Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sun Oven Solar Cooker

Of the items we bought at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair, the Sun Oven was definitely the biggest purchase. One of the workshop areas was set up near the Sun Oven booth, so while killing time one day I decided to watch the demo that was being given. I had been intrigued by the idea before, and after watching the demo I thought it might be something we could make use of. When I met up with Andrea later we discussed it and I learned that she had also been interested in a solar oven. We decided to take advantage of the special fair pricing and place an order.

We only recently tried cooking in the oven, which is why I have waited so long to write a review. Prior to this we had used it for dehydrating some peppers, and Andrea had sterilized some potting soil in it. Last week, however, Andrea wanted to bake some bread, but it was much too hot to turn on the oven in the kitchen. She decided it was a good opportunity to try out the Sun Oven. While she was prepping the bread dough, and since I was getting the oven out anyway, we decided to go ahead and try using it to bake some potatoes for lunch.

Baking the potatoes could not have been easier. We placed them in the already hot oven, and just let them cook for a couple of hours. I did re-orient the oven a few times during the process, to get maximum sun exposure, but that is a quick task. Granted, we could have baked the potatoes more quickly in the gas oven or on the grill. Since we planned ahead, however, the solar oven gave us comparable results without burning costly fuel.

The sun was out very strong when we put the bread on, so I expected it to bake in a short period. At times the temperature in the oven were slightly above 350 degrees, which surprised me. This wasn't consistent, however, and when clouds covered the sun the temperature inside the oven would drop to around 250 degrees. Unlike the potatoes, testing for doneness couldn't easily be done at the oven. This resulted in me taking the bread inside a couple of times so Andrea could cut into it to check for doneness. It ended up taking around two hours to bake the bread, which is probably more than twice as long as it would have taken in the gas oven. Still, though, we ended up with two loaves of fresh baked bread without using any fuel other than the sun.

I suspect that we'll use the oven throughout the summer, especially when we wish to bake something. I seriously doubt, however, that we'll ever use it enough to justify the initial cost. I'm not sure how much fuel is consumed baking a couple of potatoes or a loaf of bread, but I'm sure that the cost of the fuel is a tiny fraction of what we paid for the Sun Oven. There are factors to consider other than cost, however, and it is nice knowing that at least some of our cooking can be done without the use of fossil fuels. If one were living completely off-grid, I suspect that a solar oven might be quite useful.

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