Solar Ovens Are Catching On:
Solar ovens are a cool small-scale use of the sun's abundant energy.
Even chefs are catching on to the solar way of doing things.
Brook Kavanagh, the chef at Toronto's La Palette, says:
"There is really not much limit to it. The food tastes the same. The benefit is that it's not using any electricity or gas".
There are a range of these ovens available but they generally fall into one of three categories:
Let's take a closer look at each of these solar cookers to help you determine if you could put one of these devices to work and start saving money on your electric bill.
A box oven looks like a box with a transparent glass or plastic lid (it's easy to use too).
With a box oven, all you need to do is put your food in the box and put the box in the sun. A few hours later, dinner is served!
Are they toy ovens? No. The sun can heat these ovens to 400°F so I wouldn't recommend letting your toddler use it to make mud pies.
You can find these ovens in lower price ranges, but for about $250 you can get a high quality version that will cook almost anything.
A panel solar cooker uses reflective panels to focus sunlight onto a pot to cook your food. These are cheaper but they are not able to retain heat like a box cooker.
They are best suited for seasonal use or warmer climates where heat transfer to cooler air is less of an issue.
Panel cookers do work great in these warmer conditions.
A parabolic solar cooker uses reflective materials in the shape of a satellite dish to focus the sun's light into a small cooking area.
The strong focus of the sun's rays in a parabolic cooker creates very high temperatures so cooking with one requires more attention than cooking with a box oven.
(Check out our Solar Roast Coffee interview for more information on the parabolic solar cooker.)
With a sun powered oven you can use most crock pot recipes and experiment with positioning and cooking times for best results.
Don't know what a crock pot is?
Just ask someone more kitchen-oriented and you should be set.
It should be noted that solar ovens are also helping out people in developing countries. Thanks to a solar cooker, many people no longer have to worry about spending most of their day searching for firewood to cook their dinner.
Using a solar cooker is cleaner and safer than a wood fire too, so when you cook with a solar oven everybody wins!
If you're looking for a few specific solar cooker brands to check out, the following short list is a great place to start:
The Sport Solar Oven is a lightweight oven that is great for backyard use or for camping trips and picnics. Use it to roast meats, steam vegetables, bake breads and cookies, and prepare rice, soups and stews.
The Sun Oven is a rugged oven with an insulated fiberglass case and tempered glass door. It will cook one cup of rice in 35 to 45 minutes.
With the Hybrid Solar Oven you'll be prepared for any situation. If it gets cloudy, just plug it into a 120V outlet to cook using 75% less power than a conventional oven. Sensors even allow automatic switching between solar and electric heat as needed.