Learnng The Art of Solar Cooking is Easy!
Learning to cook your food with a solar cooker does not require re-learning old skills. Once you have purchased or built a solar cooker and located it in an area of sufficient sunlight, you can cook almost anything in your solar oven.
On a hot day with blazing sunlight, a solar cooker will heat to 300-350 degrees while on a partially cloudy day the temperate may reach 200-250 degrees.
Food cooks slowly in a solar oven just as it does in an electric crockpot. This produces healthy meals where flavors and juices a retained and vitamins are not destroyed by high heat.
In fact, you cook in a solar cooker must as you do with an electric crockpot. You place your food I the cooker in the early morning hours, go about your day and have delicious meal ready in the evening.
If the day becomes cloudy you can always finish the final cooking in your standard oven if necessary.
There is no limit to the foods you can cook in a solar cooker. Casseroles and stews, roasts and ratatouille slowly cook to perfection and you can even bake bread in a solar oven.
How the Solar Cooker Works
Reflective surfaces of the solar cooker capture and reflect the sun to the cooking surface. Reflected solar energy from a large aluminum or other shiny surface concentrates heat where you need it.
The cooking surface or box is insulated to hold the generated solar energy and covered with a black surface to absorb the reflect rays of the sun.
You can buy professionally manufactured solar cookers for $200-400 or more. These have polished sheet aluminum or glass mirrors to reflect the sunlight. Temperatures of 200-400 degrees are common with these cookers.
You'll find a solar cooker for almost any cooking need you have. Smaller cookers are quite popular with campers and are offered at reasonable cost on many camping supply websites.
There's nothing like building your own solar cooker whether you are a camper or simply a homeowner who wants to save energy and the environment. The food is not cooked by the sun itself.
You may have heard the phrase "hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk". In some regions, there are days when an egg will cook on a concrete surface. The egg is not cooked by the sun's rays but by the heat buildup in the concrete which provides energy to fry the egg.
Cooking in a solar cooker is similar to how a greenhouse works. Plants thrive in a greenhouse even when the air outside is cold.
A good solar cooker reflects sunlight from multiple surfaces and focuses it on one point where cooking will occur. That point absorbs the energy of the sun and produces heat as a result.
It's the UV rays of the sun converted to heat energy that cooks the food in a solar cooker. This infrared radiation (UV) carries enough energy to vibrate the molecules of fat and protein and that rapid vibration leads to heat and cooks the food.
Buy or Build a Solar Cooker
Several solar cooking enthusiasts recommend the Global Sun Oven as one of the best options for a commercial solar cooker. This oven reaches 350F and is built to last for many years.
The only drawback of do-it-yourself solar cookers is the limited life span of most of the projects. When using cardboard and aluminum foil, clearly you are building a cooker with a limited usable life.
The best part of solar cooking may be the ability to build a cheap solar cooker to try this energy efficient cooking style and decide if you like it.
If solar cooking is for you, consider buying a good quality commercial solar cooker that will last for years. A big advantage is portability so look for a cooker that will fold up for storage during winter months.
The time needed to cook a meal in a solar cooker is entirely dependent on the temperature produced in that solar oven. At 350 F you can cook pinto beans and beef barbecue in 5-6 hours.
At 275 F you will need to add 2-3 hours to the cooking time or finish the final cooking in your kitchen. Either way, you will save energy. The pots you use to cook in a solar cooker are important.
You need to use dark colored pots that will absorb solar energy and you must use a dark lid on the pot. Normal kitchen pots and pans are often of light-colored metals that reflect rather than absorb energy and those will not work in a solar cooker.
Stay tuned and check out our guides on different alternative sources of energy as well!