Utilizing the sun’s power for cooking has long been employed for basic survival needs. Solar cooked foods retain their nutrients without overcooking, and ovens can be portable and used all year long to make a variety of foods.
Solar cookers can be small-scale or commercial sized to meet cooking needs. They can be purchased ready to go or kits are available. You can also build your own solar cooker with a few materials. Though numerous variations of solar cookers exist, there are three main types which allow the capture of heat energy that can be used for cooking.
1. Heat-trap boxes/box cookers are one design. These cook foods at medium to high temperatures and can be constructed to hold several different items.
2. Curved concentrator/parabolic cookers prepare foods a bit faster and at higher temperatures. Designs like this have to be supervised and adjusted while foods cook.
3. Panel cookers are a combination of box and parabolic cookers. These have a basic panel design and are usually an affordable option.
SolarCooking.org has put together a list of free plans, diagrams and information about the different types.
Make sure the placement of the oven is away from roaming animals, pets and children. Also, as with all cooking methods safe temperatures and food safety precautions have to be followed. Depending on the particular type of cooker used, most solar ovens cook slowly but at rising temperatures which kill harmful bacteria. Keep in mind it may take many hours to achieve the proper heat index for safe, consumable food, so don’t rush the natural process.
Be sure to know what cooking temperature is recommended for the dish that is being prepared. Some food thermometers have built in gauges that let you know the safe temperature for things like chicken, red meats and fish. Don’t let your dish sit out in the cooker long after it is done, either. The temperature can drop and allow bacteria to breed, making the food unsafe.
Barbara Prosser Kerr has written a guide entitled The Expanding World of Solar Box Cookers which has recommendations for solar cooking, including food safety.
Solar cookers are a natural way to heat up a meal without the use of electricity. Once a solar oven is set up, the fun and food sampling begins. Solar Cookers World Network has solar cooking guidelines, recipes and tips to help spark the solar cooking process. Browse through this solar cooking wiki compilation and select a country of interest to learn more about solar cooking’s global history and current events.
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