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#139636 - 07/14/08 10:57 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: ]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
I think you guys need a visit from the exaggeration police. I appreciate your comments, though, as they make me think through what I have learned from my solar cooking so far.

My “rocket” is just a solar oven. It’s an oven. I don’t know about you but I have used ovens for decades. Some ovens cook hot, all have colder and hotter spots, and you have to learn by cooking food on different levels, front and back, etc. (One of my favorite ways is to place small pot pies all over the racks and let ‘er rip.) It is a trial and error process, which is just what I am doing.

Figuring out how to cook chicken in this new oven is in no way equivalent to going to the moon. The destination and every step to get there are well-known and practiced. The primary variable is how long to let things cook in the new oven, which is exactly what I am testing.

Microwave turkey? Geez! A solar oven cooks like an oven, a familiar technology, not like a microwave. Not only have many people cooked chicken in solar ovens (many, many online recipes for example) but in both of my tests I have successfully cooked chicken. In the first test only the top half of the chicken and in the second all the chicken parts.

So what has gone “wrong”? Nothing a little more cooking time or a little more water in the pot couldn’t fix. In fact that is exactly what I did to finish the dishes in both tests: put the incompletely uncooked food in a conventional oven and finished cooking them. All the food was then good and eaten.

Why couldn’t I finish everything to perfection in the solar oven? It is in the nature of a solar oven. You have to guesstimate the cooking time. Once you open the heat envelope around the pot(s) and the pot(s) to check the food you cannot quickly bring the oven back up to temperature. And in my tests the envelope and pot(s) were opened later in the day with much less sun available so I judged it impossible to resume solar cooking (I may be wrong about that but those experiments are for another day).

So what am I going to do? Cook exactly the same dishes again. Give the chicken parts and vegetables more cooking time for the vegetables (the chicken cooked fine) and give the chili-rice-etc. dish more water for the noodles (they were all that were undercooked).

#139639 - 07/14/08 11:24 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: dweste]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
Sounds like you know what you are doing to me. And know what undercooked chicken looks/feels like. Go for it...

#139663 - 07/15/08 10:05 AM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: OldBaldGuy]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
The one clear result so far is that this particular solar oven is at the low end of efficiency. Even as a slow cooker it takes too long to develop sufficient heat to cook the full meals for 5-6 people its large pots invite in a reasonable time. But then again it is a very inexpensive folding cardboard contraption with just some shiny silvery-aluminum-looking coating and an oven-type bag.

My oven and instant thermometers suggest this little guy with fairly full pots of food creates temperatures between 175 and 225 degrees. In the world of solar cooking that is very low powered. That's why it behaves as a slow cooker.

As I posted earlier, what I wanted to find out is whether solar cooking was for real. Even this relatively low powered oven has shown me solar cooking is suprisingly effective.

I remain in the hunt for a relatively compact, lightweight, but much more efficient solar cooker. The literature suggests / promises that with better temperature insulation of the cooking pots and more efficient reflectors to better concentrate the sun's rays, a solar oven exposed to full mid-day sun should achieve cooking temperatures in the 250 to 400 degree range within one to two hours. I am planning to attend a "SolFest" in August in Northern California to try to track down one of these high powered solar ovens.

I have not yet seen a design that I would consider worthy of inclusion in a BOB or for normal backpacking, though I am hopeful I can find or make something that makes sense for these situations. What I have seen are solar ovens that promise excellent performance for car camping and home use.

I continuue to play.

Edited by dweste (07/15/08 10:09 AM)

#139669 - 07/15/08 01:00 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: dweste]
williamlatham Offline

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 235
Loc: Stafford, VA, USA
As far as efficiency goes, your at about 100% simply based on the use of "free" energy and very little energy expended on your part to set up and adjust. Can't get much better than that. I have not had a chance to play with it yet, but will get the cardboard and foil out one of these days and try. I do applaud your efforts though.

I agree, that as a long term survival instrument, a solar cooker is worth it as it can be used (within reason) without much tending freeing up resources (human and natural) for other things.


#139680 - 07/15/08 02:55 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: williamlatham]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Here are links to some commercial solar cookers. I found a sticker on the cooker I am using that identifies it as a "CooKit". I have no affiliation, etc.

Solar Cooker’s International CooKit $25


Surfer Chef Solar Cooking System $30

Hot Pot Solar Cooker $100

Sport Solar Oven $168

Clear Dome Solar Octagon Parabolic Solar cooker $250

Tulsi Hybrid $265

Global Sun Oven Solar Cooker $300

Edited by dweste (07/16/08 06:37 PM)

#139734 - 07/15/08 09:08 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: dweste]
frostbite Offline

Registered: 07/22/07
Posts: 148
Loc: TN
Please continue! I've considered solar ovens but wanted to know a little more about their practical use before making a large expenditure on a quality oven. Have been reading your posts with great interest.

#139824 - 07/16/08 03:04 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: frostbite]
Spiritwalker Offline

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 104
Excellent posts dweste, very interesting and informative. I really appreciate all the links and the idea of using solar water pasteurization for long term emergency situations is brilliant.

I had the thought that if your solar oven is not bringing your pot and contents up to high enough temperatures quickly enough, perhaps increasing the size of the reflecting surfaces would help?

#139827 - 07/16/08 03:27 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: Spiritwalker]

The CooKit design is what I was going to copy to make a mini one for my Crusader. Given the results you had with the full sized one, I'm pretty sure a smaller model would be insufficient.

#139849 - 07/16/08 06:34 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: ]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
I'm pushing the CooKit pretty hard with large volumes and large pieces of food to see what happens. If I was cooking just for myself with a small voume and small pieces of food I am pretty sure it would do fine. I will be experimenting to see if this theory proves out and I will report.

I also think that if all I was doing was heating water in the volumes to rehydrate freeze-dried and dehydrated camp meals for one, then the CooKit would also perfom well. Again, I will be experimenting to see if this theory proves out and I will report.

It would be great if someone made a mini-CooKit and tested it, especially if it incorporated a better reflective material and something less bulky than cardboard. Hint, hint ....

I just read about using your vehicle dashboard to solar cook cookies.


Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Edited by dweste (07/16/08 06:46 PM)

#139898 - 07/16/08 11:55 PM Re: Still playing with solar cooking [Re: dweste]
Nicodemus Offline

Registered: 10/30/05
Posts: 1341
Loc: Virginia, US
Well if you're going to be using a car you might as well fire it up and set a Car-B-Q on the engine. LOL
"Learn survival skills when your life doesn't depend on it."

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