Solar Cookers for Low-Temperature Cooking and Healthy MealsDownload Audio Version
A solar cooker is a household device that uses sunlight for heating, cooking, steaming, boiling, and pasteurizing. It is a good choice for people who want to go green and minimize environmental pollution.
These devices are designed for meals of the crock pot type. You can prepare beef and vegetable ragout, beef and mushroom stew, crock pot fish chowder, shrimp marinara, and many others. You can’t expect very high temperatures, and your crock pot meals are unlikely to burn. You can leave the food for 5 to 8 hours before dinner is ready to serve. The device works best between 9 – 10 a.m. and 2 – 3 p.m. because the sun is high. This means that your meal will cook faster than if you start at 5 or 6 p.m. in the afternoon. The amount of food is another issue. It is better to choose recipes that require small quantities. You can use 2 or 3 devices if necessary. If you choose a recipe that requires large quantities, you may overload the device, and the meal will take long hours before it is ready. On the good side, your food will be tasty, moist, and juicy. It is unlikely to be dry.
Methods and Temperature
Forget about meals that require high temperature. You can’t make pizza, for example. Your choices are more limited, and it is best to choose recipes that cook at temperatures of around 350 – 390 F (180 – 200 °C). Meals that require high temperature include deep-fried, grilled, barbequed, and burnt foods. Pan-frying and broiling also require higher temperatures than other methods. Avoid recipes that include starchy plants such as split peas, pigeon peas, and red kidney beans. Baking, grilling, and high temperature frying are often used for plants that are high in starch. Grilling and frying are also preferred methods for products such as maize crisps, French fries, potato chips, and others. Other methods require low temperature, and you can use your solar cooker. These include stewing, poaching, boiling, and steaming.
You may want to use your cooker on sunny days to capture the maximum amount of sunlight. Semi-cloudy and cloudy days are not the best time because the cooker won’t be able to maintain a relatively constant temperature.
Types of Cookers
You can choose from different types, including parabolic, panel, and box devices. Panel versions are made from flat panels and include a pot under a bowl or inside a bag. The parabolic type can reach a temperature of 390 F (200 °C). It represents a concave disc that is used to direct light toward the pot. The device works as a top burner which makes it different from the panel and box types. Another difference is that it can reach the desired temperature relatively quickly. Don’t leave it unattended because your food may burn. On the positive side, this is a very efficient device that can replace your kitchen burner. You can use it on a daily basis to re-heat, brown, steam, boil, and even fry. Some recipes require grilling and browning of veggies, gravies, and meals, and a parabolic cooker is a good choice for this. You can use it to prepare different meals, including fry bread, roast pork with apples, fish fillets, French fries, and many others. A box cooker is a third variety. The major advantage is that you can use it to prepare large quantities of food. You can try recipes such as steamed new potatoes, campers beef stew, sirloin ribs with onion and mushrooms, and many others. Baked fish fillets and meat are tasty, moist, and easy to cook. When fish is cooked in a solar oven, butter, lime, and herbs give meat a wonderful, rich flavor. You can also prepare cookies, cakes, and bread, and all this with solar power. What is more, when you cook fresh vegetables and herbs, they retain all antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients. This is a great way to prepare healthy meals and go green. Moreover, you can cook different meals in several pots, and the meals will be kept warm for you to serve. Fresh vegetables become soft if left for several hours; so, try not to overcook them.
Use of Solar Ovens and Cookers
They are used mostly in China and India. In fact, more than half a million devices have been purchased by Indian and Chinese consumers. The largest kitchen in China can make over 38,000 meals on a daily basis. These devices are also popular in countries such as Canada, Norway, and Finland. Many countries also have climate conditions that are ideal for solar cooking. These include Sudan, Egypt, Chad, and Kenya. If you live in the Sunbelt region in the U.S., you may also consider buying such a device.