Can meat be cooked safely in a solar oven?
How does the sun cook your food?
These are just a couple of many questions that come up in my classes when people are first introduced to the concept of solar cooking.
In fact they are probably two of the most frequently asked questions due to concerns related to food illnesses that are an inherent risk in food preparation, more particularly when it comes to meat.
Nevertheless, if traditional food handling and cooking safety guidelines are followed and if suggestions and guidelines for using a solar cooker are followed, then it is possible to cook any variety of meat safely and deliciously.
Most all professionally manufactured solar cookers are capable of reaching and sustaining the requisite temperatures needed for cooking meats and all other types of foods.
And most, well built, home made solar cookers can perform the same task just as well or better than a commercially manufactured cooker.
So, just how does the sun cook the food inside of a solar cooker?
Solar cooking is done by means of the suns UV rays, it is not the sun’s heat that cooks the food, nor is it the outside ambient temperature, though this can somewhat affect the rate or time required to cook, but rather it is the suns rays that are converted to heat energy and this heat energy is then retained by the pot and the food by means of a covering. In much the same way that a greenhouse retains heat or a car with its windows rolled up. An effective solar cooker will use the energy of the sun to heat a cooking vessel and efficiently retain the energy (heat) for maximum cooking effectiveness.
This is best explained with a mental diagramming of the process.
- First, you would need a darkened or blackened pot with a lid. This can be a pot such as a cast iron Dutch oven, a black enameled roasting pan such as a chicken or turkey roaster or any pot that you might blacken on the outside with a non-toxic, weatherproof paint. Dark surfaces become very hot; they heat up more quickly than shiny surfaces which reflect the suns rays away.
- Then you will need to obtain a clear transparent covering such as a large glass bowl or a durable plastic oven cooking bag. This will be used for retention of heat and will also allow the rays of the sun to be able to penetrate to the darkened cooking pot and food, thus raising the cooking temperatures and preventing the heat from escaping.
- Next you will need a material that will reflect extra sunlight towards the cooking apparatus so as to concentrate the suns rays. This is usually accomplished in the form of some type of reflecting surface such as mirrors, aluminum foil and buffed tin or sheet metal. With the help of a reflecting surface you will be able to increase the temperatures and to cook the food more rapidly.
For more information on solar cooking tips, techniques and information please visit our on our website.