Solar cooking is back—and hotter than ever

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by Jeremy Iggers | March 18, 2009 • I rediscovered solar ovens on Sunday at the fundraiser for the Urban Earth Garden Co-op. Roberta Avidor, an artist, co-op member and now solar oven sales rep was on hand, demonstrating the new SOS Sport (around $170 including reflector), a state-of-the-art solar oven made from recycled plastic. As samples, Roberta had brought along an apple cake, rice with veggies, and roast chicken. The dishes were all quite tasty – especially the roast chicken, which was exceptionally moist and flavorful.

Iggers Digest is Jeremy Iggers’s blog about food and restaurants.

My last experience with solar box cookers was about 20 years ago, when I built one myself by lining an old cardboard box with aluminum foil. I tried to cook a pot of rice, but it came out crunchy, and the oven wound up in a friend’s basement.

At the time, solar box cookers seemed like a good idea for places in the world where people have to spend hours every day foraging for scarce firewood, or the places where villagers get respiratory diseases cooking indoors over smoky dung-fueled fires. Nowadays, in the era of global warming and volatile oil prices, solar cooking seems like a good idea here, too.

Solar ovens can reach a temperature of 250 degrees or more, which is hot enough to pasteurize water and kill bacteria, and to bake bread, cook grains and vegetables, or even roast meat. But it’s also a low enough temperature that the food never burns, so the oven can be left untended. The ovens work best in hot climates, but even in the winter in Minnesota, you can get good results as long as the sun is shining and the oven is aimed properly. Using a reflector to concentrate the solar rays, Roberta cooked all her dishes when the outdoor temperature was in the 40s.

Here is a YouTube video of Roberta cooking stewed chicken and corn bread in January, when it was 9 degrees outside.

The SOS Sport is marketed by the Solar Oven Society, a project of a local non-profit called Persons Helping People. (It was named after its founder, Virginia Persons.) PHP uses profits from US sales of its ovens to fund the costs of donating ovens to communities in Haiti, Afghanistan and other third world countries. To find out more, you can visit the Solar Oven Society website, or email Roberta at roberta.avidor@gmail.com.

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