Posts Tagged ‘solar box oven’
We have mentioned this in prior posts, but since a member of our solar cooking group recently brought it to our attention, it’s a good topic to revisit.
THE WEATHER. Certainly you’ve heard the one about the weatherman having the best job in the world since he never has to worry about getting the forecast right. Well, those of us who have done all the prep work to get our solar meal ready often find ourselves at odds with him, right? Sure, a “partly cloudy” day can mean 20% cloud cover, or 60%, so your cooking time for a box cooker can vary a great deal under those “predictions”. Sometimes storm clouds appear much faster than anyone anticipates.
So, what’s the solar chef to do? Well, do your best. Make it a habit to watch your local nightly weather report. Want something even better? If you have a smart phone, try downloading a free app. Yes, like most things, some are better than others. PCMag.com recently did a great review of weather apps, and is a worthwhile read. No phone ? If you have access to a computer and the Internet, of course you can check out the apps and numerous sites in that way. We use a few and can recommend them: “weather underground”,” the weather channel”, and “weatherbug”. Each site has its various attributes, advantages and disadvantages. Some, and we’re not just including the 3 sites mentioned, are large and more technical sites. This affects download times and your device, and ultimately, your time.
In any case, whatever site you decide to use, we suggest getting one with a clear local radar picture. Why, you ask? Well, depending on how much time you have to contribute to your solar cooking, on a particular day, having some idea of how close a rain, snow or windstorm might be to your cooking site, is a good thing to know. Essentially, a weather radar picture will affect your planning /cooking schedule.
If you are hiking and camping, or are the survivalist type, you may already be prepared for oncoming bad weather. A good emergency kit or backpack should always contain a decent weather radio. This tool, will help keep you out of danger, and may allow for your uninterrupted solar cooking on the trail. Of course, the weather radio will still be a handy item wherever you do your solar cooking; the beach, backyard, or patio.
Some folks sometimes forget that, although the elements of rain, snow, wind & hail can affect your cooking, the seasons do not usually matter. Only a sunny day is needed for solar cooking. Check out this video from January.
Just remember to include the weather in your thoughts, before you set up your solar oven for the day. Weather it’s just passing clouds, a few raindrops or a tornado, it can affect your solar cooking fun 😉
Oh the variety and solar oven designs out there these days! You can get a parabolic that will have your ham & cheese sandwich done in seconds, or burnt to ashes if you don’t watch it. The wonderful evacuated tube models can sometimes cause food to suffer similarly, if you don’t mind them. For some panel cookers, especially depending on your latitude, you may be waiting awhile for thorough cooking. Don’t get me wrong, all these models serve their purpose very well!
With a double box solar oven, it is very difficult, to impossible, to burn any food. The other advantage of a big solar oven, like a box style cooker, is the generally large cooking chamber. If properly focused, and with plentiful sunshine, the box cooker usually only requires a few hours to prepare a typical meal. Depending upon the model, you can usually get a couple pots of food cooking simultaneously. This allows for bigger portions and servings for family and guests. This is an advantage not always used, especially if you may be hiking on a trail alone, on the beach with friends, or simply your back patio.
The other great advantage of a solar box oven, is that often the pots or baking pans can be stacked in the cooking chamber. For example, you may have a 3 quart pot of stew in there, but can also set a 9 inch baking pan, or cookie sheet into the chamber. It’s great! You can have your main course as well as dessert!
With some big solar ovens, like the Solavore Sport, three items, sometimes four, can be cooking: two, 3-quart pots plus the aforementioned cookie tray, baking pan, bread pan, etc. It’s easier than you may think to accomplish this.
Here’s how it can look in the Solavore Sport Oven:
In this oven, it’s easy to stack up the trays, plates, pots and pans. While remaining a light-weight and very portable solar oven, this model has a large chamber to cook loads of food simultaneously. Here’s how it all turned out:
So, if you have a large, double box solar oven, give stacking a fair try. Sometimes it takes more than one chance to be successful. But the rewards of cooking several meals at the same time are really enjoyable.
If you own and use a solar powered oven, you’ll be doing a big part to conserve energy in your household. You know, it’ll reduce your carbon footprint. No burning of wood, or other fossil fuel is required to operate a typical solar box oven.
Sure, we’re aware of the strides that many kitchen appliances, like the average microwave oven, have made in energy efficiency over the years. However, with the solar oven, often little preparation is needed to make a daily meal which can be thoroughly cooked by using the sun’s free energy.
The Third World is rapidly grasping and adopting solar oven use. Participants of solar cooking in these areas know that they are saving their own energy by not having to search vast and often dangerous regions for firewood. Their lives are directly affected and enhanced by solar oven use. They are healthier since they are not breathing smoke from wood fires. And, maybe they don’t realize it, but they’re also not releasing more CO2, particulates and other unnecessary gases into the atmosphere from wood fire use.
Those who live in sun-drenched lands can immediately start conserving energy, whether natural gas, electric, wood, coal, charcoal or other fossil fuels by cooking with a solar oven. The other great benefit to using a sun oven is keeping more green in your wallet. Energy costs more money than ever. Did you fill up your gas tank today? So, Southwest or Southeast USA residents can really do their part relating to the so-called Fifth Fuel. Start conserving energy today by getting or building a solar oven.
You can bake, boil or steam most of your favorite foods in a solar space oven, and prepare several dishes simultaneously.
Stay in touch with us here for solar oven tips and recipes.
We were watching, “Tortilla Soup” an older movie starring Hector Elizondo, a few nights ago and became inspired to share this recipe. It’s easy and fairly quick to make. And, there’s nothing like soup cooked in a solar oven for hours. The flavor is through and through delicious.
1 onion, chopped
1 large can of chicken broth
2 Tbs taco seasoning (Old El Paso, etc)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or black, or Cajun seasoning)
1 large can of fire-roasted tomatoes
3 generously rounded cups of rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs cilantro, chopped
Keep on hand an avocado, sour cream, queso blanco (shredded) or a favorite shredded cheese, tortilla chips and a lime.
Puree the onion, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro and chicken broth together in a blender. Then, dump it into your favorite dark colored thin walled metal pot (3 qt roaster of stoneware variety). Mix in the chicken, then cover with lid and place into your solar box oven for at least 3 hours (depending on how good your sunshine is that day).
The ease of use of solar cooking mostly pertains to solar gain within the solar box oven (type of solar oven discussed here). Oh yes, most folks understand how well passive solar heating, the concept at work here, is manifested. Ever climb into your car that’s been setting in the sun all day with it’s windows closed? Or, fry an egg on a parking lots’ asphalt? You get the picture.
Passive solar heating is employed by the solar box oven by it’s having a dark colored interior, preferably metal, like aluminum, which will also conduct the heat into the cooking vessel. The latter, is usually a dark colored thin walled metal pot with a lid. The “stoneware” or “granite-ware” varieties often work the best. The solar oven also has a double -paned glass or plastic lid that tightly seals against the frame, thus allowing none of the internally heated air in the cooking chamber to escape. Use an oven thermometer to monitor the cooking temperature.
The oven is placed facing the sun and left alone to prepare the meal inside it. How simple is that? It’s no wonder that this “solar crock pot” is becoming more popular at all types of outings. For many years, it’s been a favorite of RVers, campers and hikers, but now they’re seen at beaches, family reunions and get-togethers of all kinds. The solar box oven often reaches 400 degree F temperatures, so it easily bakes, boils or steams many traditional dishes. An added benefit, is its use to pasteurize water.
What a great, simple and enjoyable way to use passive solar power. The solar prepared meal is the proof.
Although highly touted here before this, and certain to continue, are the much acclaimed benefits of solar cooking.
You may be a either a novice cook, culinary expert, or someone in between. In any case, you will discover the ways of solar cooking to make your own masterpieces. Whether your solar box oven is homemade, or a commercially obtained unit, you will quickly become enlightened to the uses of this cost efficient oven.
Before long, you will have found ways to create your preferred dishes. After that, you’ll be experimenting with loads of other tasty delights. A solar box cooker, can bake, boil or steam foods of your choosing.
Since solar oven temperatures often max out around 400 degrees F (solar box ovens), you will learn to better plan your meals and the required cooking time. Have your ingredients ready for that special solar cooked meal on that next blessed sunny day.
Most significant, is how much money you’ll find that you’re saving on energy costs by using the sun’s free energy to prepare meals. By solar cooking more frequently, you’ll save a bundle. To be sure, there is a learning curve with solar cooking, but it’s not as steep as you think. Whether you’re a beginner cook or advanced chef, you can soon be out there with the rest of us squinting into the sun oven chamber to see how the evening meal is coming along. Start solar enjoying cooking today!
This is a healthy, nutritious and filling little meal to help you start off your day. Actually, since it takes most of a day to cook in a solar box oven, you really need to prepare this on a sunny day and enjoy it the next day, whether sunny or cloudy. So, here’s the recipe:
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or chopped walnuts)
1/2 cup wheat germ
3 cups oatmeal
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup raisins
You’ll need a large bowl and a thin-walled dark metal baking pan. Gently mix all the ingredients in the bowl, then spread out evenly into a thin layer in the pan. Cover the pan and bake at least 4 hours in the solar cooker, longer is better to get a full flavor. This makes about 6, 1 cup servings. Keep this mixture covered and in the fridge to keep it fresh. Add some brown sugar or honey and a few more raisins before serving. It’s Sooooolar Delicious!
When I was a teenager, a girl-friend of mine had a very traumatic experience with a gas oven. Apparently, the burners were a little dirty. Somehow, while baking a pasta dish, she opened the oven door when the oven came on. Boom! She burned her face severely. Imagine, being 17 and having to deal with that. As I remember it, I did my best to comfort her.
That type of tragedy really stays with you, even after setting up my own household years later. We used a gas range on a daily basis and the thought of that young girl’s home accident remained fresh. But, if you enjoy cooking as I do, then you really cannot stay away from the stove.
Since I began experimenting with solar energy devices decades ago, the answer to my oven fear simply worked itself into my life. By using a solar box oven, you can cook just about anything and never have to fear the sudden appearance of a gaseous ball of flames in your face. It’s a mishap that just can’t happen. You can bake, boil or steam just about any traditional dish. You can also dehydrate foods with it, but more about that at another time. Yes, you still need to mind opening up a boiling pot of chili, and use oven mitts since the temperatures may reach 400 degrees Fahrenheit in a solar oven.
However, there’s no doubt in my mind, that using a solar cooker is safer than a conventional oven. Whether home-built or a commercial model, solar cooking easily overcomes the fear of having a conventional oven accident.
Once you’re a solar box oven owner, it’s best to begin experimenting with it right away. There are, however, certain methods to follow to help you make the most out of the new cooking experience. Below, are 5 recommendations for achieving success with your new culinary appliance.
1. Pre-heating. Always make it a point to have the oven set-up and heated to at least 150 degrees before setting the pot, pan or dish inside. If you do this religiously with every dish you prepare, failure is harder to come by.
2. Oven thermometer. Having an oven thermometer popped into the back of the oven is quite essential. Most commercial sun cookers either have them built into the appliance or supply one separately. Without knowing the temperature, it will far more difficult to estimate the cooking time per dish/meal. In fact, it’s your best gauge for it. With seasons, shadows, sun angles, and other variables in play that affect solar cooking, no solar chef should be without one.
3. Open the cooking chamber, pot or lid, as little as possible. You may be tempted, especially if you’re an experienced cook, to keep checking the pot. However, we’ve found that many dishes do not even require stirring in a solar oven. It’s been noted elsewhere, that every time the oven chamber is opened, an additional 15 minutes of cooking time is required, since the inside temperature may be reduced by 40 or 50 degrees.
4. Keep your solar oven handy. Solar oven users often keep their oven close by, like outside, already clean since its last use, and covered with a tarp, plastic bag, etc, to avoid moisture. It just makes sense that you’ll likely use it more if it’s nearby and nearly setup. That’s especially true for those of us in areas not so blessed with sunshine and appreciate that gorgeous sunny solar cooking day when it arrives, Summer or Winter.
5. Wear sunglasses. It may seem hard to believe, but donning a visor or ball cap and sunglasses help protect your eyes when placing and removing meals from the solar cooker. The UV rays and normal light off the oven’s reflector are hard on the eyes and especially so as the cooking day wears on.
And there you have it! Keep these 5 points in mind on your next solar cooking day to have a better experience.
Certainly, those of us who enjoy cooking, usually start from scratch or a recipe. Sometimes, when we’re in a hurry or having a busy day, but it’s a great solar powered cooking day, we take another route. After all, you have your solar cooker handy, why not make something to come home to if it’s a gorgeous sunny day, right?
Since, we like corn bread, we always keep a store-bought mix handy. Have you tried Larry the Cable Guy’s Corn Muffin mix? We picked one up for just a buck at a local store. But, we’ve also tried “Jiffy” and other brands in the past and they also come out fine.
For Larry’s mix, only ½ cup of milk and 2 large eggs are needed. The only prep work is to grease the muffin or 8 inch pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For your solar cooker, 160 degrees is acceptable. Larry’s bread cooks at 375 degrees for 32-36 minutes in a conventional oven, but a solar box oven will need about 2 ½ to 3 hours of strong sunshine to bake it through. Other box mixes, sometimes just take one egg and less normal oven time.
Although it was delicious, Larry’s bread tasted a bit eggy to us the first time we tried it, so we added ¼ cup of shredded cheddar cheese to it (as Larry recommends on the box) and it was better. The next time we decided to give it our own touch by adding Cajun seasoning (cayenne pepper works too) and bacon bits to the mix. Another way to make it tastier, is to add a handful of raisins to the mix. As Larry says, they’re “awesome”.
Hope you have as much fun as we do with Larry’s cornbread muffins.