My sleeve is smoking! I found the focal point!

by Alicia Perez
(Elizabeth, Colorado)

This past week or so was snowy and cold. I probably could've done some solar cooking but I wasn't very eager to get out in the cold. I did bring out my new Global Sun Oven to season it, but I wasn't paying attention to the weather and it ended up being too cloudy.

I was happy to find an enamel roasting pan at the Goodwill that fits perfectly in the Sun Oven. It will be fun to treasure hunt for more pots and pans for solar cooking.

One of my biggest challenges using the Parabolic Solar Burner is finding a good location to store it. It needs to be protected from the weather yet convenient for me to get to without too much time or effort. I never considered myself to be lazy until I decided to start solar cooking. I see that I am too accustomed to the convenience of my propane stove top in the comfort of my warm house. I am embarrassed to admit that I feel too lazy to walk 100 feet or to lift it off the porch where it is hanging, at least in cold weather (and it isn't even winter yet!). I am working on changing my mentality.

At the suggestion from Nathan, we used mule tape to suspend to Burner off the side of the porch (we don't have a garage). It is wrapped in a tarp for protection against the elements. After a couple snow storms, I am pleased that it didn't fall off and blow away.

Today we had clear blue sky here in Colorado and after an encouraging talk with Nathan, I was determined to try solar cooking again. (If you read my previous entry "Trials & errors of a newbie solar cooker", you know I am still in the process of learning how to solar cook.)

The good thing is that I can be quite stubborn and sometimes this turns out to be good. It keeps me determined to accomplish my goal: to reduce our electric and propane consumption, to free up more money for other things. This is why I decided to pursue solar cooking.

Another challenge I had last time was finding the focal point in a timely manner. This time, Nathan told me his Burner almost touches the ground on one side this time of year. I moved mine to the middle of the yard and sure enough with that angle, my pot of ground buffalo started sizzling. Whoo hoo! I decided to make soup.

Before I put the pot on, when I was still adjusting the focal point and angle, I was standing behind the parabola reaching toward the pot. Suddenly, I noticed smoke coming from the sleeve of my coat. I found the focal point! It's on my sleeve! Thankfully, it was only for a few seconds and I noticed before it burned a hole or caught my sleeve on fire.

I went into the house to chop some veggies while the buffalo continued to brown. Once it was almost brown I added the veggies: onions, garlic, rutabaga, turnip, carrots, celery, green beans and some bay leaves, salt & pepper. Then I added water. In retrospect I should've added water right after the meat was browned and then went in to chop the veggies. Actually, I really should've planned the whole meal earlier.

I started cooking with the Burner around 11:30 and by ~2:30 the soup was hot but not boiling. Finally, around 3:00 I brought it inside to finish on the stove top, since the sun was too low. I need to work on being better prepared: planning the meal ahead, getting the Burner set up so that it's ready when the sun is, and being more observant where the sun is in the sky these days, so I know where to put the solar cookers. I had to move mine across the yard, because the shadows moved in on me.

I am still on a quest to move and set up the Burner faster and more efficiently. I am 5'3" (and ��) and it's a bit challenging to move the burner. As I said, I notice how lazy (spoiled) I apparently am, cooking with a stove top.

Our friend is going to help me figure out a solution to storing it and setting it up/taking it down more quickly and efficiently. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

While using the Solar Burner I also tried using the Sun Oven for some biscuits. It was probably too late when I started ~2:00pm, so I turned it upside down like Nathan's video shows, for this time of year. They didn't have time to bake all the way, but they did rise, so that was encouraging. Once again, I need to plan ahead and start earlier.

I felt like today was a successful day even though I finished the soup and biscuits in the house.

I heard the meat sizzle! That was exciting!

Cooking for free in the sun!

I found the focal point much faster this time and I learned new things:

  • I need to be careful if I stand behind the Burner and reach toward the pot, so I don't catch my sleeve on fire, as exciting as that would be.
  • I need to have everything set up and ready ahead of time so I can maximize the cooking time in the shorter days of fall/winter.
  • I need to not be lazy! Solar cooking does require more effort that turning a knob on the stove top, but with a little more practice I hope it will become second nature and not something I consider difficult.
  • I need to keep learning and experimenting until I come up with a system that works for me.

    The forecast calls for another sunny day tomorrow and I look forward to solar cooking again.


    Thanks you again Alicia,

    This is great information, very inspirational for those who are considering solar cooking.

    You will soon see that it won't take much to get past the "slight learning curve" in solar cooking.

    I do empathize though with the aversion to cooking in colder weather, because even where I am located it can get a bit "nippy" in the winter.
    But, if one can become adept at using the solar cookers it will become a great asset in times of emergency, scarcity etc. and one can save on expendable fuels all year round.

    Thanks again,


  • Comments for My sleeve is smoking! I found the focal point!

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    Nov 12, 2011
    To Dana
    by: Alicia


    I don't feel fearful about using the parabolic cooker. I view it just as dangerous as a BBQ grill with fire or a gas stove top. If I know the proper way to use it, the risk of fire should be low.

    I know I will love it once I've mastered using it. It was so exciting hearing the meat sizzle! Free cooking!

    I would encourage you to pursue using a parabolic cooker, and not let the fire possibility prevent you from trying it. I think it would actually be pretty difficult to accidentally start something on fire, once we learn how to use it. : )

    Nov 11, 2011
    Oh wow!
    by: Dana

    That is quite a story, Alicia! Glad you figured out what was going on in time. This is one of the reasons I'm most afraid of a parabolic cooker. I don't want to have to be thinking about the angle and position of my cooker that much! In any case, it was great to hear of your winter solar cooking successes.

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