by Colin Hoskins
The whole setup
I am a service member deployed to a base in Kuwait. Aside from a bbq grill there are no facilities for soldiers to prepare a meal for themselves and as you can imagine Army chow soon becomes monotonous.
I had the foresight to bring along a couple dutch ovens and I've made extensive use of them using charcoal as fuel. Charcoal isn't always available and safety restrictions prohibit me from using fire outside of designated areas so I could really only cook in the evenings when we had a slow day.
I thought that a solar cooker would be ideal. No fire required and it would allow me to "set it and forget it". I built a panel style solar cooker using laminated foam board and 3 mil mylar. I scaled up the design by 10% so my 10 inch dutch oven would fit.
I am very impressed with it's performance. I have made many meals including chicken and rice, green chile beef, pot roasts, and even bread. It's very simple to use and once its set up can be ignored for an hour or so at a time.
Using a large oven bag to enclose the dutch oven I have quickly attained temperatures around 300 degrees Fahrenheit with an empty oven.
I usually set the oven and cooker out in the sun around 0900 to let it preheat. The cast iron dutch oven soaks up a lot of energy. around 10:30 the meal will go in, and depending on whats on the menu its ready in 45 minutes to 2 hours.
I get a lot of weird looks from fellow soldiers, but a lot of excitement from those I've shared the delicious meals with.
Here are pictures of a small test batch of bread. It was cooked for an hour in full afternoon sun.
You don't know how glad I am to receive this solar cooking narrative from you...a soldier in the desert using a solar cooker to cook many of his meals.
I was once a soldier stationed in Germany from '86-'88, but never knew of solar cooking back then nor had as much sun as you have in Kuwait.
I think the services should issue all soldiers a small, compact and portable solar panel cooker, don't you agree?
Thank you very much for sharing your solar cooking endeavors with us, it is really great.
This should hopefully inspire many others to also give solar cooking a try.
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