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Cooking With Solar Power - Types of Solar Ovens
Cooking with solar power is
a fun and novel way to prepare a meal. It won't replace your kitchen range
but on hiking and camping trips, using the sun as an oven can provide a
pleasant and enjoyable meal. With solar cooking, you can bake, steam and
We are all familiar with how hot a car can get on a sunny day. As the
sunlight hits the interior, it warms up the enclosed air. The trapped air
can't escape and continues to get hotter and hotter and can reach
temperatures up to 75 degrees Celsius. Simple solar ovens work in the
same way. If we concentrate the sunlight, even hotter temperatures and
faster cooking times can be achieved.
Black Box Oven
This is the simplest solar oven to construct. Take a small, black box
with a removable lid and insulate the interior with a layer of newspaper
or bubble wrap to trap the heat inside. Using a food container, place
the food in the middle, close the lid and place in the sun. Just like
a parked car with the windows rolled up, the interior will trap the heat
and the air will get hotter and hotter. Limit the number of times you
peer into the box to keep as much heat inside. Cooking time will depend
on how large the box is relative to the size of the food item.
Enclosed Box Oven
Take a large, open-top box and line the interior with a layer of
newspaper or bubble wrap and cover this insulating layer with tin foil
(the shiny side out). To allow more sunlight to enter, cut the front
of the box to half of the original height and slope the sides to the
full height of the backside. Sunlight will enter the front and top
of the box, reflect off of the shiny sides and concentrate heat in
the middle. Use a piece of transparent or translucent plastic as a
cover to trap the heat inside. This type of solar oven collects more
heat and can even bake bread in just a few hours. Make sure you keep the box
pointed directly at the sun.
Parabolic Reflector Oven
This type of oven uses a parabolic-shaped support to reflect the
sunlight to a central point. Costly mirrors can be used, but aluminum
foil works well. Depending on the size of the reflector, enough sunlight
can be reflected to boil water and barbecue foods (it may take a few
hours to rise the temperature). These are the most efficient solar ovens
but require a proper mechanical support that will raise the cooking
surface to the central reflection point. These types of ovens usually
produce too much direct heat and are not good for baking.
Pros and Cons of Solar Cooking
- Uses free energy from the sun.
- When the sun is shining, solar ovens can provide a warm or
hot meal at any location.
- Doesn't work at night or on overcast days. Sunlight is required.
- To work most efficiently, the oven needs to be continuously directed
towards the sun.
- The food may attract insects and scavengers.
- Clouds and cold temperatures lengthen the cooking time.
Cooking with solar power is a novelty.
It's not practical for everyday use, but can provide a hearty meal when
travelling outdoors or in an emergency situation.