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Sep 9, 2010 04:40 PM

Solar cooking - have you tried it?

It seems I've been stumbling across more and more references.

From this article, the art of solar cooking

"Reyel entertained the dozen or so spectators with stories of cooking a hot dog in a Pringles canister, barbecuing ribs sans grill, and roasting a chicken with only the sun's concentrated rays"

I'll take bets on how many posts there will be about the wisdom of sun chicken ... I estimate at least 15 %.

Thee article goes on to say

"But for those who do decide to ditch that air-polluting barbecue to cook outside in a flameless, smokeless, completely eco-friendly solar oven, the benefits are three-fold, according to Michaela — the air is spared, money is saved on fuel, and a solar-cooked meal is naturally tasty and nutrient-packed."

Worldwide, an estimated 1.5 to 2 million people cook primarily with solar ovens with a lot of humanitarian organizations providing kits. They discuss how labor intensive and sometimes dangerous it is in some countries to to collect firewood.

Hmmm ... I may have found my nitch in Gautemala. There's a lot of effort that goes into gathering fuel. The smoke leaves many people with lung problems. This might work well here.

A temple in Maharashtra, India cooks 40,000 to 50,000 meals per day, and saves about $45,000 in fuel per year

As to the folks in Berkeley, which the article is about, some have even made cakes. It is not a bad skill to learn if there's an earthquake or other natural disastor and the power goes out. Some store bought solar cookers can reach 500 degrees.
I was undecisive if this belonged on general topics orr on home cooking as it is a little out there. So mods decide.

Anyone tried solar cooking? Any taste benefit?

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  1. Hi, I think we did this in Boy Scouts but it was a long time ago so I'm fuzzy on the details. We made a solar cardboard box oven and cooked hot dogs in it. The design incorporated aluminum foil in some way, and the hot dogs got hot but not charred. They were still pink when we ate them, and there was no taste difference from a boiled dog.

    1. Our church has tried them out...we baked cookies and brownies to demonstrate and served to the congregation at fellowship hour and now our mission team is involved in a solar cooker program for folks who need them.

      1 Reply
      1. I vaguely remember seeing homemade solar ovens on either Bill Nye or Beakman's World. The oven was basically a cardboard box painted black with foil lining the inside, I think? I thought it was pretty cool as a kid, but never tried it myself. It makes a lot of sense to make durable and relatively affordable solar ovens for use in emergencies or in places where fuel is hard to gather.

        1. We live in a town with a lively sustainable-living/permaculture/Transition Movement culture, so when I started investigating solar cooking last year I actually found a local expert to advise me. Most of the homemade designs, he said, simply don't collect enough energy to do the job. He makes solar ovens -- expensive and very efficient -- and does all kinds of other tinkering.

          He advised us to buy a Sport solar oven ( We did, and never looked back. We actually bought a second one this year because I got tired of cooking in shifts on bread-baking day. We start using them in mid-May or June, and cook in them daily until the about end of September.

          We routinely cook bread, pies, gratins and meatloaves (and their vegetarian equivalent) under solar power. Yes, they do brown.

          I've even roasted peppers and they do brown a little bit. Mighty tasty, although not what you could call "smoky." Stir-fry recipes also do pretty well - again, you don't get that smoky flavor and they are a little wetter, but still tasty.

          Other than that - if it'll work in a crockpot, it'll work in a solar oven.

          The only things I DON'T cook in a solar oven are:

          *broccoli and cauliflower (because the florets turn brown unless every single one is submerged in water
          )*bean fritters - ALWAYS tough
          *anything that has to be fried or baked *crisp*
          *greens - you can't submerge every single leaf, because they float - so they tend to dry out instead.

          Today's solar menu: bell peppers, tomatoes and onions with smoked paprika; tiny eggplants with garlic; basmati rice. Egg fu yung and greens on the stovetop.

          1. I know that this is an old post, but i think this is even more relevant today.

            I wanted to share this solar cooking FAQ because there is a wealth of information on this page:

            I have bought myself a solar cooker, but have yet to find a suitable pot (black so that they absorb the heat are best


            Really looking forward to experimenting with it.

            This windshield shade model is super-cheap and worth a look too, if you don't want to invest too much in exploring the concept.


            2 Replies
            1. re: ursy_ten

              Have fun with this! I made three different types of solar ovens (car reflector, cardboard/foil, and styro cooler) a few summers ago and had a ball. Mostly did stews/chicken.

              If I were to get serious about it I'd opt for a commercial model.

              1. re: DuchessNukem

                Thank you! After a recent storm where we were without power for 3 days, it's given me a renewed interest in making sure I know my way around a solar cooker!