Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My New Toy

Summer has arrived, with a vengeance. We went from high's in the 70's to 90's overnight. And this means, SOLAR OVEN Season! Woo Hoooo!

Preparedness/survivalism is one of my hobbies. A couple of years ago, I came upon instructions for making a solar box cooker from carboard boxes. I made one very inexpensively, from stuff I had around the house, and played with it a bit. It wasn't the most efficient design, but it did manage to reach 190 degrees inside, almost enough to boil water. If given enough time, it would cook things, pretty much like a slow cooker. The disadvantages were several; the two main problems were, 1) in order to get hot enough to cook with, it had to be babysat and turned every hour to face directly at the sun; 2) being made of carboard, it wasn't at all weatherproof, and was so lightweight that it tended to blow around and spill the food.

There are ovens that are commercially produced, but were so expensive that I just couldn't justify it. But this spring I found one at a somewhat more reasonable price. It's still pretty steep, but the performance is so much better that it becomes a real viable tool for summer cooking. I dug into my mad money and purchased it, justifying the expense as part of our "emergency preparedness" equipment.

Sunday, I cooked the main course of Father's Day dinner in the oven: Roast Beef. It was every bit as good as anything I've ever done in the slow cooker.

Last night, I cooked Chicken and Rice in it.

For demonstration purposes, I brought it into the shade so I wouldn't be blinded by the reflectors while taking the picture. The reflectors maximize the solar energy that is funneled into the black oven interior, where it is turned into heat. This little baby heats up to 350 degrees in 20 minutes during peak hours. This meal was put into the oven at 4:15pm, and removed at 7pm. Cooking temperatures were in the 200-250 range that late in the day.

Here's a closeup of the interior of the oven. The open glass lid is hinged on the left side. The pot sits on a self-leveling shelf, so the food always stays level, even when the angle of the oven is changed to track the sun.

The family was very impressed when dinner was unveiled.

Yummy food, cooked by harnessing the power of the sun, all without heating up my kitchen!

6 comments:

Amidey (aka Crazy Lady) said...

Okay first of all, that looks delicious! I need the recipe (minus the solar oven). Second, exactly how much is one of these babies? Third, surely you asked your kids to pose. They are so cute! Susan is the best. She is going along but she is really laughing at how crazy you all are. And last, man you are prepared! Way to go! Can I stay with you when the bomb hits?

jen said...

That is amazing!!! Yes, please let us know how much this great cooker was!

Jennifer said...

What an awesome toy. We were supposed to have an enrichment thingy on recipes and ideas for dinner plans that don't use your oven (they said it much better than that on the flyer, but you get the point). This idea would be ideal, since it is so insanely hot here, it would be perfect. I also want to know how much it was. :)

Karianne said...

uh yes I have to reveal that she did ask us to pose. and I did a bad job I was thinking of being more excited about it. Only dang it the flash came too fast.

That food was SOOOO good though I love it!

Marjorie said...

What fun! We have made solar ovens by lining cardboard boxes with heavy tinfoil and it works pretty well, but this will be great to have one that is sturdy and permanent. I thought it was nice to be able to cook dinner without heating the kitchen. Sam taught me how to make some absolutely fabulous bread in a dutch oven. I bet that would work out well in the solar oven. And yes please do share some recipies!
Here is the link to the bread:
http://steamykitchen.com/blog/2007/09/10/no-knead-bread-revisited/

Marjorie said...

Oh, and this bread is so easy that the kids can do it easily. It would be a good summer activity!