In 1767, French-Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure created a solar box cooker that achieved temperatures of almost 190 degree Fahrenheit, according to a history of solar cookers compiled by the University of Vermont. Over the next 200 years, scientists and amateur inventors continued to make innovations on the design. In the 1970s, interest in the solar cookers reignited, especially after solar cooking advocates Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole developed an easily-made version which could be constructed from simple household materials. Today, charitable organizations like Solar Cookers International work with Third World countries to promote solar cooking and to establish the practice in refugee camps and impoverished regions.
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The simplest solar cookers feature a shallow, medium-sized wooden or cardboard box and a transparent covering. The oven works best if painted black on its exterior, because black best absorbs and retains the sun's rays. A reflective material, such as aluminum foil, lines the inside of the box to capture more sunlight, while the exterior works best if insulated. A box-within-a-box system can provide insulation, especially if you stuff the gap between the two boxes with newspaper. For optimum heat retention, some solar cookers are insulated with non-toxic materials and filled with air pockets, while others use angled reflective flaps to direct more sunlight to the solar oven.
SCI points out that solar ovens preserve nutrients due to the lower cooking temperatures. Food rarely burns or dries out in the solar ovens, because their temperatures don't exceed 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, solar ovens help users conserve electricity, gas, wood or charcoal by forgoing the stove, oven, microwave or grill. SCI considers solar cookers safer than campfire or grills, because they eliminate the danger of structure fires or cooking, as well as the possibility of smoke irritating the eyes or lungs. At their most basic, solar cookers are relatively inexpensive, especially if self-assembled. Because of their low cost and simplicity, third-world countries increasingly utilize the cookers, which can pasteurize water and safely cook food. Finally, during days or months of adequate sunlight, solar cookers can be utilized during power outages.
Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/133034-information-solar-ovens/#ixzz0syaz73Ys
About this Author
Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.Article reviewed by Tad Cronn
Last updated on: 05/27/10