My electricity just went out and I'm hungry!
by James Simmons
(Boise, Idaho, USA)
Never fear, solar cookers are here!
We just started cooking with a solar oven I built from scrap parts this past summer. It works well, but sometimes you just need to cook a little faster. After much research I started experimenting with small parabolic dishes and was impressed by the instantaneous temps. they reached.
That's definitely frying temps. I thought. So, I finally purchased a parabolic dish from Cantinawest several weeks ago and have been very pleased with the results so far. For fast cooking it works great and I've only had one small problem.
The problem was not with the cooker at all, but with trying to explain to my wife how to cook with it.
She wanted me to cook a whole chicken she'd prepared with stuffed rice/seasoning/butter etc., placed inside an oven bag and then inside the cooking vessel. As I was trying to explain to her "Well Dear, I don't think it will work, because the..." and then she interrupted me before I could finish, saying "Let's try it anyway."
She'd seen how fast water could boil and was impressed when she saw me fry hamburger meat on it. Without questioning her desire to cook a chicken in a roasting bag and against my better judgment, I did her bidding. It took less than 30 seconds to melt a hole in the bag and the contents came spilling out. As much as I wanted to tell her "I told you so.", it just wasn't worth the effort.
Lesson learned for her.
Rules to cooking with the sun:
Parabolic dish--Fast boiling/frying/heating--Needs occasional adjustments to optimize focal position of beam. Don't look at the light to re-aim it, instead note the position of the shadow the pot on the dish once it is properly aimed and use that as a guideline. Food will burn very quickly if left unattended.
(Very high temp stove top cooking method)
Solar box/panel cooker oven--Slower cooking method that rises up to conventional oven temps. and requires much less attention to aiming. Food doesn't burn, but can dry it out over longer periods of time.
(Crock pot/oven cooking method)
Thank you James for a wealth of info. as well as some solar cooking humor to boot.
Great job on putting together your homemade solar cooker.
It's amazing how simple and easy it is to make something out of common everyday materials that is capable of cooking food with the energy of the sun.
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