By Kellene Bishop
Some time ago, when I first got a solar oven, I chose to do a little experiment. In one pot I threw in a nearly freezer-burned frozen ham into one pan and 2 frozen sausage logs into another. I added no seasonings, no water, nothing but time and a little sunshine. The results were SO tasty and moist. This is a great result in spite of the fact that I used a Sport Solar Oven (not my favorite choice by a long shot.). So I’m certain that it will work well with your homemade solar ovens too. Anyway, this is very amateur video footage, but you’ll get the picture–in fact, you might even drool a little bit.
Success is all but guaranteed when you’re cooking with a solar oven because it’s virtually impossible to get anything to burn or scorch in a solar oven. All you need is sunshine, a good seal, a way to insulate the heat inside the oven, and a way to attract and absorb the sun’s rays. It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outdoors. And no, it’s not a fire hazard. And contrary to what most people assume you DON’T need to all the time in the world to cook or bake in a sun oven. As long as you have the temperature that your recipe calls for, you can cook your goodies in the oven as long as the recipe calls for though you may have to add a few minutes of cooking time as the temperature will lower when you open the oven to put your goodies inside. (There’s no way that I actually NEEDED to cook the sausage and ham that long in the solar oven, but you’ll notice that even though I did cook them for SO long, they were still moist. And boy howdy, they were delicious!)
My solar oven of choice is the Global Sun Oven. The Sport Sun Oven isn’t built to withstand intense desert heat nor is it intended to withstand everyday use for years and years, whereas the Global Sun Oven is created to be used in the toughest terrain of 3rd world countries every day for at least 5 years. The only “extra” part I’d purchase for the Global would be the door that seals the heat in as it COULD possible break. The Global is great in that its insulation allows you to use every square inch inside to cook. I even did an 18 pound turkey for Thanksgiving along with whole sweet potatoes inside, etc. (Use a roasting bag instead of a pan and you’ll get that much more cooking space volume). The only thing I like about the Sport solar oven is its shape. But the lid warps with high heat hitting it and won’t seal the moisture well after wards. Oh well. It’s a back-up and I’ll keep using it until it’s completely useless.
Here are a couple of pictures of some seasoned chicken that I did. Notice the kinds of pans I’m using. These are the pans that folks typically donate to Goodwill because they are thin-walled, but that’s actually the kind you want when cooking in a solar oven–dark, thin walled, ceramic coating, with a well-fitting lid. I didn’t add any water to the chicken, just some seasonings. Can you imagine how DELICIOUS this broth was when I was finished cooking it?
You’ll want to invest in a good quality oven thermometer. America’s Test Kitchen Recommends the inexpensive Cooper Atkins 24 HP. They’re about $6 online. (And you should have one for your indoor oven too!)
I invite you to read the other articles I’ve written about cooking with a solar oven. It really is a ball and it’s a MUST have culinary tool if you consider yourself a “foodie.”
Here’s one meal I made with chunky seasoned potatoes and a whole chicken. The trick to getting meats the colors you want is to remove the lid during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking for that caramel brown coloring.
I’ve made bread, brownies, soups, plain brown rice, casseroles, stews, cobblers, cakes, and even cream puffs in my solar ovens! I have to say the BREAD and the BROWNIES have been the favorite of my neighbors. (The cream puffs probably would have been but they didn’t make it out the door. *grin*)
I also use my solar ovens to sanitizing dishes when camping, making sun-dried tomatoes–HEAVENLY, and dehydrating a few other foods that have turned our perfectly. I simply can’t tell you enough how much I love, love, love my solar oven. And more importantly to this gal who HATES being hot and sweaty–I love how my solar oven allows me to cook without cranking up the A/C. The solar oven is worth what you pay for it by itself, but it ALSO replaces the big bucks you could spend on a quality food dehydrator. I can also use it as a rice cooker, as the perfect tool to bottle butter, and as an effective water sanitizer. It’s worth every penny in my opinion. I hope I hear from you soon telling me how much you’ve come to enjoy yours. By all means PLEASE do not just buy one and store it in the corner of the basement. Use it, enjoy it, and wonder how you ever enjoyed food before you discovered it!