Solar cooker, solar oven or solar stove is an awesome ecological solution appliance that converts sunlight into useful heat. Sun rays get trapped for the device reaching appropriate temperatures to prepare delicious and healthy food.
The solar stove allows cooking at lower temperatures compared to those using conventional methods. This favors the taste and nutritional quality of the preparations.
Solar oven performance works in base to:
Greenhouse effect: It is the effect that permit increasing the heat gradually and homogeneously in the interior. The sun’s rays have a wavelength that allows them to easily go through the transparent cover of the oven.
Inside the luminous energy get transformed into thermal energy (heat) by the absorbent plate.
The heat produced by the plate has a longer wavelength, so it can not go through the glass and go outside.
Finally, the heat is trapped inside by raising the temperature in the cooking zone of the oven producing the greenhouse effect.
Thermal insulation: A solar oven must necessarily have this quality to keep inside the heat produced by the greenhouse effect.
If the stove generates heat and loses it easily through the base and the walls because it does not have good insulation, it is unlikely that it will reach the necessary temperature to cook the food.
In addition, an effective thermal insulation allows the equipment to work even if the clouds cover the sun at times, since the cooking will continue with the accumulated heat.
Cooking with the sun
The recipes prepared in a solar oven have special characteristics, difficult to achieve by other cooking methods. The food maintains its natural flavor and is practically impossible to burn. Fruits and vegetables preserve their natural color almost one hundred percent. The meats get tender and juicy and with a smaller volume reduction than when cooked by conventional methods.
Cooking by greenhouse effect allows a homogeneous distribution of heat so, no high temperatures are needed to cook food properly. This feature helps to preserve the nutrients and vitamins optimally.
In a solar oven you can prepare the same recipes that are made in a conventional one, such as stewing, boiling, braising and steaming. It is not suitable for frying, but it can be stir-fry. It is excellent for making homemade preserves and also works perfect as an effective dehydrator for food.
Cooking food in a solar oven is extremely healthy because it preserves nutrients and vitamins better. In addition, the absence of aggressive pulses of heat does not favor to increase benzopyrenes levels, which are highly carcinogenic toxins naturally present in some foods.
In general, solar ovens work in the temperature range between 90 and 165 Celsius degrees (194 – 329 Fahrenheit degrees).
Not all furnaces are the same. Oven efficiency depends on the design and the manufacture quality material.
The temperature that a solar oven can reach in certain working conditions, is also directly related to the amount of solar energy it receives and its efficiency.
Solar Cooker and weather conditions
There are also external factors that condition the temperatures that the oven can reach inside.
Geographical location, atmospheric conditions, time of the year and the time the oven is used.
A curious fact is that, the environmental temperature is not a factor that seriously affects the performance of a solar oven. On a sunny winter day, clear sky and low humidity temperatures can be higher than on a sunny summer day with high humidity.
Cooking times in a solar oven
The cooking time of the food in a solar oven depends on the working temperature of the appliance that we use.
Not all ovens are the same or have equal thermal power.
There are artifacts that scarcely reach temperatures around 90 Celsius degrees (194 Fahrenheit degrees) where food will take many hours to cook. There are also those highly efficient equipment able to develop higher temperatures where the food will use a totally reasonable time for cooking.
In addition, there is a solar oven working temperature, which depends on the power of the equipment and the characteristics of the solar radiation at the time its cooking.
There are also other factors that affect the cooking time of the food.
Some recommendations below:
- The type, quantity and size of the food cooked influence the cooking time.
The recipes with less water will be ready before. Same happens with the food cut into pieces, they will use less time compared if they are whole.
- Reorient the solar furnace. Following with some frequency the advance of the sun on the horizon, helps to accelerate the cooking. Since in this way we ensure the maximum working temperature during the whole process.
- Although any type of pot or tray works in a solar oven, metallic containers with thin walls and matte black color are the most suitable if we expect a quick cooking.
- Try to use pots and pans according to the amount of the preparation and, whenever possible, use them with the lid on.
- Reduce the number of times you open the oven cover. Each time this is done, a decrease in the interior temperature happens and consequently the cooking time increase.
- In some preparations, the use of roasting bags is advisable, since it avoids the formation of steam and concentrates the heat in the food.
Solar Cooker Pros
- The nutrients and vitamins remain preserved in the food.
- Fruits and vegetables maintain their natural color and flavor.
- The meats are tender, juicy and with a lower volume reduction.
- Several kitchen containers can work simultaneously.
- In addition to preparing recipes, you can also pasteurize, sterilize preserves and dehydrate foods.
- The food does not burn, even if the cooking time is exceeded, which is beneficial for health and an advantage from a practical point of view.
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- No associated contamination. There is no smoke, no noise, no pollutant emission generates into the atmosphere.
- The experience of cooking in open spaces and outdoors encourages social relationships and is recommendable for a healthy life-balance.
- It is impossible to cause fire or explosion.
- In case of a natural catastrophe it allows to have a means to prepare hot foods and that works without the need of fuel or electricity.
- A solar oven can work without supervision and its external parts are completely safe on contact. The elevated temperatures are only inside.
- Economics It allows an important economic saving, it is an equipment that always uses kW-h at zero cost. The price of a solar oven is quickly amortizable with energy savings.
Solar Cooker Cons
- They need the presence of sun and certain atmospheric conditions to be able to work. Therefore it becomes impossible to use them at night much as a cloudy or rainy days.
- To use at home you must have a sunny area (garden, terrace, patio, etc.) with south orientation and free of shadows, which sometimes it is a counterproductive factor.
- They do not generate temperatures high enough to fry.
- In unfavorable weather conditions or in some preparations, cooking times may result longer compared to traditional methods.
Solar furnaces, despite the multiple advantages, like any other machine or device, also have disadvantages.
Consequently, they do not constitute an ideal and perfect solution.
However, in today’s economy, energy and environmental crisis that we live, a Solar Cooker is an extremely interesting alternative to prepare healthily, economically and ecologically food.
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