Ivan's Place
In honor of the greatest moralist who never lived
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Becker

Contact me     Home page     Table of Contents

Solar Cooking

Full disclosure: over the winter of 2005, I neglected my creation shown below, and allowed it to become rain-damaged. I had made it out of resin-particle board, and little by little it just fell apart. During the second half of 2006, I did no solar cooking.

It is now November, 2007, and I have completed my new, more craftsmanlike oven. I have posted the construction process, and some additional photos of the oven in use, at Making A Solar Oven. For my own convenience, I will leave this page up for the forseeable future.

Around 2000 I gathered some scrap materials together and made a solar oven. Later, I bought a low-tech solar panel-type cooker, the CooKit, from Solar Cookers International (details on SCI below). I pretty much live on broccoli, whole wheat bread, and beans, and I try to make as much solar-baked bread and solar-cooked beans as I can. I soak the beans before cooking them, and freeze them for later use. Iíve also made some tasty fresh stewed tomatoes in both the CooKit and the oven.

A loaf of bread. The oven shows that Iím not a craftsman, but it works. On a cloudless day, winter or summer, it will reach up to 400 degrees, empty, and so long as the sun is not obscured too often, it will cook a pot of beans, even if it does take all day. I havenít tried baking bread when itís intermittently cloudy, because I donít want to risk not getting the crust or the rise I want. The oven is designed so that when directly facing the sun, all of the sunlight striking the reflectors goes into the insulated interior. A glass collector plate at the opening of the oven space traps the heat. The glass should be tempered to prevent cracking due to differential expansion between the interior and exterior surfaces as the oven heats up. Temperature is adjusted by pointing the oven more or less directly at the sun. As the sun moves across the sky, the oven must turned horizontally, and also tilted to maintain optimum reflector orientation. A nail perpendicular to a block of wood resting on the collector plate serves as an orientation indicator. To make horizontal movement easy, I made a lazy susan to set it on. A wedge, not visible, tilts the oven toward the sun. One should always wear dark sunglasses when working around the oven. I use sunglasses with an extra polarized clip-on as well. Welding glasses would probably be best.

The oven design comes from Cooking with the Sun — How to Build and Use Solar Cookers, by Beth and Dan Halacy. (Morning Sun Press, 1992.)   To order Cooking with the Sun, go to the Morning Sun Press website at Morning Sun Press website. The Products page has ordering information

The CooKit, from Solar Cookers International (Sacramento, California). The CooKit is foldable, shaped cardboard with a bonded reflective surface. SCIís raison díetre is to provide these low-tech cookers, and other more sophisticated cookers, to Third World villagers for cooking and purifying water without using increasingly scarce and costly firewood. They are neat folks.  Here Iím heating water for washing up the bowls and utensils used in making the bread. I also use it to heat the water used to mix the dough and proof the yeast. A black pot absorbs the heat of the sun, and the oven bag (supplied with the CooKit) traps highly heated air as insulation. The rack exposes the bottom of the pot to reflected light. I use a variety of thrift-store purchased aluminum pots I spray with flat black barbecue paint. I cook oatmeal and beans regularly in the CooKit. Squash cooks up beautifully. But, one needs patience. Depending on whatís cooking, it can take all day. In the winter, when days are shorter, there might not be enough time and heat for some dishes. Check out the SCI web site for more information.

Gary Reysa's Build It Solar website is an encyclopedic source of information, tools, and plans to help you build solar projects that save money and reduce pollution. This is one cool site. Need a plan for a solar food dehydrator? It's here. Want to dry some wood? There's a plan for a solar kiln here, too. Want a chart to tell you where the sun is any time of the year? Yep.

Finally, check out the Yahoo Solar Cooking Group:

Click here to join SolarCooking     Click to join SolarCooking

Top     Contact me     Home page     Table of Contents

Page updated April 13, 2008.