by Connie TenClay
(Omaha, NE USA)
When I was in ninth grade I tried to make the Parabolic cooker. I used the plans in the book “Solar Science Projects" (formerly "Fun with the Sun") by DS Hallacy, Jr. I think it was too cool and windy when I tried it outside and I didn't get too far with it.
When our kids were in grade school we made an oven out of metal and insulated it with fiberglass batting, the design was from out of the same book. We also didn't get to much use out of that one either, since shortly after we made it and before we could use it much, we had a large fire and the building it was stored in burned to the ground. However the kids now in their 30’s remember doing hot dogs in it.
Now many years later I have made a Cookit, much easier to make, and have used it quite a bit this past summer.
I made my first Cookit solar panel oven in early May 2009. I used the booklet found here link and made the oven on page 12. I made one (well 6 or7) Cookit solar ovens last year . The reason for so many ovens was I made one for my daughter and a couple for friends and helped a 10 yr old make one for her 4-h project with which she won top honors for her age group. She even cooked some hotdogs for the judges. The Cookit is easy to make and inexpensive, the primary cost is the foil. This year I started a box oven with reflectors. So far I have the a box part made however I got several pieces of tempered glass free so will probably be redesigning the box to fit the pieces of glass.
I often use more than one of my ovens for a meal. I have found that meat cooks very well but that I have some problems with things like cake. Mostly it works like a slow cooker. I use several different styles of pans. I use an oval granite ware pan in an oven bag, a fry pan with a glass lid in an oven bag, and a black omelet pan on a pizza pan under a large glass bowl. I keep a journal of what foods I cook as well as what the ambient temperature is and what kind of cooking dishes I use so that I can try to reproduce the good results and improve the not so good results.
I found I could cook most things really well on a sunny day anytime the temp was above 50 F. Meat like roasts, meatloaf, BBQ ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs work really well. I have also baked bread, hard cooked eggs, rice., and cookies. The only thing I have had trouble getting done was cake and I think that was mainly because I started it too late. We live in a slight valley and the sun went down sooner than I had planned on.
I plan on using my Cookit oven more this summer, especially if it every stops raining.
Thank you Connie for your detailed narrative about your solar cooking journey.
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