At 11 a.m.today I put my first solar meal in my GSO - meatloaf in one pan, potatoes and carrots in another. The sun is out; the thermometer has not moved from 50 degrees. It is now 1:00 p.m. Was I supposed to preheat? Thanks.
Greetings Linda, and thanks for the question.
I usually pre heat when I am going to bake, but it will vary when I am cooking other items.
There is nothing wrong with pre heating before cooking any food item, but with some it is not always necessary to always pre heat, other than when baking.
It sounds like you might have a problem with the thermometer if it has not moved over that long of a period. Maybe it is stuck and needs a "whack".
If you are focusing (inclining the cooker properly and tracking the sun) you should have no problem with the GSO heating up, even if it were in a cold area.
The thermometer will give you a general idea of the heat inside of the cooker, but it is not the most accurate way of knowing the real food temperature. For that purpose you would do better having a food thermometer.
I use the included thermometer to gauge the heat in general, but I do most of my cooking by observing and physically testing the "doneness" of the food.
If you can smell the food and see condensation you know your food is cooking.
I will open the cooker quickly and remove the pot/food and then close the cooker in order to not lose any heat and then I can stir the food, add ingredients or gauge the progress of the cooking food and the temperatures.
Most of my cooking is done by sight, feel, smell and taste, pretty much the same as I do with my traditional kitchen cooking inside the house.
So, after all of that, the most important thing is to make sure your solar cooker is properly focused as frequently as necessary. Summer time needs less frequent "tracking" of the cooker due to the high, overhead sun and the winter requires more often due to the "low hanging" sun on the southern horizon.
Your Sun Oven can retain the built up heat for about an hour after you close down the panels on top of the glass lid, but it will slowly lose its heat given time, but it is enough to keep the meal hot until ready to eat.
If you really want to retain the heat longer, then it is best to transfer the pot/pan from the Sun Oven at its hottest temp. to a well insulated and ready "haybox" or hot box style cooker.
I hope these few pointers are helpful.
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