Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Solar Cooking

Solar Cooking

Solar cooking is simply harnessing the sun's energy to cook food. This is an excellent way to keep the house cool in the summer, costs nothing to use, and is a great alternative to conventional cooking.
There are two things needed to solar cook.
1. Solar cooker
2. Dark pot to cook in - this can be either a granite ware, cast iron, or an aluminum pot painted black on the outside. The thin walls of the granite ware is actually a good heat conductor
If you are not able to find black or darkened pots and pans for use in your solar cooker, you can cook your food in jars. Canning jars are preferable because they are designed for high pressure and heat. Regular clear jars can be used if you do not seal them too tightly in order to diminish the possibility of exploding. You can paint them black for better heat absorption.

The golden rule of solar cooking is: GET THE FOOD ON EARLY, AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT OVERCOOKING.

The simplest design of a solar collector is an old tire tube. Place the inflated tube on a board on the ground. Place the cooking vessel inside the tube. Cover the tube with a piece of plain glass. The place in the well of the tube is like a closed cavity. Air neither go out nor come in. The rays of the sun enter the glass and get trapped. Slowly, the temperature of the cooking vessel rises, and the food is cooked.
You can add a mirror on top of the board, which would add more reflection of the suns rays on the pot.

Other simple ways to harness the sun into a solar cooker is using a bucket,
Take a 5 gallon bucket, put a heavy rock in it to keep it stable. Take your shiny car window shade and fold it into a cone shape. It will be an awkward cone. Then place the cone tip into the 5 gallon bucket. Get a black pot/lid and fill it with your food. Put pot on a cheap-shiny pizza pan (wal-mart). Slide both pizza pan and pot into a turkey cooking bag. Close and tie off bag. Place bag, pot and food over the center of your shade cone and leave it facing the sun.

23 years ago, we started with 2 cardboard boxes, one inside the other with the gap between filled with insulation, covered with none other than duct tape.
Flashing, found at a builder's store, made up the sides and bottom. A piece of mirror was taped to the box flap. We used a stand-up dressing mirror for the sun reflecting into the box, and used a piece of glass to cover the top ... voilĂ , we had a solar cooker! It worked great!

We have since built a newer model... a black wooden box, with fold out lids that can be closed up when not in use. the inside of the box is painted black. After the food is placed inside, a piece of glass is placed on top. Two flaps were hinged to the top, and mirrors attached. These flaps can be positioned to the suns rays, reflect them into the box, where the sun's heat is trapped.

The sky is the limit to what type of solar cooker you want to make. People have made them using pizza box, or shoe box – which would be a great kids project:
The main point is to get the sun's reflection in the cooker and on the pot
A simple model on how to make your own :

The best times for cooking with a solar cooker is between 10 am and 4 pm - that is usually when the sun is at it's hottest.

OK. Now that you have figured out the solar cooker, it is time to cook something.

If you just want to experiment with an easy recipe, try cooking RICE:
1 cup rice,
2 cup water

Place the dark pot into the solar cooker, orient it so the sun is shining directly into the cooker and let the sun do the rest. Rice takes about an hour. Condensation on your window is a sign that the rice is cooking. You can check it then. (Be VERY careful lifting the lid of the pot off because the steam WILL burn)

Soak about 1/2 pound of pinto beans in water overnight. Drain the beans and add fresh water to cover the beans by about 1/2 inch. Add a pinch of salt- some chopped onion, a little garlic, and a slice of bacon if you like. This all goes into a covered dark pot and is cooked ALL day in the solar oven. If you notice the water has boiled away, just add more hot water. They are done when they are tender.

Slice a couple of those SOLAR BAKED POTATOES and place them into a dark pot. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, add a 1/2 cup of milk, sprinkle with salt and pepper, You can add some Parmesan cheese. Mix briefly, then cover and place into a preheated solar oven and bake until hot- about an hour or so.

For a total meal:

Cut up vegetables - potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, turnips - any favorite vegetable.
Place it on the bottom of your dark pot.
Cover this with your chicken pieces, skin side up, seasoned with your favorite herbs. (I like to add paprika, salt and pepper)
Cover the pot with the lid, and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
*If you don't want the skin on, add a cup or so of chicken broth/water.

Use caution when removing the pot and the lid - it is HOT - just as hot as if it had been in the oven.

Head on over to my website for more information:
And more recipes:

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