Using the free heat of the sun to cook our food is easy, fun, effective and energy efficient Using the free heat of the sun to cook our food is easy, fun, effective and energy efficient. It not only replaces the fuel you would have paid for, but during the warm months, it saves on cooling costs by not heating up the house. Solar cooking has several other benefits, such as lower cooking temperatures will not burn foods, so stirring is not required.
The slower, gentler cooking provided by many solar cookers preserves more nutrients, as well as flavor and aroma. Food can simply be placed in a solar cooker and left to cook, unattended, for several hours. I've heard that some folks will place their food in the solar oven, point it to the noon sun, and leave for the day, coming home in the evening to a hot, cooked meal. However, if you are available to adjust the cooker to track the sun, it will get hotter for a longer period, cooking food in a shorter time. I made a small table, which rotates, so when I am passing the cooker, I can easily adjust it for maximum solar input.
There are two basic types of solar cookers, the box cooker, which will perform as an oven or slow cooker, and the cook top, which functions more as a stove top burner, heating the food just from the bottom of the pot. There are many variations on these types, ranging from basic boxes made from recycled materials to high tech, expensive models.
The box cooker is the most common, and easiest to construct, the links below have plans for many designs. I have built several; the advantage of the commercial models is ease of use, longevity of the materials, and convenience.
I am now using a commercially made box cooker nearly every sunny day, we bake breads, cookies, and cakes in it, I make beef jerky, rice, beans, soups stews, and casseroles with it.
Solar cooking has many advantages, and is a low cost way for anyone to use solar energy. The links below contain much information on the subject, plans, where to buy commercial cookers, recipes, instructions, and lots more. Have fun!