Solar Cooking

Posted to Subscribers on 14 March 2009


Fools rush in where angels fear to tread . . .

I might be about to make a fool of myself, but I want to share a bit of my research on solar cooking.  It's just research, folks, no practical experience yet.

In the gut wrenching and shameless current state of affairs, here's who ought to be thinking solar cooking:  anyone who is concerned about energy costs or his or her own energy footprint, anyone who lives in makeshift housing as in the tent cities that now span the globe from Darfur to suburbia, anyone who is progressive, innovative, and wants to be first in the neighborhood to step up to the plate, and anyone who just loves to be a tad different.

Let's take the practical matters first, solar cooking uses the rays of the sun, not the heat.  There is a video on of someone in Norway who tested to see if in the dead of winter and ground covered with snow if the oven works and it does. In refugee camps, the use of solar has so many benefits that one can hardly list them.  First, if women do not have to go into the forests to find firewood, they are both able to spend more time with their families and avoid rape because many of the rapes occurring in war-torn places take place when women are away from the camps and scrounging for wood.  Most users reported several health benefits:  food tastes better, more moist, and they inhale less sooty smoke.  Unless absolutely everyone is lying, food does not burn and does not require stirring so not only do solar cooks avoid burns to themselves but their pots are easy to clean.  The solar cooker can function as an oven or range and those who like to grill can use the sun for this as well.

There are countless, I mean countless, plans online for making your own solar cooker.  You can also buy something as simple as a $30-40 portable grill to as big as a commercial unit for a bakery. Basically, you need a reflective surface and sun.  You can, however, also use glass.  The pots need to be dark, not shiny, so they absorb solar rays instead of reflecting them.  Temperatures reach up to around 400 or even 425 degrees Fahrenheit, that's over 200 degrees Celsius!  Depending on the weather, it is possible to bring water to a boil in as little as 20 minutes.

The simplest solar cookers are made of tin foil.  Some people attach the tin foil to cardboard to give it more rigidity.  Some line the inside of an umbrella and devise clever ways to track the sun so that the angle can be adjusted as the sun moves.  The most sophisticated units are built to last, often on cob or adobe pedestals with recessed areas for the pots and a glass enclosure.  These can be lined with sheet metal or foil and they can have externally mounted additional reflectors so that one takes full advantage of early morning as well as late afternoon sun even though the midday sun is the most valuable.

After all I have read, I cannot think of anything much easier than putting a pot of rice or beans into a solar oven and then going about one's business for the day and coming back later to find everything ready to eat. 

Over the last several months, I have visited dozens and dozens of web sites with material on solar ovens.  Some are providing ovens for as little as $5 to the people of Tanzania or Darfur but this is a one-time expense for the user and they do not have to cut trees or buy kerosene just to cook.  Why didn't humanity invent this hundreds of years ago?  If one compares solar cookers to gas and electric appliances, it is practically as if we are still rubbing sticks together to make fire.  We don't need the fire at all, just the rays of the sun!

In terms of the third world use of solar ovens, my web surfing led me to conclude that most of the larger exports are being handled by religious charitable institutions (all creeds and denominations) and there are plenty of .org solar sites.  I do not see any comparable organization of effort in the U.S. or Europe.  Given the magnitude of our homelessness, this would seem to be a no brainer. (umbrella) 
(really beautiful one)

Okay, solar ovens do not stand to replace conventional stoves in the near future but they can sterilize water, bake bread, cook casseroles, and perhaps most important of all is they tend to be more useful in the tropics because of the angle of the sun . . . and this just happens to be where we need to preserve our rain forests, ease the burden on impoverished people, and reduce the risk of fires.

On a somewhat more personal note, I have a plan and am waiting for just a little bit of good weather.  If and when this happens, I will take pictures!

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2009







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Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2010

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