Solar cooking ovens are an inexpensive and easy way to make every day Earth Day. Since I have owned mine, I have experienced lower energy bills, reduced carbon footprint, a cooler kitchen during summer, set and forget cooking and delicious tasting food. They are inexpensive, low-tech and downright amazing.
I live on solar power (“off grid”) and recently asked my in-laws for a new solar cooking oven as my Christmas gift. I initiated my new solar oven with a batch of dark chocolate brownies. The oven works better than I expected.
There are many good brands of solar cookers on the market that range in price from $100 to over $400. My solar oven came from Sun Oven and cost about $300. It was really simple to set up and very easy to use. Like regular ovens, you can use a solar oven for cooking, baking, braising and heating water. It will heat up to 450 degrees.
The first step is to unfurl the reflectors and secure them with the built-in pin. Next position the oven so that shadows fall evenly on both sides. Look closely at this picture below. The shadows are not even on both sides. A quick adjustment of the oven to the right would even out the shadows, causing more direct light and a higher oven temperature.
The second step is to adjust the tip-tilt angle of the oven. For this adjustment, you will need to consider the overhead angle of the sun. At higher latitudes, the sun is typically lower in the sky at noon than at lower latitudes. Here in Hawaii during the summer, the sun is almost directly overhead so tipping is not needed. But when tipping is needed, there is a swivel pan inside the oven that conveniently levels itself.
To recap, simply unfurl the reflects, position the oven so that the shadows are even on both sides and tip the oven to match the overhead angle of the sun. The built-in thermometer will gauge the heat as you make adjustments.
Set and Forget
For quick recipes, like brownies that take 30 minutes or less, you can set the oven and forget it. As an devoted foodie, I have been nothing but delighted at how the food tastes – it’s more moist and tender. A solar oven is ideal for braising meats and baking breads. It’s easy enough for children to use, too.
One key accessory is a non-reflective pan, such as one made of glass or cast iron. For baked goods, like brownies, I use a glass pyrex pan as shown below. For meats, soups and stews, I use a cast iron dutch oven.
Plus, the solar oven doesn’t heat up my house. On a hot summer day, it’s possible to use less energy (and save money) by avoiding the conventional oven and extra air conditioning. In Hawaii where our electricity rates only increase, a solar oven will easily pay for itself within a few months.