Thursday, January 26, 2012

JOT #29: A solar oven

A few years ago, I went to a workshop with my mom - and we made our own solar oven. It took almost 4 solid hours and strong hands, with other people already doing some of the prep work. We cut corrugated board, metallic tape, smoothed everything, poked holes, trimmed, and finally we had something!

What is a solar oven? It's basically a box that's shiny to reflect the sun's light onto an object, which will heat up to cook. If you've ever tried to cook an egg on a sidewalk with a piece of foil (or glasses/magnifying glass - refraction) you've done some solar cooking. The oven is just more efficient, and offers you a place to put your food so that it is not on the floor :)

The solar oven is great because in the sunny months (or even on a sunny but cold day) you can put something inside in a black pot (black outside), cover it with a clear lid or plastic wrap, and it will cook in the sun. No electricity, no gas, just time. For example, you could put rice in there. Or soaked beans. Or vegetables. Or chocolate chip cookies.

The downside is time. Like a slow cooker, or dehydrating, or pickling, solar ovens take time. A pot of rice can take between 40 minutes (on a hot, bright day) to a couple of hours (partial light), to nearly never (overcast). Still, it's a great way to have food ready - put it in and let it be. Just turn it to the sun periodically if you're doing it over a long time. Some higher-tech (read: not homemade!) solar ovens do the turning themselves, and have timers and thermometers, and reach really high oven temperatures as well.

You can make a simple solar oven out of a pizza box here. It will make raisins over the course of an afternoon, or even make chocolate chip cookies. (ooh craft and JOT in one!)

For more "serious" cooking, here are some other models you can make.

You can fold yours away when you're not using it, and use it to dehydrate foods as well. It also makes a good little storage box when it's otherwise gathering dust. But on a sunny day, harness the power of the sun!

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