Introduction to Solar Cooking
Cooking with the sun and a solar box oven should be easy and fun. After a few experiences, you’ll see how readily you can adapt your present cooking and baking to this oven. Using the solar cooker can actually reduce the total amount of effort in meal preparation. Using a solar cooker outside in the summer allows you to eliminate extra heat in the house, which is advantageous especially with regard to foods that require long cooking times. With solar cooking, you prepare your meals early in the day and then relax. In the late afternoon, when you’re tired after a day of work, the sun will have cooked your food.
Most food, with the exception of cookies and open-faced cheese sandwiches, are cooked in containers with the lids on. The dark, porcelain-coated round and oval roasters are the best for most of the cooking and baking in the solar cooker. (The 9-inch round roaster makes a beautiful round loaf of bread). Be sure to use hot pads when removing the pots from the oven; the food will be hot!
If this is your first attempt at solar cooking, start with something easy such as chicken, hamburgers, rice, baked potatoes, zucchini, or a gingerbread mix.
Food such as roasts, stews, casseroles, poultry, potatoes, carrots, pot roasts and rice are almost impossible to overcook; therefore, the timing on the food is not critical.
Chicken will still be juicy and will fall of the bone when solar cooked four hours instead of the needed two hours. The major advantage of solar cooking is the flexibility in cooking times. You can remove the food any time after it is done.
In cooking fresh fish, you can judge when the fish is cooked thoroughly when juice begins to drop. If you cook fish on a rack, it is easy to see this change. Then check to see that the fish is cooked to the bone in the thickest part.
For best results, do not overcook the following food: green vegetables, cookies, cakes, and bread.
Use dark covered pots or pans with tight fitting lids. With rare exceptions (e.g., cookies) the lid is kept on the pot while cooking. The golden rule of solar cooking is: GET THE FOOD ON EARLY, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT OVERCOOKING.
You do not need to stir food while cooking. However, it’s OK to check the food if you quickly replace the lid.
Place the hard-to-cook or larger quantity items in the back of the cooker where they will receive more direct sun. When using several pots, place the easy-to-cook food in the front of the cooker.
The solar oven will be hot! Use potholders when removing lids or pots. To keep the food hot after the sun goes down, add several bricks or heavy stones when you begin cooking. To maximize heat retention, lower the reflective lid onto the glass, and cover the cooker with a blanket. Many meals may be cooked without refocusing, and you will learn by experience. Just face the cooker so that halfway through the cooking time the sun will be right in front of the cooker with the prop stick casting a shadow on the proper stick holder. With lots of food, or on less than fully sunny days, refocus the oven once or twice.
To bake cakes or bread, preheat the cooker for at least ½ hour before adding the food. Preheating the oven with several bricks or pieces of tile inside will also provide a source of heat.
If you are cooking a large amount of food, it will cook more quickly if distributed between two or three smaller pots instead of one large pot. Several small, uncovered bowls may be placed inside a large covered pot to cook.
Leftovers are easily reheated in the solar cooker.
These recipes have been developed for the simple solar box cookers with one reflector which cook at temperatures between 250F and 300F. Recipes may need to be adapted when cooking with solar panel cookers and parabolic arrays.