There are many ways to utilize solar power without the cost of expensive equipment. Cooking with a solar oven is one of them. According to a recent article by the San Francisco Chronicle, solar ovens range in price from $32 to $260. It’s even feasible to build your own solar oven with relative ease.
Solar ovens typically consist of dark colored pots designed to absorb sunlight. They close with tight fitting lids that hold in moisture. The pots are then enclosed in a box, inverted glass bowl, or heat resistant plastic bag that each work like the glazing in solar collectors, allowing heat in while preventing it from escaping. Finally, shiny surfaces surrounding the cooking area reflect additional sunlight for stronger heat.
There are three types of solar ovens, or cookers. Boxes are widespread, reach moderately high temperatures, and accommodate multiple pots. Curved concentrator cookers, or parabolic cookers, cook fast at high temperatures but have higher incidences of injury due to burns. Finally, panel cookers incorporate elements from both the box and parabolic cookers.
Solar cookers require several hours of direct outdoor sunlight and protection from strong wind to work. In the best working conditions, solar cookers take two to three times longer to cook food than conventional methods. They do not work in foggy or cloudy weather and don’t work well for food that needs a lot of stirring, as heat escapes each time the oven is opened. The ovens may not be practical for everyday use but work well for day trips or camping. Because their cooking temperatures are mild, solar ovens do not burn your food and have flavorful results stemming from the food’s natural juices.
Solar ovens are distributed in countries around the world where the sunlight is strong and fuel supply is low. For instance, Solar Oven Society’s Sport Solar Ovens were originally designed for overseas use, but are now available to anyone who wants to cook with sunlight.
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