Which Solar Cooker is the Best for You?
Solar cookers and ovens are not really considered new innovations. Solar cookers have been around for quite a long time already, and have been predominantly used in areas around the world where standard energy sources like electricity and fuel are not available. These fuel-free cookers have proven invaluable to those without access to the essentials, but anyone can pick one up, no matter where they are from.
Even though Solar cookers have been around for a while now and the word of their many uses has spread, the choice of selecting the proper solar cooker may still prove a bit confusing to someone looking to pick one up. What is the efficiency of the solar cooker? How do you maximize its use? How does it cook your food exactly? This short article will serve as a simple start-up guide for you to learn more about solar cookers.
Basic types of solar cookers:
1. The Box Type – This is perhaps the most commonly known solar cooker. You place the food inside the box, and the panels on the box concentrate sunlight into the food (while the black walls of the box keep heat in). The efficiency of the box type lies in the fact that the food is protected from outside air, which may potentially constantly rob heat via convection.
2. The Panel Type – A simpler version of the box type, usually made using only a single reflective panel that has been folded or curved to concentrate sunlight at its center. Food is placed directly on the cooker instead of being placed in a sealed compartment. While this model is very inexpensive and can be self-built (see feature image), cooking is a bit less efficient, heating takes longer, and food might not stay optimally warm due to the wind factor.
2. The Dish Reflector Type – this type exploits the basic fact that sunlight can be easily concentrated using a curved dish. The food or cooking container is usually placed at a distance on top of the paraboloidal reflector. This is perhaps the most efficient type of solar cooker, capable of cooking or heating food more quickly, although it requires constant adjusting to maintain optimal cooking temperatures.
Things to keep in mind about solar cookers:
1. Solar cookers have obvious time-based usage limits. The best time to use it is when the sun is at its highest position, so you would naturally use it frequently to make lunch for example. Of course, with a few simple scheduling adjustments, you can also make dinner with it, it all depends on when you decide to eat. Also, it goes on without saying that it is completely impossible to use a solar cooker for the other half the day when the sun isn’t shining.
2. Consider allotting a few hours of passive cooking time when using a solar cooker. Heat accumulates in your pot a lot slower in a solar cooker, so it is but natural that you need to start setting the solar cooker at a much earlier time. For a really safe starting point, try setting it about 2 hours before lunchtime. You generally don’t have to worry about food being overcooked as temperatures inside solar cookers usually hover a few degrees below the boiling point of water.
3. Rice is the best, dry foods are okay, soups can be the hardest to cook. This statement essentially means that your solar cooker is not a total replacement for your gas or electric-powered cooking machines. There are foods and other dishes that simply require a lot more energy to cook. On a brighter note however, there are many foods that can be cooked easily with a solar cooker. You aren’t going to be able to cook steaks, but you get the picture, -be realistic with you food choices when using a solar cooker.
4. There are of course extended time-periods where you won’t be able to use the solar cooker. Just like any solar heating system, solar cookers are pretty efficient for regular use, as long as you know how to time its use properly. The hottest part of the day varies based on time zones, so do a little research and find out the best solar-cooking time schedule that works for you. These devices can save you lots of money in the long run, and can even be used to replace your regular stove for simpler cooking or heating tasks. Even if a person didn’t want to take it as far as replacing the conventional stove for some things, solar cookers can make great camping trips even more enjoyable and simple.
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