The traditional concept of cooking involves indoor kitchens, gas or electric stoves, microwaves, toasters, and ovens. Heat is provided by burning wood, coal, or natural gas – all viable, but limited resources which can negatively impact the environment. In response to the increasingly technology-heavy nature of cooking, many people are experimenting with the idea of solar cooking. Solar cooking is an innovative, environmentally friendly method of cooking which utilizes the power of – you guessed it – the sun.
Solar cookers come in varying shapes and sizes, but all operate on the same basic principles. To begin with, solar cookers use absolutely no fuel or energy sources except for the sun. Light and heat energy from the sun are collected and concentrated to cook food. In the most basic sense, most solar cookers are extreme examples of the greenhouse effect. Here’s how they work.
The most basic type of solar cooker is basically a box which lets sunlight in but doesn’t let heat out. A “box cooker” consists of an aluminum foil lined box covered by a sheet of glass. A pot or pan (preferably dark in color) containing the food is placed inside the box. When sunlight shines into the box, it reflects off the foil and is absorbed by the dark material of the pan. The air inside the box also heats up. However, since the box is sealed shut, the heat energy cannot escape, and instead builds up inside this virtual “greenhouse,” reaching incredible levels of 225-275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Though slower than conventional ovens, solar cookers are able to cook in a very similar way.
Solar cooking is not only entertaining to try, but also efficient to use. Unlike traditional gas or electric stoves and ovens, solar cookers do not rely on limited, exhaustible forms of fuel (wood, coal, natural gas). By using the power of the sun, solar ovens obtain, for all intents and purposes, an infinite supply of fuel (albeit one which is unavailable at night or on cloudy days).
Solar cookers are also portable and simple to make. They can be assembled quickly and easily from common materials, and require no connection to gas lines or electrical wiring, making them a great option for outdoor activities and camping trips. They are also environmentally friendly, creating absolutely no byproducts or burned-up waste.
Finally, solar cooking is cheap. A single oven is reusable and does not consume any sort of fuel. For this reason, solar cookers are very common in lower-income or highly populated countries, where people can use them to sustain healthier eating habits than they would otherwise be able to afford.