What Are Solar Ovens and Should You Get One?

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Guide to Solar Ovens - Pros, Cons, Accessories and Solar Oven TypesHave you heard of solar ovens? If you love baking in your oven, or camping, or you want to live off the grid, solar ovens are right up your alley. Yes, they’re still relatively new in the market. And chances are, you haven’t seen your friends roast a turkey in a solar oven.

But they’re definitely an amazing and ingenious tool. If they’re new to you, here’s your guide to solar ovens and why you should get one.

How does a solar oven work?

Well, just as its name implies, solar ovens use the sun’s heat to cook food. Solar ovens look like strange, outer space contraptions. But there’s a reason behind the madness.

Solar ovens are made up of many shiny reflector panels, which are strategically placed to capture the sun’s rays and bounce them into an insulated box.  In this process, the sun’s energy is converted into heat.

The insulation inside the oven box absorbs all of this heat. How can you make sure the heat doesn’t escape back out of the oven? There’s usually a sealed glass lid that prevents the heat from escaping out of the chamber.

How hot can a solar oven get? If the conditions are right – that is, if there’s enough sunlight – most solar ovens can reach up to 400°F, just like a standard oven.

Solar oven cons: what you should know before you get one

Since solar ovens rely on solar energy, you need the sun! So, cloudy, overcast days can make it difficult, if not impossible to trap enough solar energy to bake something.

Another issue with solar ovens is that they’re not the same as turning on your oven, bunking a chicken in, and knowing in a couple of hours that your chicken will be well-roasted and delicious.

With solar ovens, you can’t set the temperature and have it reach that temperature automatically. You have to monitor the temperature, and definitely, check the internal temperatures of the food you’re cooking to make sure the solar oven is hot enough.

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So, there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to solar ovens, and sometimes, it’s just not a convenient option. But if you committed to learning how to use your solar oven, it can be an incredibly gratifying and satisfying experience.

Solar oven pros: why you’ll want one

Once you get the hang of the solar oven, it’s pretty straightforward – almost like cooking with a crockpot. Food cooks slowly and evenly in solar ovens – as long as the temperature is high enough and hot enough.

Not only is solar cooking fun, but it’s also a great way to reduce your own carbon footprint. If this is an issue that’s near and dear to your heart, consider a solar oven.

But you won’t just be supporting the environment with a solar oven. You’ll also be saving yourself some money in the long run. Yes, a solar oven can be a big investment up front, but it can save you when it comes time to pay your bills.

After all, the sun’s energy is free.

Finally, if you like to get off the grid or camp, having a solar oven is a clever way to enjoy oven-cooked meals in the middle of nowhere. Baked bread? Check. Roasted meats? Check. Roasted veggies? Check. What a great way to go camping, eh?

Best accessories for solar ovens

To have the most success using a solar oven, consider using the following baking accessories.

  • Dark-colored bakeware

Why? Darker colored baking dishes are better at absorbing and retaining heat than lighter ones.

  • Pots with lids

Why? Lidded pots help to trap heat along with water. Hot steam helps to cook food, while also keeping it succulent.

  • Oven thermometer

Why? Because you can’t set-and-forget about the temperature in solar ovens. You need to be able to monitor the internal temperature while baking to make sure the food is adequately cooked. It can also help you adjust cooking times.

  • Food thermometer

Why? It’s better to be safe than sorry when cooking meats. A food thermometer helps you know if your food is cooked thoroughly, and is safe to eat.

  • Dehydrating trays

Why? Well, dehydrating trays are definitely not essential, but if you like dehydrating foods, this is a great way to preserve produce, like fruits, veggies, and even meats – all using the energy of the sun.

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Solar ovens design types

Solar ovens have come a long way thanks to technological advances. Which one is right for you? Here are some basic solar ovens to consider.

Panel cooker

Sale
All American Sun Oven- The Ultimate Solar Appliance
SUN OVENS International, Inc. - Lawn & Patio
- $6.37 $287.63
  • Speed: slow
  • Low light performance: poor
  • Weight: light and easy to transport
  • Cost: low

Check out: SUN OVENS International All American Sun Oven – The Ultimate Solar Appliance. This oven is:

  • Made in the USA
  • BPA free casing
  • Made with recyclable plastic
  • 9 lbs.

Box cooker

  • Speed: Somewhat slow
  • Low light performance: OK
  • Weight: light and easy to transport
  • Cost: low

Check out: Solavore Sport Solar Oven. This oven is:

  • Made in the USA
  • BPA free
  • Can hold up to two 10-inch pots
  • Includes granite-ware pots
  • Includes oven thermometer
  • 9 lbs.

Parabolic Dish

SolSource Classic Solar Cooker
One Earth Designs - Lawn & Patio
Currently not available
  • Speed: Fast and able to cook food within minutes
  • Low light performance: poor
  • Weight: heavy and difficult to transport
  • Cost: low

Try One Earth Designs’ SolSource Classic Solar Cooker. This oven:

  • Reaches up to 550°F
  • Solar reflectors are made out of self-healing polymer
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to clean
  • 40 lbs.

Advanced panel cooker

  • Speed: Somewhat slow
  • Low light performance: OK
  • Weight: light and easy to transport
  • Cost: low

Try Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Delux. This oven:

  • Can reach up to 285°F
  • Includes everything you need to get started, like trays, racks, pots and a carrying bag
  • Perfect for recipes for slow cookers and dutch ovens
  • Ideal for campers
  • 1 lb.
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Solar oven prices

There’s a solar oven for just about every budget. You can find one for below $100 and others over $600. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a solar oven.

Even if you have to make a “big” investment now, you make some pretty substantial gains with solar ovens. For one thing, you reduce your carbon footprint and save energy. For another thing, you save on your utility bills – big time!

Plus, it’s a fun and new way to cook – thanks to the free energy of the sun.