What to do when you can’t be out there enjoying some camping/travel time? Work on your solar cooker, of course! I have been wanting to do this, and just never had what I felt was enough time, so today was the day, and this week is the week to try it out.
I bought a used solar cookbook last winter, and was pretty amazed with what they said could be cooked using a solar oven; everything from boiled eggs to baking a cake and everything in between. Instructions for two types of cookers; a box cooker and a panel cooker, were also included, along with a list of retail sources should you want to buy instead of make.
I want to be keep “stuff” to a minimum, but I also want to have what I need, and with a single burner propane-powered stove, a tiny folding backpacker’s stove that utilizes wood, alcohol, or solid fuel, and now my panel solar cooker (which can be stored flat), all bases are covered for any situation and any weather; and all three take up very little precious space.
For this first attempt, which ended up being my only attempt so far, I utilized leftover Reflectix from other Freedom projects. The directions were written to use cardboard which is then covered in aluminum foil, but I didn’t have cardboard on hand, so Reflectix was my choice. No cardboard used and I didn’t need to glue aluminum foil to anything; the Reflectix is sturdy enough on its own.
There wasn’t quite enough of the Reflectix left from the window and ice chest lining projects, but I had some irregular pieces that I duct taped together to get the sheet of Reflectix to the size I needed per the instructions in the book. What the heck. I figure I can always make a prettier one somewhere down the road.
What the pattern boils down to is drawing lines on your material at specified points as a means of knowing where to cut using the intersecting lines on each side of your panel to remove a triangle out of each side. This enables you to fold it up, kind of cupping your cooking vessel to catch as much sun as possible and reflect it back to all sides of the pot. The sunbeams bounce everywhere! Per the instructions, there’s a slot cut in each side to put the ends of the folded panel into for stability. Not sure what I did wrong, but my side panels wouldn’t stay in the slots. Not be deterred, I used two binder clips to secure the sides. *smile*
Bottom line: IT WORKS. I am very impressed with just how well it works. I’ve cooked whole potatoes in it. They came out great!
Being the skeptic that I am I had to find out for myself just how well things would work, or not work in some cases. Yes, the experts are correct when they say the shorter the cooking vessel, the better. Squat dark pans with large dark lids work best. Dark cake pans, one for the bottom and one for the lid, work very well. Keep them together with binder clips.
Yes, you have to enclose the cooking pot in a clear plastic bag to keep the heat from dissipating. I didn’t have a bag big enough to enclose the pot in the above photo. I tried a smaller pot enclosed in a bag and it worked much better. Note: The potatoes did cook in the pot in the above photo, but it took longer. I can see where the bag would come in as essential if you were trying to cook on a windy day. It would be tough to keep the pot hot enough with out it.
I went through way too many oven cooking bags for my liking, so I ended up digging out my roll of Food Saver plastic and made a bag long enough to accommodate the largest pan (a 13 x 9) I will likely use, ever, and I believe because of the thickness of those Food Saver bags it will hold up through many, many cooking sessions.
One other thing I did was to spray paint a couple different sizes of glass jars with lids a flat black to use as small solar cooking vessels. They work great for smaller portions or one potato, and are especially useful to warm up cooked food. Lay them on their sides for maximum heat absorption and quicker cooking/heating. I can envision using them to heat up lunch on the dash of the van if we happen to be heading into the sun. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
Information and instructions on solar cooking taken from Cooking With Sunshine, Lorraine Anderson and Rick Palkovic. Lots of recipes and information in this book.
Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs! Hugs, Shawna
A watched pot never boils…