A travel-loving friend once sent me off on a cross-country trip with a cookbook for packing small meals in tinfoil and cooking them on the manifold of my pickup – slap those fish fillets on your engine at the Rogue River and pull them off a few miles down the road for a hot meal.
With the same desire for simplicity and energy recapture, and fascinated by the idea of cooking without any harmful byproduct, we made a couple of limited attempts at homemade cardboard solar ovens and then a year ago bought a sturdy, somewhat portable solar oven:
the Solar Oven Society’s Solar Sport
It’s a favorite investment and we enthusiastically use it many times every week.
Spend much less time cooking.
Solar cooking is like using a crock pot – you chop and spice and prepare ahead of time, then leave it alone, maybe adjusting it toward the sun every few hours if it’s a slow cook.
When you check on your food, you’re outside.
For us currently, that means barefoot in sparkly sand – but it’s mightyfine in the mountains too.
If you get distracted by your pretty surroundings and forget to check on your oiled and salted beets or saffron rice or cinnamon cake awhile, that’s probably okay because…
Solar is forgiving with moisture.
Maybe because no moisture is lost to the cooking process, there seems to be a generous window for removing a dish, with plenty of flexibility between cooked-just-enough and overdone.
Many of your current favorite foods can be made with more taste and nutrition in a solar oven.
Tightly sealed solar cooking captures rich flavors. Use it for most any food that doesn’t have to be browned or sauteed, for foods you’d bake in an oven or microwave or in a pot of liquid on the stove. When cooking foods that can be prepared either way — by either stovetop or oven — even this crispy-browned-carcinogen-lovin’ gal often leans toward the oven preparation now because the same tight solar oven lid that traps moisture, also keeps life-enhancing nutrients in the food and retains and blends rich flavors for savory, aromatic meals.
Prepare an antelope roast with potatoes, onions and carrots with NO water added, and find rich juice waiting when the lid is removed. Grains like rice, quinua, amaranth are easy staples to store for camping, but they need a lot of water. Because boondocking is most often limited by water supply, especially potable, some dried foods prove to be impractical for long remote camping when water is lost to stovetop cooking methods. Solar cooking allows these grains to be cooked with a minimum of water, putting them back on the menu for long trips.
On hot days, cooking with the sun is as fast as a kitchen oven and doesn’t heat up the house. Or 28′ tin can, as the case may be.
Save more money than you think.
Areas that have days above 65 F/18 C for part of the year offer the opportunity to substantially cut kitchen usage of gas or electric power. And if you’re living full time on the road, using a solar oven instead of a propane oven will extend days between fuel-ups, allowing you to boondock longer at that enchanting hot springs you find.
These seven reasons are likely enough to put a solar oven at the top of any ‘practical desirables” list. What do you think? What do you love about your solar oven?