The way we do things is changing as we look for more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly ways to live.
One area that’s been given a huge overhaul is the average kitchen, with people wanting to reduce their waste, start green new habits, and cut down on how much energy they use in their everyday cooking and food preparation.
The solar oven has been a revolutionary product that lets people achieve all of those benefits and more, but before now, it was always seen as more of a survival product better suited to camping and hiking trips.
Today, the solar oven has progressed far enough to be used in the average household as well, with many more advancements to be made.
What is it like cooking with a solar oven, though?
There are many makes and models of solar oven, each with its own features and capabilities. These ovens range from basic setups designed for camping to complete cooking devices that can create three-course meals for large families, depending on what you need.
As we learn more about the possibilities of solar energy, it makes sense that we switch many of our everyday activities and devices to those that can also be powered by the sun
If you’ve always wanted to invest in a solar cooker or learn more about how they work, we’ve got all of the solar oven facts you need.
- 1 Where Are Solar Cookers Used?
- 2 Types of Solar Cookers
- 3 Can You Make a DIY Solar Oven?
- 4 What Should You Cook in a Solar Oven?
- 5 Do Solar Ovens Sterilize Food?
- 6 Related Questions
Where Are Solar Cookers Used?
A solar cooker is a device that uses the sun’s energy to do heat food, and it can do this by either frying, boiling, or baking.
Although once only used as an experimental or survival method of cooking, these ovens have progressed a lot further, and they’re not considered a real competitor compared to your standard kitchen oven.
These cookers used several methods to gather and absorb radiation from the sun, which is then converted into an energy source.
They work best in direct sunlight, but with advanced solar technology now available on some of the more expensive brands, it’s possible to still cook with them in with minimal UV rays and in cloudy conditions.
There are a few places you can use one of these natural cookers, including camping, at the beach, in your backyard, and even as your permanent method of cooking.
Depending on where and how you plan on using yours, you’ll need to ensure it has the right features like size, temperature, and speed so that it suits your requirements.
Types of Solar Cookers
A solar cooker comes in many shapes and sizes, and depending on how they’re built, they each capture and distribute this energy differently. These are the four most common types of solar ovens and a little more about how they work:
Panel solar cooker
As the name suggests, these ovens use panels to absorb and reflect the sun onto a pot. They can only reach around 250 degrees Fahrenheit but are an inexpensive and easy way to cook with solar energy.
Parabolic solar cooker
A parabolic solar cooker is one of the speedier options and it attracts heat to the bottom and sides of the oven, like a stovetop, to cook the food.
Box solar cooker
These insulated boxes have a plastic window and reflector that heat the contents inside while keeping the outside relatively cool and safe to touch.
Tube solar cooker
This type of oven was designed by solar brand GoSun and features a vacuum tube that’s surrounded by parabolic reflectors.
The food inside is cooked using the heat collected in the vacuum, and they can reach temperatures up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
Can You Make a DIY Solar Oven?
Although it’s possible to make a DIY solar oven, some might find it easier to purchase one already made.
As the technology advances with these types of cookers, they inevitably become cheaper to purchase, however, if you’re someone who prefers to do things for themselves, you can make a basic solar oven at home.
One of the easiest methods is to use an old pizza box with an aluminum foil flap on the lid which helps reflect sunlight into the box. This window lets the sunlight pass into the box, which is retained inside thanks to some carefully placed black paper, and heats whatever is placed inside it.
Although it won’t cook meat or fancy dinners, it can heat food and is a good example of how this type of sustainable energy works on a larger scale.
Experiments like this are a great way to show your kids what’s possible and that there are alternatives to using gas and electricity, sparking their interest in other eco-friendly investigations.
What Should You Cook in a Solar Oven?
There’s no limit to what you can make with a solar oven, provided you have one of the better models.
Basic solar cookers designed to make camping or use in survival kits might have fewer capabilities and do things like heating pre-cooked hotdogs or boiling water to make pasta, so if this is all you need, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get it.
On the more expensive end of the scale, a solar oven is a serious competitor to your standard conventional oven and a way to save so much energy use with things like electricity and gas.
These sustainable cookers have multiple trays and cooking compartments, and they’re capable of functions like baking, frying, and boiling, all at the same time if needed.
Depending on where and when you plan on using your oven, there’s a range of foods you can cook successfully with it.
The key is ensuring that the oven has enough space for your planned meals and is capable of reaching the temperature required to cook it adequately, as without these two you’ll have a failed meal for sure.
Some people keep a solar oven on hand for cooking now and then, and it can be a fun way to make dinners on the weekend, especially if you have children.
Even the smallest change in our everyday lives and using sustainable and renewable energy choices like solar will make a difference, and there’s no need to go from zero to 100 just to change for the better.
Do Solar Ovens Sterilize Food?
A solar oven can reach the same high temperatures as conventional ovens and be used to produce boiling water.
Although they don’t technically sterilize food, they are capable of cooking it so that it’s safe to eat, which can be helpful when you’re in the outdoors and don’t have access to fire or other methods of heating it through.
One of the best things to use your solar oven for, especially while camping or in a survival situation, is boiling water so that it’s pasteurized. Boiled water can also be used to sterilize tools and instruments, including your cooking utensils or even gear that might be needed for medical applications.
In the absence of fire and antimicrobial cleaners, this can be a godsend, especially if you’re out in the middle of nowhere.
Therefore, the solar oven is about more than just cooking in an energy-efficient way, but allowing you to harness renewable, sustainable, and free energy at any time, weather permitting.
Solar ovens are just one way we’re switching to renewable and sustainable energy sources to reduce our strain on the environment.
If you’ve been thinking about making the switch to solar in any part of your life, you’ll want to know everything you can, so check out these FAQs to get started.
What Type of Mirrors Are Used in Solar Cookers?
The mirror is an essential part of many solar ovens as it attracts the sun and directs it to the focal point where it needs to be.
For this purpose, the best choice is a concave mirror as its unique shape allows it to reflect the sunlight towards the cooker, enabling it to reach its required temperature.
Can You Use a Solar Cooker on a Cloudy Day?
Newer models of solar ovens can heat up with minimal direct sunlight, provide there is just enough sun out to cast a shadow.
When compared to older types of solar cookers that needed a high UV index and bright sun to work, this makes it easier to cook with renewable energy in more weather conditions.
How Long Does a Solar Oven Take to Cook?
Depending on the size and features of a solar oven, they can cook something basic like a smore in around 20 minutes for a homemade version, in mere minutes for a premium model.
The larger and more effective solar cookers work just like a conventional oven and have no noticeable differences when it comes to the speed of cooking.