Cooking with a solar oven…a new experience for me this week. I have the Sport Solar Oven, but there are many different brands of solar ovens on the market at all different prices. My solar oven had been sitting in the box in which it came for a couple of years, and I finally found some time to unpack it and try it out. I will also credit a friend in Arkansas, Dr. Robert Allen, who had begun to use his solar oven, as an inspiration for me to get mine out and try it.
I decided to start with a recipe that was totally different from the things I usually cook, so that I would not be tempted, at least initially, to compare the solar oven results with recipes I had been cooking for years. I’ll move to my familiar recipes later, over the course of the summer. I looked over the recipes that came with the solar oven, and when I went to the store I found some beautiful pork chops that were on special this week. So, I decided to try this recipe first.
I started by preheating the oven in the sun while I was doing the food preparation. The temp in the oven was 250 F when I put the food in at 10:00 am. The temp in the solar oven quickly dropped to 150 F, then slowly climbed back up to around 250 F. Between 4:00 and 4:30 pm, the temp in the oven dropped rapidly back to around 210 F, even though there was plenty of sun and the ambient temp was 100 F in the shade of my back porch. The solar ovens stress the importance of the angle of the sun, and I became a believer with my first use of the solar oven. Some of the solar ovens come with reflectors. For my oven, reflectors can be purchased separately. I plan to buy reflectors for use in the winter when the angle of the sun is very low on the horizon, even on the bright and sunny winter days here in the desert southwest.
I cooked the food on Thursday, and then refrigerated it to eat on Friday (I was teaching on Friday and would not have had time to cook). The photos are from initial preparation through cooking through actual serving of the meal.
The pork chops were the most tender I have ever eaten. The cabbage/onion/apple plus caraway seeds produced a delicious dish that had a very German flavor (much like the pork and sauerkraut my very German mother-in-law used to prepare). Overall, I consider this first attempt at using a solar oven to be a great success.
My goal for the summer is to try a different recipe each week, to test just how committed I am to this style of cooking. At the moment, I think I can be very committed, because not only does it save energy (using the free – and non-polluting – energy of the sun instead), cooking did not add to the heat in the house.
This is a great alternative way to do some cooking for those of us who live in the Desert Southwest. This map shows why we are in a great location for it, unlike many other parts of the US.
I said to a friend,
We here in the desert SW have a unique opportunity to use this technology, and although it is only a drop in the bucket, I think it is very exciting.
Dr. Allen replied,
A lot of little drops will ultimately fill the bucket.
In 2007 this blog began as one devoted to gardening in the southwest desert, especially the challenges of growing roses. Things in general can change in five years, and I see this blog gradually morphing into lifestyles in the desert southwest – how to keep a beautiful landscape while using less water, saving tiny amounts of energy with solar cooking, and things of that sort. Stay tuned for more posts on solar cooking. And, have a great weekend!