Q. How long have you been using your sun oven?
A. We’ve been using solar ovens since the late 1990s. Over the years, we’ve made our share of cardboard solar box cookers (including one from a recycled pizza box). However, over time the cardboard would get dented or just look ratty. So, about four years ago, the guys built a more permanent one using scrap wood, metal cookie sheets and mounted the oven on a cart, to which they added old bike wheels for easy mobility. What I like about our homemade sun oven (besides that we built it ourselves) is Jules’ neat “invention” — the “swinging” interior shelf. Whatever angle you adjust the sun oven, the suspended shelf adjusts to level, allowing you to place the food without worrying about spillage.
Q. What sort of foods can you cook?
A. Everything! Rice, vegetables, fruit, soups, meats, pizza, breads, cakes and more.
Q. How long does food take to cook?
A.(On sunny days) Rice, vegetables (above ground), casseroles, fruit take about 2 hours or less. Potatoes, root vegetables, some beans, breads take 3-4 hours. Soups, most dried beans 5-8 hours.
Leftovers are easily warmed in 2 hours or less.
Solar Cookers International says the “Golden Rule” of solar cooking is “Get the food in early! Don’t worry about overcooking.”
Q. How do you use the solar oven?
A. We divide the foods into “fast and slow cooking.” Dark colored pots with dark colored lids work best.
There are many benefits to using solar ovens:
Foods cooked in sun ovens are more nutritious and no water is added to fruits, vegetables or meats – therefore the food retains more vitamins and minerals. The slow cooked process means food is more flavorful and tender. Tender foods aids digestion and nutrient absorption.
Sun ovens are very efficient. There is no need to stir food. You can “abandon” your food – run errands, go on a hike, etc without worrying about the food overcooking.
And last but not least, it’s good for the environment by using a clean (FREE!) energy source, thus cutting our reliance on fossils fuels. Sun ovens are being sent and used to many third world countries to help slow down (or prevent) deforestation. In many areas around the world, family members (mostly women) spend up to 20 hours or more per week gathering firewood. Using sun ovens allows women to spend more time with their family and is a healthy alternative — it pasteurizes water and reduces lung and eye disease caused by cooking over fires in closed spaces. It’s estimated that 2.4 billion people lack adequate fuel simply to cook their meals.
Where can I get the plans to build my own? Solar ovens are easy and fun to make. Here are some helpful links to get you started on the solar cooking path. It’s fun, it’s easy and best of all you are using a renewable (and free) energy source.