Let's take a minute to examine cooking in general, and solar cooking in particular.
We cook our food for several reasons. First, the gas company wants us to. Second,it kills bacteria called pathogens, also known as squiggily wigggily's. Third, the food generally tastes better, depending on whether my wife or I did the cooking.
Now on to Solar Cooking. When we raise the temperature of food hot enought to destroybacteria; it makes no difference how the temperature was produced. Solar Cooking isn'tstrange, its just different.For most people a flame under their food seems to work well. This produces heat in the 600 degree Fahrenheit range. Only 212 degrees are needed to boil water.An electric frying pan produces heat in the 425 degree range and uses 1200 watts of power. Solar energy is calculated in watts, the same as electric appliances.
About 1000 watts per square meter (39"x 39"), strike the earths surface on a clear day.If you could harness all of that energy it would be tremendous. A little more than a square yard of bright sunlight has almost as much power as an electric frying pan.
An electric crockpot only uses 180 watts on the "low" setting and 250 watts on "high".Yet like the gas stove, and the electric frying pan it will cook food. It just takes longer.
A great by-product of slower cooking is that the food tastes great. Many Solar Cookers operate at the same temperature as crockpots, and produce meals that are tasty, and bursting with flavor.
If we debunk a few misconceptions about solar cooking, many of the benefits will be obvious.
1. Solar cookers only work on hot days. Not so. More of the infared energy in sunlight reaches the earth's surface on a clear day and solar cooking on a 60 degree day is no problem.
2. Large reflectors ars needed to concentrate the sunlight. Not always. It depends on the type of cooking device and the amount of heat that you are trying to produce. We have two cookers that work by conduction and require no reflectors.
3. The inside of the cooker must be painted black. Again it depends on the type. With reflective interior cookers only the container that holds the food needs to be dark.
4. Lots of insulation is needed to retain the heat. Not always. If a cooker is painted black inside, yes. If a cooker is reflective on the inside, no. Trapped air is a good insulator.
5. Solar cookers can only be used during the summer. Definitely wrong. The sun shines with enough energy to use solar cookers successfully on 250 - 300 days a year in most places.
6. It takes all day to cook. That depends on the type of cooker and the amount of food.We have cooked a whole chicken in 4 hours on a 60 degree day and 4 one quarter pound hamburgers in 23 minutes on a 70 degree day.
The major benefits of any kind of solar cooking is convenience, no fuel is needed and you are saving money and natural resources every time you use solar energy.
For disasters and other emergencies, ( like possible Y2K disruptions ), solar cookingcan easily heat your canned foods allowing you to save your conventional fuel for nights and cloudy days.
Solar cooking can be done with a foil lined box that you can make from household supplies in 20-30 minutes. Besides cooking in a black pot or pan you can cook your canned food in a one pound coffee can painted black or wrapped tightly with thin black plastic; food can also be wrapped in aluminum foil and covered with thin black plastic or cooked in a microwave safe plastic bag.
Investigate solar cooking when you have time. It works great, its just different.
Written by: Don Videtto
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