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 solar oven to whip up such enticing fare as orzo stuffed peppers, eggplant Parmesan, and perhaps s’mores for dessert.
“I use mine all the time at home,” says Julie Roig, office assistant for Sunflair Solar Ovens. “It’s easy. The food tastes really good.” Roig says that when she uses a solar oven frequently, her utility bill drops. She attributes the energy savings to reduced demand on air-conditioning because the regular stove isn’t heating up the house.
Savory Foods — and Sweets
Solar cooking enthusiasts say the sun is a wonderful partner for steaming, roasting, and baking an infinite variety of dishes, including meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, beans, and pasta.
Nor do you need to skip delicious desserts. The Solavore website offers recipes for a variety of solar-baked sweets, including mango banana bread, blueberry crumble, and double-layer carrot cake.
Roig says her zucchini bread, which draws rave reviews from friends, is especially moist and flavorful when baked in her solar oven.
Davey Jones, national distribution dealer sales manager for GoSun, delighted his daughter with brownie birthday cake baked by the sun with vacuum tube technology.
Solar Ovens Around the World
Portable solar ovens are perfect for picnics, sailboats, RVs, tailgating, and plenty of other outdoor experiences. With no flame, they’re especially handy for campsites when open fires are prohibited, Jones says.
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,” says Mason Terry, director of the Oregon Renewable Energy Center. Terry, who is also an associate professor at Oregon Institute of Technology, said he saw solar ovens functioning nicely years ago at a refugee camp in Nepal. Some were built with used bicycled parts, he recalls.
Solar Oven Products
Various designs and styles of solar ovens can be purchased from select stores and online retailers. Often the products include such accessories as pots, pans, and thermometers. These are a few examples:
- Solavore Sport weighs nine pounds. Its design includes recycled materials, insulated housing, and mirror-like reflectors. Temperature range is about 175 degrees to 325 degrees. Prices are $199 and $287, with accessories.
- Sunflair solar ovens fold up origami-style. One folds to about the size of a three-ring binder. The other folds to about the size of a seat cushion. Average temperature range is 220 degrees to 235 degrees. Prices are $89.99 to $164.99, with accessories.
- GoSun solar cookers heat food inside portable vacuum tubes. Prices are about $169 to $799, including accessories.
DIY Solar Oven
Many do-it-yourself solar ovens are featured in videos and blogs online. Among them is a version with instructions from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The design employs household items, including plastic milk container, aluminum foil, and wire hanger.
Have fun in the sun with your own homemade or commercial solar oven!
Feature image courtesy of Solavore