Homemade solar oven
As promised, here are pictures of the solar oven that I made. It cost me about $10 for the foil, duct tape and piece of glass. (The boxes were free, of course.) I made a “handle” to pick up the glass using duct tape. But the heat melted the stickiness and the handle gave way when I lifted the glass. You can see in the picture where I taped it back together. But that only worked for a couple more uses before the repair gave way.
Solar Oven 1.2 has a plexiglass lid and a wooden drawer pull so I can pick it up and position it with out getting burned. You can see the new handle in the pictures below.
I wanted the panels to lie flat when stored. So can you see in the picture how I use elastic straps to secure the two sides together (left side of the solar collector)? I attached Velcro to one end of elastic and the other Velcro side to the box. Then I can just stretch the elastic straps to from one panel side to the other to secure the two sides together. (Does that make sense?)
Other important components
Black pans (or any dark colored cookware). I just got pans from the thrift store and spray painted the outside of the pans with stove paint (heat resistent paint you can use to paint your wood stove. Available at the hardware store.) I also spray painted some tin cans (outside only!) with black paint and use them for bread, rice, other smaller dishes.
An oven thermometer is easy to find at any hardware store for just $3-4. You need this to make sure your temperature stays above 200°. Of course, the hotter the better. I try to keep it at 250° or higher. But 200° is the minimum to prevent bacteria from growing. This is especially important in meat dishes.
If you are using a box-style oven (as opposed to a reflector or parabolic oven) a cooking rack is important to keep hot air circulating all around the food. Since my box sits at an angle (to capture all the sun’s rays), I made a V-shaped wedge out of cardboard and put it under the rack to keep it level (that’s only important if you are baking a cake or cornbread.) I found the perfect size rack at a rummage sale for 25¢.
So when you add in the other equipment to the cost of the oven, I spent a total of about $16 for my solar oven ensemble.
To cook in your solar oven, choose a sunny, cloudless day and orient your oven so that it is facing the sun. If you are baking a box-style oven, put your rack into the oven and get it level. Put the thermometer in and put the lid on. When the temperature is around 250°, put your food inside. Every 15-20 min you will need to re-orient your oven so that the sun’s rays are hitting it square in the center.
Here is a site with several plans/patterns to make your own solar oven. The plans for my solar oven
can be found in the section titled “Box Cooker”. Mine is The Heaven’s Flame Cooker (don’t you just love that name?)
That’s not enough for you? Try this site for more plans. The parabolic models are also great science tools–teaching your kids about focal points and how curved mirrors (or lenses) “bend” and focus light rays.
Think solar cooking is only for those who live in Arizona or New Mexico? Think again. Here are a bunch of how-to videos from a woman who lives in Minnesota. On the day she made this video it was a balmy 9°.
I’d love to get feed back and pictures from those of you who make or use a solar oven. What works best for you? What tips do you have? Are you a first-time solar chef or a solar-oven pro?
We’ve been having an extended heat wave and I haven’t used the kitchen oven once in over a week. Our meal on July 2nd was breaded pork ribs, bean casserole and cornbread. The corn meal was from our food supply, ground on the spot. The flour, french fried onion rings and Cream of Mushroom soup were all from our pantry. The breading was homemade, using this recipe. You can find more recipes on the PHC Recipe page. The beans were home canned.
Then a week later, on July 9th, I made Enchilada pie (which lasted 2 days) and Turkey Casserole. The turkey and hamburger were both cooked and frozen months ago, as were the beans, so I just took them out of the freezer to thaw. The tomato sauce was home-canned. The corn tortillas and cheese were both from our supply in the freezer. See how nice it is to have a well-stocked in-house pantry? It means that you don’t have to run to the store when you want to try a new recipe.
Today we had breaded chicken breasts, Squash Supreme and herbed rice. And yes, you guessed it–all of the ingredients were from our supply at home. Breading was homemade (a mix of french fried
onions left-over from making the bean casserole and homemade breading), the pumpkin came from our garden, as did the herbs used in the rice.
All cooked in the homemade solar cooker. I hope you’ll try your hand at it.