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Introduction to solar cooking

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Last updated: February 26, 2015      

Buy or build a solar cooker

KoZon Iridimi May 2007 1

Tens of thousands of solar cookers are in use in refugee camps in Chad, as well as the many solar cookers used daily in developed and developing countries around the world.

Highlighted below is a collection of articles about solar cooking basics. If you are interested in trying solar cooking for the first time yourself, you may be wondering whether it is best to build your own solar cooker, or to buy a finished solar cooker commercially. Building your own solar cooker can be fairly easy and inexpensive way to go. Various types of solar cookers that are available to build are listed at build a solar cooker. You will find information there comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each style of cooker. There are also many solar cookers available commercially. Commercial cookers are typically well made, and waterproof. The location of the retailer will be important to consider to avoid high shipping costs. See possibilities at buy a solar cooker.

How do solar cookers work?

Below is the basic science for solar panel cookers and solar box cookers.

Solar Cooking basics, SCI 2004, pg. 1, 12-9-14
Solar Cooking basics, SCI 2004, pg. 2, 12-19-14


Parabolic solar cookers

AlSol 1.4

An AlSol 1.4 parabolic cooker demonstrates where the cook pot is supported to receive the focussed light from the reflector.

The other main variety of cookers are called parabolic solar cookers. They use a bowl shaped reflector to focus the light more directly onto the cook pot, usually from below. The parabolic name refers to the shape of the curve of the reflector cross-section.

They will require more frequent reorientation to the sun, possibly every 10 minutes, but they cook food more quickly at higher temperatures compared to other solar cookers. They also have the ability to fry foods. Generally parabolic solar cookers will need to be attended to more than box or panel cookers to avoid possibly burning the food at the bottom of the cook pot.


More information about solar cookers can be found at: how solar cookers work

Cooking with your solar cooker

The golden rule for solar cooking is; 'Get your food cooking early in the day, and do not worry about overcooking'. Most people starting to solar cook will be using a solar panel cooker or solar box cooker. These cookers are oriented to the sun and need to be reoriented approximately once an hour over a typical three to four hour cooking period. Add much less water to the recipe than you would use cooking with more conventional stoves and ovens. Cooking food does not need to be stirred, and is best left covered while solar cooking.

Once you have decided on a cooker, you will need to find appropriate cookware. Thin-walled dark enameled metal cook pots work well. They are good at heating up quickly. Cast iron pots also work, and are typically preheated in the solar cooker before cooking. The advantage of the heavier pots is that they will help maintain an even cooking temperature if the sun is occasionally blocked by clouds, but most solar cooks seem to use the enamel pots. Because dark cooking pots work the best in solar cookers, it is important to remember to use a nontoxic paint for the exterior cook pot surface if you choose to darken your own pots.

Consider the type of foods you will be preparing in your cooker. Solar panel cookers and solar box cookers are simple to use, and are best at baking and slow cooking, similar to crockpot cooking. Parabolic solar cookers will require frequent reorientation to the sun, but have the ability to fry foods and cook food on a griddle. Cooking guidelines will explain the best way to prepare specific food types. There are also many recipes of proven approaches to great dishes, but basically, most any recipe will work with the right solar cooker, by simply allowing for more cooking time. Most solar cooks will advise to not add much extra liquid when cooking, as you might do with traditional stovetop cooking. The natural juices of the food are retained when solar cooking.

Introductory articles

Introductory Manual


Solar cookers international handbook

Reports

Audio and video

Solar Cooking in Africa - A Remarkable Technology Transfer09:59

Solar Cooking in Africa - A Remarkable Technology Transfer

See also

External links

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