Cooking the sun oven way
I've been wanting to get a solar oven for ages, but wasn't quite sure if we wanted to spend several hundred dollars on getting one, particularly since I had never even seen one, let alone one operating.
And then our BBQ blew up....and then my generous Dad gave us some dosh when our third son Ruben was born.... and then (the clincher) I found out we could dehydrate in the sun oven, so I didn't have to buy a dehydrator (which was also on my agenda). That was enough to tip me over the line, and we bought one, which arrived about a week ago. I have to say I am in love with it already!!
Here are the reasons we love it:
* Uses the sun for power (better for the environment and our bank balance)
* We no longer need a BBQ (we didn't really use it much anyway) or dehydrator
* It is located outside so it won't heat up our kitchen and house in summer
* Food does not burn or dry out, because the temperature throughout the chamber is constant (ie no need to stir)
* We can do heaps of dehydrating, slow cooking, bone broths etc without using electricity
* Food cooked in the sun oven tastes better :-)
Basically, it's an insulated box with four lightweight panels that fold out (and in when it is not in use) to capture the sun. It has a leveling tray in the oven chamber, and thick glass door that shuts tightly, and a leg at the back to get it to the right angle, and help to tie it to the ground so it doesn't fall over in the wind. It's pretty light at 10kg and there is also a thermometer inside the oven to show the temperature.
I know there are some questions about it, so I will attempt to answer some of them.
How much sun do you need to make it work? You need enough sun to cast a shadow. There are a few things that allow you to see if it is at the optimal angle and spot to capture the most sunlight. It can get pretty hot, pretty quick. At 9.30am it got to 150c in about 20 minutes. It can easily get to 180 and up to 200. Dark, light weight cookware is recommended, as well as glass, although you can use other types, it just won't cook as quickly.
It can boil, steam and bake, and there are two main ways of cooking meals in it. One is if you are at home, when you can adjust the sun oven (to track the sun) every 20-30 minutes. This will cook the food faster, and ends up being only a little longer cooking time than a standard oven. Or, if you are away for the day, set the oven up to take in the midday sun, and let the stew or curry cook away, and it will be cooked and still hot ready to eat when you get home at the end of the day (the box is very well insulated).
The trick for us is getting enough sun, and being aware of the wind, as the wind could blow it over! We've only been using it a little bit so far as it has been pretty cloudy, so we will post again once we have some serious solar coking experience under our belt.
There are many different types of solar ovens around, and you can even make one yourself. The one we got is the All American Sun Oven, which has been around for 30 years or so. We got ours off eBay and had it shipped here. We got 3 dehydrating racks, 2 bread loaf tins, and a crock pot thingy as well as the oven, delivered to us from the US for Aus $475. You can also get them from this website in Australia (they were out of stock when we went to buy one) but they are more expensive, hence why I got ours from Ebay.
Click below for the two options: