For an earth-friendly epicurean treat, switch off your stove and step outside. Permit the sun to help with dinner.
No electricity, firewood, or propane is required. All you need is sunshine and a portable solar oven to whip up such enticing fare as orzo stuffed peppers, eggplant Parmesan, and perhaps s’mores for dessert.
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Savor Foods and Sweets
Solar cooking enthusiasts say the sun is a wonderful partner for steaming, roasting, and baking an infinite variety of dishes, including vegetables, pasta, eggs, beans, and meats.
Nor do you need to skip delicious desserts. Read on for solar oven recipes that include Solar Rocky Road S’mores and Apple Strudel.
Solar Ovens at Home and Around the World
Portable solar ovens are perfect for picnics, sailboats, RVs, tailgating, and plenty of other outdoor situations. With no flame, they’re especially handy for campsites when open fires are prohibited.
They are also used for food preparation and purifying water in areas of the world where electricity, firewood, and propane are unavailable or not readily accessible.
“It’s really a simple concept that works great,” said Mason Terry, director of the Oregon Renewable Energy Center. Terry told us he saw solar ovens functioning nicely years ago at a refugee camp in Nepal. Some were built with used bicycled parts, he recalls.
Using Solar Ovens
“A solar oven can be used just like a crockpot or a normal oven. Solar cooker temperatures can easily reach between 200 degrees and 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which means they safely cook dishes, even those containing meat — though cooking times will often be longer,” according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (IFAS).
“Remember that solar ovens require sunlight, so make sure you position your cooker in an appropriate place,” continues their advice. “Cooking times will vary with the amount and intensity of sunlight; between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. are the best times to use a solar cooker.” They recommend doubling the cooking time required in a conventional oven and using a cooking thermometer to check the progress of your food.
Solar Oven Products
Various shapes, designs, and styles of solar ovens are sold online and in stores. Often, the products include such accessories as pots, pans, and thermometers. Some are water-resistant. These are a few examples:
Sunflair solar ovens are pliable and easily open and fold up. No assembly required.
- Sunflair Deluxe folds to 2 x 15.5 x 19 inches.
- Sunflair Mini folds to 13 x 5 x 11 inches. Both models reach temperatures up to 285 degrees Fahrenheit, according to product descriptions.
GoSun solar cookers heat food inside portable vacuum tubes using parabolic reflectors.
- GoSun Sport measures 24 x 5 x 8 inches
- GoSun Go measures 14.17 x 7.09 x 3.35 inches. Both models reach temperatures up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit in full sunlight, according to product descriptions.
DIY Solar Ovens
You can find a variety of do-it-yourself solar ovens online; here are just a few.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension offers instructions for a pizza box oven as well as a two-box oven.
- NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s solar oven design uses household items, including a plastic milk container, aluminum foil, and a wire hanger.
- NASA Climate Kids offers a cardboard box oven design that comes complete with instructions for using it to make s’mores.
Solar Oven Recipes
Ready to start cooking? Check out these five solar oven recipes, including black bean enchiladas and rockin’ ratatouille. For more ideas, try these recipes from solar oven pros Sunflair, GoSun, and the University of Florida IFAS.
- Quinoa burritos from Sunflair
- Potato Soup from Sunflair
- Flameless Bananas Foster from Sunflair
- Rocky Road S’mores from GoSun
- Apple Strudel from GoSun
- Omelette from GoSun
- Zucchini quiche from University of Florida IFAS
- Oatmeal Squares from University of Florida IFAS
Have fun in the sun with your own homemade or commercial solar oven!
Feature image courtesy of Solavore. Originally published on July 17, 2018, this article was updated by Patti Roth in July 2021.