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How to use a sun oven

Imagine being able to bake fresh bread on a hot summer day without heating up the house. With a sun oven it is totally possible. A sun oven is exactly what it says. Its reflective panels focus the rays of the sun through a glass panel into an insulated box where you can cook things. The sun oven requires no outside energy inputs whatsoever. It is a completely solar, 100 percent carbon dioxide emission free device for producing heat for cooking.

Sun ovens are typically for sale online from specialty retailers with prices ranging from $100 to $200. You could also find directions for making your own sun oven. The use of a sun oven requires that you pay some attention to it because you will have to make small adjustments to its positioning to maximize its exposure to the sun and maintain a high temperature. A sun oven is perfectly capable of attaining temperatures between 320 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which is sufficient to bake anything. Even breads that have recipes calling for baking temperatures in excess of 400 degrees Fahrenheit can be baked in a sun oven. The baking will only take longer.

Sun ovens do a wonderful job with pork because it can produce a low even heat. Also quick breads, brownies, and yeast breads bake well in them. It is also harder to burn things in a sun oven because the baking environment retains some moisture that comes out of the food and it is not using fire as its heat source. Brownies invariably come out soft and moist and breads baked in a sun oven have softer crusts.

Important tips for cooking with a sun oven:

  • The hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are the optimal hours for using a sun oven because the sun is high in the sky.
  • Position the sun oven so that its shadow is symmetrical. Shadows extending from the sun oven one way or the other indicate that it is not well aligned with the sun.
  • Check your sun oven at least once an hour and reposition it to make the shadow symmetrical again.
  • Extend the rod to tilt the sun oven toward the sun if necessary. This must be done if you are cooking outside of the optimal midday hours.
  • Use black or dark cooking pans when possible. They help absorb heat energy.
  • Look for totally clear days free of clouds. Even a thin layer of clouds will substantially reduce the radiant energy received by the sun oven.
  • If clouds roll in, then you can salvage your food by moving it into a conventional oven.

Using a sun oven is a little bit of an art, but it is a pleasure to work with your environment to harvest heat energy instead of burning fuels. You'll appreciate the sense of independence gained from adding a sun oven to your cooking gear, and knowing that cooking in the sun oven produces no pollution is truly something about which to feel good. 

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