a fantastic idea, and good to see that it actually works!

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This solar cooking is so cool. Everyone should try this one as another way of saving some energy and cost as well.

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