It’s Sun Oven Season: Solar Cooking Revs Up!

By InsightAnalytical-GRL

(Cross-posted from Open Range Ramblings)

At the Jersey Shore, Memorial Day weekend is the traditional kick-off of the summer season.  Here in southern New Mexico,  we ease into summer early, usually during May. And that’s when my solar cooking kicks into high gear!

The great thing about living in the Southwest is that I can use my Sun Oven all year long. In more northern climates the winter gray will curtail its use.  But, temperatures won’t stop you–so on a clear, sunny winter day, you can cook!

Here during the summer, when the sun shines down from high in the sky and the days are longer, I can use it to cook several meals in one day.  And, it costs nothing and doesn’t heat up the kitchen and make the A/C run like crazy.

I’ve had my Sun Oven for about a year and it’s fantastic. I bought it for “self-sufficiency.” This simple but well-engineered oven uses no electricity or gas and can cook, dehydrate, and pasteurize water.  Just the thing to have around if things get dicey if and when the dollar collapses under the weight of our national debt.

In the meantime, I’m just enjoying it for its own sake.  I have to say that this thing makes the BEST sweet potatoes (yams) that I have ever tasted! No need to candy them with extra sugar–they candy themselves.  So much better than baking in a regular oven, microwave or boiling them!!   In fact, all foods taste wonderful.  Seriously, for this reason alone the Sun Oven is worth having!

Side view of the oven

I bought my oven after attending a talk at our co-op given by the president of the company that makes them.  They are carefully designed and are so well insulated (with non-toxic materials) that they are able to keep food warm after cooking is completed, something most solar ovens can’t do.  The company has worked with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and governments to fulfill their mission:

Our Mission

SUN OVENS International, Inc. is striving to develop and implement comprehensive solar cooking programs that will radically decrease the developing world’s dependence on fuel wood and dung as the primary cooking fuels while benefiting the environment, raising the standard of living and improving the health of the poor worldwide.

From ice fishermen in Minnesota baking their catch on a frozen lake to desert dwellers in Kuwait baking lamb,
SUN OVENS® are helping people everywhere!

“Everywhere” includes the following countries (click on the the links to find out the details about these efforts):

You can get all the details on how the ovens are built and operate at the Sun Ovens International site.

Here are some more pics of the oven:

Reflectors fully opened...

The oven is easy to carry when closed up...

Since the oven weighs only 21 pounds, it’s easy to carry and set up anywhere!  And yet, it’s big enough to roast whole chickens and a decent- sized turkey! There are loads of recipes here at the Sun Oven International site…but it’s easy to create your own and adjust them to cooking solar.

Aside from cooking the best yams ever, I like using my oven to make casseroles. I put some elbow macaroni in the bottom of a blue Pyrex baking dish that I’ve sprayed with cooking spray, add vegetables, and pour over diced tomatoes or broth.  After the oven is preheated (usually to about 350 degrees or even higher on extreme sun days), I pop the dish into the oven and walk away, except to check on where the sun is every half hour or so and move the oven slightly to catch the maximum light.   If I start a dish for dinner at about 3:30 p.m. I’m ready to eat by 5 or so and if I eat later, the food is still warm.  If I want to cook during the noon hour, cooking time goes way down…often to cooking times similar to those of a conventional oven.  You can even put your food in the oven before going to work and come home to a fully cooked meal!

Solar-cooked foods are extremely healthy, too, because you can cook without any oil.  Natural juices are retained and food is delectable!

The oven comes with a dark enamel pot and lid which  maximizes heat retention. But, if I want to check on the progress of a dish, a dark glass dish (red or blue) will do fine (especially for casseroles–see above).    It’s easy to tell when a dish is starting to cook…food smells begin to waft out of the oven and once condensation starts to form on the glass, you know that some serious cooking is underway!  If the dogs are out, they start to sniff the good smells, too!

Here’ are some pics of a dish I made the other day for dinner:  eggplant with onions, garlic and tomatoes over pasta.

Ready to start cooking...

Within 45 minutes, cooking is progressing nicely.

Serious cooking underway, lovely smells wafting...

Even though clouds cut into the sunlight later in the afternoon, the temperature in the oven stayed high enough to complete the cooking.

In addition to baking potatoes and making casseroles, I’ve baked bread and made pasta (warm up uncooked pasta in one container while water is being boiled, then dump the pasta into the hot water and continue cooking…).  It gives me a real kick to cook food “off the grid.”

As I write this, I have some yams cooking in the dark enamel pot. Here’s a pic of them nestled in, before being covered. I wash them and no extra water needs to be added. I use 4 binder clips to make the cover fit tightly, which helps them cook even faster. I don’t even prick them with a fork. Once done, they will be incredibly melt-in-your-mouth soft and sweet.  I have them at breakfast every day. Yummy! And the dogs LOVE them…

Yams ready to go...

I’m seriously thinking of getting another oven so I can cook and either bake, boil or dehydrate at the same time.  That way, if things get crazy and there’s a disruption of services, I’ll be able to put a meal on the table without a problem!

***

More info on worldwide use of solar ovens, testing various ovens, etc. at The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air site…

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