Cooking in the Wind: Question & Answer
by Light Dancing
(White Mountain Lake, AZ.)
Why Don't most solar cooking advisers (teachers) mention the WIND CHILL FACTOR?
Thus far, I have found NO MENTION of WIND as a major factor in solar cooking conditions. This is rather difficult for me to understand, considering the fact that, even in the first weeks of my solar cooking experience, it became quickly obvious to me that the "Wind Chill" factor has more to do with solar cooking than the time of year, time of day, or the unobstructed visibility of the sun.
I own a parabolic solar cooker, which I have fallen in love with, because I can effectively cook with it virtually year round. I also own a "Temperature Gun", the kind that you point and click and it gives instantly accurate temperature readings of the surface of any object. I have tested my pots and pans while cooking hundreds of times, under a wide variety of conditions, and also timed how long it took to cook, fry, and bake a variety of foods. I can say with absolutely certainty that solar cooking equipment (pots and pans), even in box cookers, will cool off so rapidly, when it's very windy, that it dramatically affects cooking time, in many cases preventing sufficient temperatures for baking or frying altogether
Since first purchasing my cooker, I have measured temperatures on my cast iron cookware in excess of 700 degrees at 9:am, in early March during partly cloudy skies where there was zero wind. Then, 3 hours later, (high noon) under clear skies, with 25mph. winds, it was difficult to maintain a temperature of 300 degrees in the very same cook pot. So it was then and there that I decided to build a "Wind Break", using some recycled sliding glass door panels, attached to the Southeast corner of my little cabin to to create a transparent barrier against the prevailing Southwest winds. Now I cook even in very windy days with no loss of heating capacity, year round. I have also baked corn bread (in 40 minutes) on the north side of a large house in 30+mph. winds with no difficulty, because the length of the house itself prevented most of the wind from whipping around to hit my cooker.
So, I just don’t understand why many “experts” on solar cooking fail to mention the wind factor, and some simple SOLUTIONS to the problem. It only took me 10 minutes to think of a solution, $60. bucks to buy the materials from a second hand store, and 2 hours labor to build my handy little wind break. and now I enjoy relaxing behind that transparent wall on windy days, even when I’m not cooking up something delicious. - Light Dancing
Greetings Light Dancing,
And thank you for this very well thought out and well written contribution. You bring up some very valid points.
I will have to suggest that it is probably not intentional on the part of experienced solar cooks to not know about, or take into account, the effects of wind on the cooking temperatures of a solar cooker, but rather they assume that people will realize this fact, at least they assume others will learn this from experience.
I have heard from many of my colleagues, and have seen others write about, the effects of wind on the temperature of a solar cooker, especially with panel style cookers, but you are correct in your observation that it is not discussed nearly as often as it could or should be.
We do need to do a better job of explaining this important environmental aspect that can and does affect solar cooking results.
My own opinion of why it is not mentioned much by many solar cooks (experts) is: that it may be; when it is that windy, (30 mph+) that most people do not attempt to solar cook for fear of risking tipped solar cookers, slow cook times and other such issues.
I do like your ingenious solution that you were able to craft using readily available materials, and that were "recycled" for a useful purpose.
Very nice setup.
I might have to use something similar when we go over to the Navajo Reservation this summer to teach solar cooking to some families. They have issues with wind at various times of the year as well.
Thank you again for your great insight.