What is a solar reflector oven? Why do you need one!
What are solar reflector ovens? Why do I need one!
Don’t you hate it when you get a power outage? A cable comes down, or a transformer blows and there you are unable to cook a hot meal. It happened to me the other day and I was not amused. It took 30 hours to restore the service.
As I sat eating a bag of chips it made me wonder what would happen if there were some kind of disaster and a more permanent power outage occurred. As things stood I would be in big trouble. So I decided to investigate solar reflector ovens as I figured in a real disaster camping gas cylinders would be hard to get hold of. I wanted total independence.
What is a solar reflector oven and how does it work?
Solar reflector ovens are devices that we can use to cook all kinds of food. This might be beans, rice, meat, vegetables, and so on. We can choose the way we cook it from bake, stew, fry, and steam. So it is a pretty versatile piece of kit to have around.
You may be thinking that sunlight is not really that hot and how can it be powerful enough to actually cook our food. Sure it feels warm when it shines on our skin, but obviously it’s not cooking us, so how does it cook the food?
There are four types of solar reflector ovens and they all work on the same basic principle. They take the heat from the sun and trap it and/or magnify it so that the temperature in that spot far exceeds the ambient air temperature.
What is a solar oven used for?
Box Style solar reflector ovens can be used for camping, but they are usually very big and can be heavy to carry so the primary use is in disaster relief. They are not expensive and can operate just using the sun. Perfect for when there is no power available. The fact that they are large and heavy does not matter because once set up in a static position you do not have to move them. It is better to look at panel or parabolic models for camping use.
They are also perfect for the situation I described at the beginning of this article, as a backup cooker for those times when the grid lets us down. Keeping one at home is a great idea and the weight and size is not a problem
What are the four types of solar reflector ovens?
- Box Cooker – The box itself is around 3ft to 5ft across, and it works because the wide area of the box is heated by the sun through the sheet of glass that sits on top. The box gets quite hot and the black interior of the box resists the heat escaping, so heat is pouring in but finds it harder to escape. So when the heat comes into the box it hits the black base which absorbs the heat and becomes very hot. Any heat that is reflected back is absorbed by the black sides and top. Simply put your pot of food in the box and leave it in the sun. Sometimes people place reflectors around the box to focus more heat on the box but it is not necessary on a hot day. This type of oven can reach up to 300 degrees Farenheit inside. This is more than hot enough to cook meat.
- Parabolic Cooker – Parabolics are able to get even hotter because the shape of the metal reflector focuses the heat on a small spot (the pot). The pot is usually held on an arm that transverses the reflector sheet. The shiny surfaces of the reflectors redirect the sun’s rays from a large area and focus it on a much smaller area, thereby increasing the heat in that spot. You can place these reflectors around a box oven and the combination of the way the box oven works and the increased heat input can make these ovens super-hot.
- Panel Cookers – A panel cooker is a simpler form of the parabolic cooker. It looks a bit like a three-sided box that has a metal interior that reflects heat thus focusing more heat on the pot that sits at the base of the box inside a large glass sphere (made up of two glass bowls that are placed together rim to rim). They are more compact than the box type of parabolic type and usually are constructed in a way so that the top hinges down and when not in use becomes a box you can store.
- The Evacuated Tube Cookers – This is the new guy on the block and is becoming a firm favorite. As the name suggests it is made from one or more large evacuated tubes. When heat is applied these tubes can reach up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit. They still need sunlight but this type of cooker can still perform on a cloudy day where the sunlight is reduced. The tube is created with two layers of glass that have a vacuum between them. Food is inserted into the tube and this makes it a very compact design.
Can a solar reflector ovens work on a cloudy day?
Yes, you can use a solar oven on a PARTLY cloudy day. You are going to need some sunshine to reach the oven and it will greatly increase cooking times. If this could be a problem where you live I would suggest that you consider the sun oven (see below).
How long does it take to cook things in a solar oven?
Obviously the time taken to cook food will vary according to the ambient temperature outside, the amount of sunshine, which type of solar oven, and what food you are cooking.
For example we can take curried sausages, potatoes, and Brussel sprouts. We will use this as our test food.as it seems a substantial meal. We are going to cook all of this in one pot. (the ideal type of meal for a solar oven). This meal would take about ten minutes to prepare and on average three hours to cook. This one-pot meal does not need constant supervision and this makes it so very easy.
It is not so easy to cook a meal like this in an evacuated tube oven as you have to fit everything into the tube, but it is possible, and the cooking time would be reduced.
3 Great Solar Ovens Available to Buy Now on Amazon
- Haines 2.0 Solar Cooker and Dutch Oven Kit – This solar oven needs to be assembled but is quite easily supported by a video on its website. It’s a lightweight material but comes with ties downs for when it is windy. They claim that you can cook a whole grain bread complete with seeds golden brown in two hours. The design elevates the pot, this enables sunlight to be reflected onto the bottom of the pot, providing more all-around cooking.
- All Season Solar Cooker Camper, made by Sol Cook – This is a panel cooking model that claims it can cook in the morning and late afternoon and is not restricted to when the sun is high. The reason it can do this is the ability to adjust the configuration of the sun reflection panels. I have checked reviews from users of this oven and they confirm that they have used this at 10:30 in the morning. One user reported cooking Boneless beef ribs in 3 hours, brownies in 2 hours, beef stew in 4 hours. It is lightweight (corrugated plastic construction) and folds flat when not in use and can fit in a backpack.
- All American Sun Oven- The Ultimate Solar Appliance – The “sun oven” has been on the market since 1986 and is a well-known brand in this market. Yes, it is more expensive than the other brands we have reviewed but it is proven, well built and has a versatile design. It is also one of the most efficient models on the market and can cook on partly cloudy days and reaches temperatures substantially hotter than many other models, excluding the evacuated tube typer. However, it is more versatile than the tube models and so represents a better value in my opinion. The Sun Oven will typically reach temperatures of 360 to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit. Although the Sun Oven is more expensive you do not have to buy special pots and equipment to use with it. You can cook with all your regular pans. Another feature of this model is that when it is not in use it folds up and can be carried like a regular suitcase using its built-in handle.
Typhoons, earthquakes, flooding, camping trips, saving money on electricity bills, and when the grid lets you down. These are all valid reasons to use solar reflector ovens.
Who knows what may happen in the future and unless you prepare for your family’s needs now you are leaving yourself vulnerable. Solar Ovens are a practical, cost-saving, cooking facility that you can leave set up in your property so that you can even use it on a daily basis if you want, slashing your electricity costs and paying for the purchase very quickly.