When the sun is shining, there are few things more satisfying than cooking with it. Whether you’re at home or in a remote location, solar ovens can be an invaluable tool for making delicious meals without polluting the environment. Cooking with a solar oven is easy and efficient for those who love to cook but want to do so responsibly!
Cooking With The Power of the Sun
Many people understand the concept of passive solar for heating a home. Fewer realize it can be used to cook food and sterilize water.
Why is that so handy?
Solar ovens are primarily a tool for cooking and sterilizing water during emergencies, but they can also be used to supplement your stovetop. For example, if you’re making rice on the stovetop it takes about eight cups of water per cup of uncooked long-grain rice. That’s 16 pints or 128 fluid ounces! But in a solar oven, you only need a little bit of water to come up with the desired effect.
They are fantastic for camping too! You can set out your treat earlier in the day, let the sun do its magic, and enjoy a treat after that hike or kayaking adventure.
What is a solar oven?
A solar oven is pretty much what it sounds like. It is used to cook food and sterilize water. Most people do not even know they exist, but they are an effective way to cook from both an economic and efficient point of view.
How does a solar oven work?
The basic idea with solar cooking is to create a box-like structure that the sun heats up dramatically. If you have sat in a car in rush hour during the summer, you know the sun can generate a lot of heat. Instead of cooking you in a car, a solar oven focuses on food.
Solar oven materials
Solar ovens are made from a variety of materials including cardboard, wood and metal. The best solar oven is one that collects the most heat from the sun’s rays. It should have reflective surfaces on top and bottom to help it concentrate as much light energy into your food as possible!
A basic design for a DIY solar cooker would be a cardboard box open at the top and closed on three sides. The bottom of the oven should be black to ensure it heats up while reflecting as much light into the food as possible.
How to cook with a solar over
So, how do we cook with it? The box structure is created with dark paneling and then covered with a clear glass or plastic top after pots and food or water has been inserted. The structure is sealed. Much like a car, the sunlight beats through the clear top and heats the interior of the box. As the heat rises, it cooks the items inside. Yes, it produces more than enough heat to do the job. It really is as simple as that.
To be technical, the sun’s energy is captured by the black absorber panels and transferred via convection currents into your pot or container of food. The cooker will reach temperatures between 140°F and 350°F depending on how much sunlight is available.
What do you use to cook in a solar oven
The best way to use a solar oven is by cooking in glass containers or cookware with tight-fitting lids, as this will retain the heat better than metal vessels. You can also put your pot directly on top of black absorber panels for faster results.
You should avoid using aluminum foil because it reflects light
Different kinds of solar ovens
There are three general types of solar ovens.
- A solar box works as described previously.
- A panel oven uses reflective surfaces to focus the sun on a pot to create heat and cook the material inside.
- A parabolic version is designed to focus the sunlight into the bottom of a concave area upon which sits pots.
There are variations of these three forms, but all solar cooking designs are derived from these basic forms. Today, we are going to make the first version: a solar box.
While cooking with the sun is fun and efficient, most people will never apply it in their homes because of obvious design issues. At a cabin or when camping, however, it is a perfect solution.
That all being said – we are sharing a fun DIY you can try to whip up your favorite camping treat!
How to make a solar oven
Here are a few simple things you will need to whip up your solar over to make the s’mores
- 1 box with an attached flip top lid (pizza box, doughnut box, shoebox, gift box, etc.)
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic page protector or plastic wrap
- Ruler or straight edge
- Bamboo skewer
Of course you will need ingredients for the S’mores:
Pretty standard fare – the normal three things, unless you want to switch it up a bit with Reese Peanut Butter Cups, etc.
- Chocolate candy bars
- Graham crackers, broken into squares
Mark the top of the box for the approximate dimensions of the window, leaving enough space along the edges to attach the page protector or plastic wrap. It doesn’t need to be an exact measurement.
Cut the lid on three sides to create a flap in the lid. Fold the cut flap on the lid back.
Line the inside bottom of the box with aluminum foil. Also, attach aluminum foil to the underside of the cut flap on the lid to reflect sunlight into the box.
Attach the page protector or plastic wrap to the opening of the lid.
Poke a hole through the lid of the box to lean against the cut flap to hold the flap up.
Place the graham crackers inside the box with a piece of chocolate bar and a marshmallow on top. Close the box and position the box to face the sun with the flap up. The chocolate will melt quickly. The marshmallow will soften but it will take longer.
When the marshmallow is soft enough, press another graham cracker square against the top of the s’more. Enjoy!
Solar Oven Recipes
If this quick experiment gets you excited to learn more about solar oven cooking, there are a number of recipes and ideas you can find online. Pinterest is always a great place to look
Solar cooking is fun, efficient, environmentally-friendly, and lets you be in charge of your meal without relying on power or fuel sources.
There’s no reason not to try it out!