The Sunny Side to Good Food and Healthy Cooking
We all know:
The Sun is the most powerful, FREE and abundant source of energy. It is the cleanest and most sustainable source of thermal energy which has no adverse effects on the environment. On the other hand, traditional sources of thermal energy such as fossil fuels and gas are unsustainable and emit large amounts of pollutants into the environment.
Then what are we waiting for ? Why not introduce that magic of the sun into our day-to-day life to cook the food we eat ? Solar cooking is the answer !
Why should we switch to Solar Cooking ?
It is scientific and reduces energy bills
Results in a more nutritious meal as moderate cooking temperatures help preserve nutrients
Your meal is free of cost as solar power comes for free!
More leisure time as you need not stand by the cooking pot
Does not emit pollutants such as smoke that lead to health hazards
Eliminates the occurrence of accidental fires in homes, especially where firewood is still used as a fuel.
Many Below Poverty Line (BPL) families must trade scarce food for cooking fuel. Solar Cookers can help such families to keep more food and improve nutrition levels in BPL households.
What are the different types of Solar Cookers ?
A Solar cooker is a device which uses the energy of direct sunlight to heat, cook or pasteurize food or drink.
There are various models of solar cookers available in the market today, but they can basically be classified under 3 main categories: Panel, Box-type and Parabolic solar cookers.
The Science behind that delicious Food
• Concentration of Sun light: Concentration of the sun's rays is performed most often by reflecting panels and surfaces that can "focus" or concentrate the rays of light (UV) to a point or concentration. These reflecting panels are usually made of materials that are shiny and reflective such as silver, chromium and aluminium. Solar cookers concentrate sunlight onto a receiver such as a cooking pan. The more of the sun’s rays that can be concentrated onto the cooking vessel and food, the higher are the temperatures that can be achieved.
• Converting light to heat: The interaction between the light energy and the receiver material converts light to heat. This conversion is maximized by using materials that conduct and retain heat. Solar cookware are made of metal, as it is a good conductor of heat.
• Absorption: Absorption of the sun's energy (heat) is best achieved by a dark coloured surface. Dark colours absorb heat well. Thus, the most common solar oven interiors and cookware are usually matte black in colour.
• Retention: Retention of all the concentrated heat (energy) and absorbed heat is the final principle in solar cooking.It is important to reduce convection by isolating the air inside the cooker from the air outside the cooker.(
A clear transparent covering is used for retention of heat, which allows the rays of the sun to be able to penetrate to the darkened cooking vessel and food, thus raising the cooking temperatures and preventing the heat from escaping. This occurs in much the same way that a greenhouse retains heat or a car with its windows rolled up.
Temperatures that can be achieved by Solar cookers
The best solar cookers can get as high as 600° F which is very unique indeed. Of course this is a unique cooker that can reach these temperatures.
Solar cookers that reach these temperatures are highly specialized and very intricately designed parabolic cookers rather than a traditional solar oven.
A solar oven is usually an enclosed box type cooker with or without the use of reflective panels. Some solar ovens will reach 400° F but most usually cook at temperature ranges between 250° F to 350° F, quite sufficient for cooking most foods.
Panel cookers which are similar in principle, use a reflective panel to concentrate sunlight on a cooking pot that is usually covered by a plastic oven bag or glass enclosure to retain the heat. These can reach temperatures of 350° F and more (depending on food) and usually cook between 200°F and 350°F.
Pasteurization or Sterilization of water can be accomplished easily in all kinds of solar cookers. Boiling the water is the most common and accepted form of killing the harmful bacteria and pathogens found in polluted water. But you can achieve the same effect overall by pasteurizing the water at lower temperatures rather than sterilizing it at the boiling point. Pasteurization can be achieved at (65° C) 150 F and maintaining this temperature for at least 20 minutes. The boiling point for water is (100° C) 212° F
This is a great tool for outdoor enthusiasts and also for large parts of the world’s population who do not have access to clean water.
It’s amazing what all can you cook! You can:
• grill meats(only with parabolic solar cookers)
• stir-fry vegetables
• cook rice, pulses, eggs and meats
• make soup and stews
• bake bread, cakes and cookies
• boil water in minutes
• fry eggs(only with parabolic solar cookers)
Here are some pictures of inspiring people and good food from around the World ….to Inspire You.
A Few Tips for a Healthy meal !
Start cooking early…..as food takes longer to cook in a solar cooker.
Solar cooker should be kept where maximum sun’s rays fall on the reflectors for most of the cooking time.
Food should be cut into smaller pieces for quick cooking.
Eggs can be hard–boiled without water.
Vegetables cook faster than meat so, if the forecast predicts a less ideal day…cook veggies.
Soak dried beans and lentils in water overnight, for quick cooking.
Do not over fill the pot.
Use dark coloured pots with transparent lids.
Covered pots retain heat as well as the moisture content of the food.
Cook foods like whole chickens or roasts on bright sunny days.
Learn some amazing Solar cooking recipes here:
Mrs. Azniv Godiyal is an MSc.in Food Science and Nutrition and is mother of two active boys aged 10 and 14. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solar cooking is one of the simplest ways to protect our health and our environment. The Sun has immense energy which we must harness, its FREE and UNLIMITED !
Let’s do it for our Planet …..let’s do it for ourselves.
If we want a better tomorrow……We need to act Today.