What exactly is solar cooking? No, it’s not a technique used by astronauts to cook food in outer space. It’s a method of preparing food using solar energy. Though it’s typically used outdoors, some homeowners have been able to implement it within their kitchens. So whether you’re camping, experiencing a power outage, or just in your own backyard having fun, you can utilize solar cooking to prepare your next meal. solar efficiency calculator Consider the following benefits of solar cooking.
- The energy is free and inexhaustible. The need to buy fuel is non-existent. You get to save money that would otherwise be spent on fuel, whether it‘s gas, electricity, charcoal, or wood.
- Most of the people have experienced the effects of baking in the summertime. You might as well have turned the whole kitchen into an oven. To counteract the rise in temperature, the AC needs to be used over time. If you use a solar cooker, you’re bound to save on the electricity bill. And your home will be cooler too.
- Whatever the source of fuel, it’s limited in supply. The earth’s resources of fossil fuels and forests are dwindling. Solar cooking reduces the dependence on nonrenewable resources.
- Since there are no flames or fire involved with solar cooking, there are absolutely no side effects on the environment. Hence no pollution.
- The overall reduction in pollution benefits your health. And this is because there is no smoke, which can irritate the lungs and eyes.
- Open cooking fires and hot barbeque grills are dangerous everywhere around the world, especially for children. Using a solar oven prevents burns due to flames. However, the surface of an oven can heat up quite a bit.
- Whether you’re camping or are on tour in some far off village, clean drinking water is always an issue. Water can be effortlessly pasteurized with the aid of solar cooking. Heating water to just 150 degrees (65 degrees C) makes it safe to consume. You can invest in a simple, inexpensive device known as a WAPI (Water Pasteurization Indicator) to determine when the water is safe to drink. And while we’re on the topic of camping, what simpler way is there to get heated water for a nice hot bath? Who said outdoor plumbing is rustic?
Solar cooking is fun and different from the usual way of preparing meals. If you’re curious about this new, viable method, it’s time to give it a try. Here are a few pointers to get you going in the right direction.
Solar cooking tips
- Pick a clear, sunny day. Don’t worry if a few clouds are passing over.
- A well-insulated solar oven will cook even in cold weather. The outside temperature has little effect on performance.
- Wind won’t affect performance, but it can rattle the reflectors and rock the oven. Find a sheltered spot if possible.
- Place the solar oven directly facing the sun. Avoid shady spots. You may need to reposition the oven to keep it pointed to the sun.
- Pre-heating the solar oven before cooking allows the food to heat up quickly.
- Shiny pots reflect the heat so use dark pans with tight lids.
- Utensils made of thin metal will heat up quicker than a cast iron one. But the latter will retain heat longer. Granite cookware is perfect.
- Use a canning jar. If it has a one-piece lid, punch a hole in it to keep the pressure from building up too much. You can even paint it black to increase its efficiency. Remember to put a piece of masking tape down one side of the jar before painting. Once the paint is dry, remove the tape to create a window so you can catch a glimpse of the food while cooking.
- Solar cookers can bake, boil, steam, or roast. You need to select the right type of solar oven.
- Keep the oven facing the sun at all times.
- Since the water doesn’t boil away, solar cooking needs less liquid to cook. Reduce the quantity by ¼ – ½ cup. It also leaves valuable nutrients in the food.
- An easy way to understand the solar efficiency calculator is to note the difference in cooling times. A standard recipe can take up to 1 ½ – 3 times longer to cook, depending upon how hot the oven gets. This is a great way to tenderize meat and blend flavor while the dish simmers.
- Meals rarely burn or overcook because there is a wide window between done, overdone, and burnt. But foods with high sugar content, like cookies, can burn.
- Bread, biscuits, cakes, and cookies can be baked uncovered, but everything else should be covered with a lid to hold in the heat.
- Cut food into smaller pieces or divide into several containers to speed up the cooking process.
- If for some reason the food doesn’t cook completely, you can finish up in the kitchen or refrigerate and pick up later from where you left.
- Some foods take longer to cook than others, so get an early start. Best cooking times vary depending on your location. But an ideal time to prepare in the summer is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Winter times will be different, but don’t let that stop you from having fun.
- To get optimum results, keep the reflectors and cover clean to allow maximum sunlight to enter the oven.
- Don’t be tempted to stir the pot because opening the cover can drop the temperature by 50°- 100°. This will prolong the cooking time.
- Prevent too much steam to build up in the box by creating a vent hole. Place a matchstick between the cover and the box to let excess steam escape. Steam that builds up prevents sunlight from entering.
- Don’t start cooking before there is ample sunlight. Perishable foods left at temperatures below 150° for 3-4 hours can spoil. But beans or potatoes can be put out early in the morning. Just remember to position the oven towards south to catch the first rays.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare
- The pots will be very hot, so use a potholder
Anyone can learn to become self-sufficient with this new appliance. But don’t wait till an emergency to use your solar oven for the first time. You need to practice finding the best place to set it up so that the solar oven gets the most sunlight. Determine how hot the solar oven can get and how much time it takes to prepare a meal. Ready, get, set cooking!