You can cook with the sun and, no, you don't need a space ship or a super long hot dog roasting stick to do it, either. Solar ovens focus and capture the sun's energy to heat up cooking pots, cooking surfaces and food. Using no heat source other than the sun you can bake cookies, roast hot dogs, boil soup, bake casseroles, and more. Solar cooked food tastes delicious too.
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Types of Solar Ovens
According to Solar Cookers, International, there are three main types of solar cookers. Heat trap solar cookers are boxes that direct focused sunlight into an insulated box with a clear top. Box cookers cook at medium to high temperatures. Large box cookers can accommodate multiple pots. Box cookers are the most common type of solar cooker. Curved concentrated cookers use a parabolic mirror to focus sun on a cooking pot or directly on food. These cookers achieve high temperatures but require frequent adjustment and close supervision to be safely operated. Panel cookers, designed to be portable, use flat panels, instead of a curved surface to concentrate the suns energy on the cooking area.
Buying a Solar Oven
Professionally built solar ovens cost between $50 and $400. They are available from a number of companies and institutions including Sun Oven International, The Solar Oven Society and Solar Household Energy. Read reviews of each type of solar cooker before buying one. Some will work better in certain climates than others and some may be more suitable than others for certain types of cooking.
Making your own Solar Oven
It's not difficult to make your own solar oven using common household materials. Plans for home-built solar cookers are available from several sites on the Internet. To make a box type solar oven insert a small box in a larger box, leaving an insulating air space between the two. Paint the inside of the smaller box black. Create a cover that will fit snugly over the outside box. Cut a large window in the cover and insert heat resistant clear plastic or transparent oven bags in the opening. Attach flat reflector panel, covered with aluminum foil, to the outside of the box. Place a dark colored pot in your oven.
Cooking with a Solar Oven
Solar cooking is easy, although it requires patience, especially on cloudy days. To cook food with the sun, simply place your food in the bottom of the pot, set the cooker in the sun, adjust your reflectors and wait. If possible, check the cooker every half hour or so and adjust it's position and the angle of the reflector relative to the sun. Because solar cookers cook gently, you don't have to worry much about cooking times. You can take the food out any time after it is done and you don't need to worry about overcooking. Be careful, pots in solar ovens are hot! It's easy to forget how hot they are since they are not sitting on a stove or in an oven radiating heat in the kitchen. A great time to try solar cooking is on a camping trip. The food can cook all day while you're out hiking, swimming and boating. Your dinner will be ready when you return in the evening.
Solar Ovens Saving the World
Organizations such as Solar Cooking International, educate people on solar cooking and distribute solar ovens around the globe. Solar cookers can be used to pasteurize water, making it safe to drink. Unlike cooking over wood, solar cooking is clean and releases no pollution or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And solar cooking can be done anywhere the sun shines, whether or not electricity or gas are available.