Solar Cooking – I’m thinking “Outdoor Solar Kitchen”…

Once again, I am just doing this for the pure fun of it.  I’m old, or at least “getting up there”, I have a neat hobby called “Outdoor Cooking” – this project, or series of projects, will merely be an extension of that hobby.  Just the same I would be a fool not to recognize how practical it really is to use the power of the sun for more than improving one’s “tan”. 😉  Thank Heaven’s I am not one of the folks who are searching for innovative ways to do so out of pure necessity – researching how such things are done has a side-effect of making me far more aware of the human condition, often desperate, in other parts of our world.  Such awareness is a positive thing, and makes me that much more thankful for what I have and my own family’s current situation.

Researching Solar Cooking also has yet another very positive side-effect.  If you are a reader, (and I am a voracious reader – always have been), it leads you into reflecting on all of the other arenas involving “Solar” – such as heating, cooling, storing, and especially Solar Power.  Over this past month or so, I find myself far more “conversant” in all of those and more.

One example of expanding into other areas, that was particularly pleasing to run across, is now called “Heat Retention Cooking“, or “Retained Heat Cooking”.  (Also see “Haybox Cooking”).  I remember my Granny Davis describing doing something along these lines back during WWII when the government was promoting it as a means of conserving fuel.  This works on the same principal that chuck wagon cooks exploited to cook a huge Dutch Oven full of beans, stew, or whatever. Dig a hole, build a fire in it, then use the hot coals under, around, and on top of their cast iron ovens to provide the heat, then burying the whole thing under earth to provide the insulation.  They would come back 8 or 10 hours later, recover their pot of, now perfectly cooked, beans or whatever, in time to feed the tired cowboys.

Today’s form of retained heat cooking seems to work hand in hand with solar cooking while the sun was up, then keeping food hot and unspoiled to eat later in the evening, possibly using the additional time/heat to finish cooking the dish.

Outdoor Solar Kitchen

I would like to wind up with the ability to fry, boil, stew, roast, and bake the same kinds of dishes my family already enjoys – trading off time for doing so without fuel, flame and possibly smoke.  Also a means of keeping dishes hot after they are prepared to enjoy after the sun goes down or while relaxing in the relative cool of the evening outdoors.  The individual components should be highly portable and relatively light in weight.  They should be easy to handle in terms of setup, yet fold down relatively flat for storage/transport.  Fortunately, Mr. Jim La Joie’s excellent ASSC design satisfies most of those considerations while handling cooking techniques that do not require intense heat/temperatures.  Anyone familiar with slow cooking, (like Crock Pots), will love using that design.  I will soon be constructing several of them and already know how much fun they will be in practical use.

Cooking techniques that require higher temperatures, such as frying, can be accomplished using parabolic reflectors. I have already started work on recycling 3 old dish antennas acquired totally “on the cheap” for that purpose.  No sense in providing any details until I have actually determined how that works out.  Mr. Dan Rojas produced a YouTube video which is part of my inspiration for that project, “Direct TV Solar Dish Upgrade“, (to this date he hasn’t produced a follow-up video reporting his results – I suspect he may have abandoned the recycling effort in favor of producing commercially available parabolic reflectors and Fresnel lenses to market on his web site and certainly do not “blame” him for doing so).  I will be trying both polishing the aluminum and recovering the dish with a reflective material just for my own pleasure. 😉

Keeping things hot is relatively easy – think thermos bottles and existing coolers, (we already own several), or retained heat cookers.  I ran across a YouTube video that is providing a lot of food for thought, <pun intended>, “The Green Pail Retained Heat Cooker“.  Anything I wind up putting together will probably employ a more modern insulating material than sawdust, (polystyrene?), but I found Mr. Lanny Henson’s design to be innovative and fun to think about.

Now, time to admit that there are commercial items available to do all of this – and yes, it is very tempting to simply go that route – but there is something about this “Do It Yourself” stuff that is particularly appealing, especially if I can involve the grandkids.  It probably has a lot to do with the way I was raised or all of those years we were living on a shoe-string called “Navy Pay”.  The lessons I learned from my grandparents, and Heidi from her Mom, certainly helped us to make it through some difficult financial times. 😉

When I get done with all of this, will probably wind up buying a Global Solar Oven anyway, just because I was so impressed with the one Nora was using over at the San Diego Solar Cooking Demonstration about a week ago and I will be tempted to purchase a “Solar Burner” from Cantinawest.

In the mean time, the grandkids already know how to spend – it will be nice to teach them some more about how to build.  Such opportunities simply shouldn’t be missed.  8)


This entry was posted by dave on Friday, March 11th, 2011 at 6:55 pm and is filed under Solar Cooking . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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