Build Your Own Solar Cooker and Harness the Power of the Sun

Cooking food by using the energy of the sun, or solar heat, has only become popular in the last decade or so. But solar cooking was actually invented by a Frenchman named Horace de Saussure almost three hundred years ago. Of course, the solar cookers that are built and used today operate basically the same as they did in the 1700’s. The heat of the sun is captured inside a vessel by using some sort of reflector such as a mirror or aluminum foil. Then, insulation holds the heat inside the vessel so it’s concentrated and it can cook your food.

Since the heat inside a solar cooker reaches a lower level than a conventional oven, it will take a longer amount of time for your food to cook. On the other hand, though, a lower temperature means you won’t have to worry about your food being scorched or burned. A solar cooker can act like a warming plate too by keeping your meal hot until you’re ready to eat it. In addition to these advantages, probably the best one is that solar energy is one hundred per cent free to use!

There are several different types of solar cookers you can build. The easiest one is called the “Box Cooker.” You may want to try this one first before you attempt to make a more advanced type.

You’ll need to start with two cardboard boxes. One of the boxes needs to be able to fit inside the other with a few inches of room around each side remaining. You’ll also need some aluminum foil, a sharp utility knife, several sheets of newspaper, and a box of clear plastic wrap.

The first step is to carefully cut the flaps off of the smaller cardboard box; discard them. Then,
completely line the inside of the box with a layer of aluminum foil. If you have problems with the foil staying in place, you can use strips of transparent tape to hold it in place. The inside will be the “Cooking Chamber.”

Next, use long strips of duct tape to close up all of the seams on both boxes. Closing the seams will assist you in harnessing the power of the sun. Then, place the smaller box inside the larger one. Crumple up several sheets of the newspaper one-by-one to make round balls. Pack the newspaper balls in the space between the boxes until the area is filled rather tightly. The paper will act as insulation.

The next step is to place a sheet of the clear plastic wrap over the top of the small box. Carefully stretch the plastic out so there are no wrinkles in it. Then, tape the plastic temporarily into place with additional strips of the transparent tape.

The final step is to pull the flaps of the larger cardboard box down. The flaps will need to cover the newspaper insulation, yet they can’t cover the smaller box. You’ll need to trim them with the utility knife. Use additional strips of duct tape to seal the flaps completely down. Now, you’re solar cooker is completed and ready to cook your first meal!

Just like having an instruction manual for your gas or electric cooking stove helps you to use it more efficiently, you’ll need to know some information about your new solar cooker:

1. Even though the sun’s rays seep through the clouds on a dim day, your cooker will work the best on a bright, sunny day.

2. Be sure to position your cooker where the sun can directly reach the inside of the smaller box.
As the day progresses and the sun rotates, you should periodically change the position of the box so it will always be in the direct sun. You may need to use rocks, bricks, or small chunks of wood to prop the box up.

3. For the best results, cook your food in a pan that has a dark interior. Or, for such items as Toasted Cheese Sandwiches, use a black or dark-colored cookie sheet.

4. Even though it shouldn’t burn or scorch, you’ll need to periodically check your food throughout the cooking process.

5. The clear plastic will act as a cover to help keep the solar heat inside the smaller box. Think of it as being an oven door.

6. Use caution and oven mitts when you’re handling hot food from your solar cooker.

7. Before you use your solar cooker for the first time, let it heat up in the direct sun light for fifteen to twenty minutes.

8. You should insert a thermometer into the cooking chamber so you can keep an eye on the temperature. A temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit will cook your food just fine. A temperature of 300 degrees Fahrenheit or above can efficiently bake cakes, cookies, brownies, pizzas, and more!

9. Always remember to use clean pans and sheets in your oven. And, carefully wipe up any food spills that may occur in your oven as they happen.

10. What’s another advantage of your Solar Cooker? It’s portable! You can take it with you to the beach, to the mountains- anywhere you want to cook a meal!

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