It is a fact that with our dependence on fossil fuels for our energy needs, we have pushed the
environment to the brink. However, now with more and more focus on the concept of eco-
friendly solutions, there seems to be a ray of sunshine on the horizon.
In keeping with our obligation to reduce CO2 and other gaseous emissions, more and more
people are opting for environment friendly renewable and sustainable energy sources. What’s
more, solar energy is no more restricted to water and space heating. Solar cooking with the
help of solar cookers is becoming prevalent today for its various benefits.
In fact, Australia has been promoting this eco-friendly cooking option for years now. Its
Clean Technology Innovation Program uses Australian Carbon Trading Funds to allow the
government to offer funding for environment friendly products and has seen great response
from solar activists. Enthusiastic citizens have been hosting successful solar cookouts on a
regular basis. Way back in 2008, Alice Springs hosted its second annual solar oven bake off
and in 2012, Heather Stevens, a solar enthusiast, who edited the solar cooking eBook
‘Anywhere Under the Sun’, invited chefs from around the world to share their solar cooking
recipe, resulting in a spectacular book!
How does solar cooking work?
Simply put, it means cooking your food using the energy radiated by the sun. The pot in the solar cooker is heated when light energy is converted to heat energy (conduction).
Typically, these cookers have concave mirrors in order to reflect sunlight into a focal point, in this case a pot or a pan that contains food to be cooked. The cooker takes in the UV light rays and converts them into infrared radiations, allowing food to cook.
Types of Solar Cookers
There are four types of solar cookers: Panel Cookers, Box Oven Solar Cookers, Evacuated Tube Cookers and Parabolic Cookers. Each one helps in cooking specific types of food.
Easiest to make and comparatively inexpensive, the solar panel cooker looks like an open three-sided box with a large reflector area. The bottom and side panels have shiny materials working as reflectors. A heat trap is place in the centre of the box to capture the sun’s rays. It is best suited for cooking foods like soup, meats, and vegetables, etc.
Box Oven Solar Cookers
The most common and popular solar cooker, in this, the box is an insulated metal or wooden box painted black from inside to absorb more heat. The open side of the box is covered with sheets of toughened glass to trap the heat causing a greenhouse effect. A plain mirror reflector is fixed and positioned in a way to allow the reflected sunlight to fall on the cover of the box. Anything that requires slow cooking and simmering can be cooked in the box solar cooker.
Parabolic Solar Cooker
As the name indicates, the parabolic solar cooker uses a parabolic or bowl-shaped reflector to direct sunlight more directly onto the cooking pot to generate heat. The high temperature it reaches means one can fry, grill or even pop popcorn in a parabolic solar cooker.
Evacuated Tube Cookers
In this type of cooker, the cooking chamber is made of two layers of glass in the shape of a sealed tube. Since there is no air between the layers of glass, the chamber is highly insulated and retains heat efficiently. With temperatures reaching 550 degrees F or more, it is great for cooking meat, bread and even dessert!
Advantages of Solar Cooking
It is environment friendly and helps reduce your carbon footprint.
It’s natural, so it’s free! The only investment here is the solar cooker.
It is healthy—solar cooking retains the nutrients in your food.
The food retains more flavour and tastes better, thanks to the slow cooking process.
Your solar cooker is portable, so you can take it where you go! All you need is the sun.
p.s. Want some some amazing, lip-smacking solar cooking recipes? Just watch this space!