Solar Cooking Is Easy and Cheap Too
Did you know you can cook entire meals without any electricity or gas? It’s true. If you have access to the sun then you can cook with it.
Cooking with the power of the sun is commonly referred to as solar cooking, and you don’t need expensive gadgets or equipment to do this successfully either. Solar cooking requires sunlight of course, a bit of time, a few everyday items, and a willingness to experiment.
In the most basic form, solar cooking can be done easily as long as you have decently strong sunlight for a few hours. The stronger your sunlight is of course, the easier your solar cooking will be. In the desert southwestern areas of the United States for example, you can literally just lay food out in direct sunlight in the summer and it will cook quickly for you. We’re going to look at a little more than the basics here though.
There are two primary ways to cook food with solar power. One is to use what’s known as a parabolic cooker, and the other is to simply use reflecters.
A parabolic cooker is actually just anything you have on hand which has a slighly bowled, or parabolic shape to it. Round satellite dishes are excellent examples of this type of inward curved surface. The slight curve of a surface like this will allow you to concentrate the natural heat of the sun onto the food you’re cooking.
Parabolic cookers can be made with simple cardboard, or any slightly concaved material such as an old (small) sattelite dish, a small wok, or even a bent and curved trash can or barbecue lid. Using old materials for this is great because it allows you to recycle and it doesn’t usually cost a thing.
Most people choose to make their first solar oven with cardboard because it’s readily available, easy to work with, and free.
The best parabolic solar cooker will have slanted sides though, not upright ones. A slant of about 60 degrees outwards is ideal. Once you find the object you plan to use for your solar cooking, then you simply cover it with tin foil, mylar, or mirrors. Mirrors can actually be dangerous because too much heat is generated, so it’s best to start with aluminum foil. Cover your concaved object with the foil so that the shiny side is facing out. This will capture more of the sunlight shining down on your solar cooking, and help focus it onto your food.
Simple reflector style solar cookers are another popular option, and in many cases you don’t even have to put things together to make this work. With this style of solar cooking, you simply put a pot or pan out into direct sunlight and surround it on three sides with reflective material to help direct the solar heat to your food.
With either solar cooking design though, you’ll want to use either glass or dark metal cooking pots and pans. Dark metal helps attract and absorb the natural solar heat from the sun, and glass allow that solar heat to pass through easily yet stay trapped inside for cooking.
Depending upon the strength of the sunlight you have available and the solar cooker design you’re using, it can take anywhere from one to three hours to fully cook common meals for three to five people.
Of course you can also use regular solar panels or a solar power generator kit to power a more conventional energy efficient stove or oven when the sun isn’t strong enough to use your solar cooker, or if you prefer to cook foods in a more traditional manner.