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WHAT ARE THE BASIC KINDS OF SOLAR COOKERS?

    BOX COOKERS?
    This type of cooker has been the advantage of slow, even cooking of large quantities of food. Variations include slanting the face toward the sun and the number of reflectors. http://solarcooking.org/plans/default.htm#box-style

    PANEL COOKERS?
    This recent development was sparked by Roger Bernard in France. In this design, various flat panels concentrate the sun's rays onto a pot inside a plastic bag or under a glass bowl. The advantage of this design is that they can be built in an hour or so for next to nothing. http://solarcooking.org/plans/default.htm#panel-style

    PARABOLIC COOKERS?
    These are usually concave disks that focus the light onto the bottom of a pot. The advantage is that foods cook about as fast as on a conventional stove. The disadvantage is that they are complicated to make, they must be focused often to follow the sun, and they can cause burns and eye injury if not used correctly. http://solarcooking.org/plans/default.htm#parabolic-style

    WHO MADE THE FIRST SOLAR COOKER?
    The first solar cooker ( that we know of ) was invented by Horace de Saussure, a Swiss naturalist. He experimented with Solar cooking as early as 1767.

    WHERE ARE SOLAR OVENS BEING USED THE MOST?
    There are reliable reports that there are over 100,000 cookers in use in both India and China. We are aware of solar cooking projects in most of the countries of the world. Solar Cookers International has recently had a breakthrough in Kenya using the CooKit panel cooker. More than 5000 families are now solar cooking there. http://solarcooking.org/kakuma-m.htmhttp://solarcooking.org/plans/cookit.htm

    HOW HOT DO SOLAR OVENS GET?
    Place an oven thermometer in the sunny part of the oven to get a reading similar to what the cooking pot is "feeling". The temperature reached by box cookers and panel cookers depends primarily on the number and size of the reflectors used. A single-reflector box cooker usually tops out at around 300 F as the food approaches being done. High temperatures, however, are not needed for cooking. Your oven will cook just fine as long as it gets up to about 200 F or so. Higher temperatures cook larger quantities, cook faster, and allow for cooking on marginal days; However, many people prefer to cook at lower temperatures, since then they can leave the food to cook while they go about their business. With a single-reflector box cooker, once the food is cooked, it just stays warm and doesn't scorch. It's good to keep in mind that no food can go above 212 F at sea level anyway, unless a pressurized cooking vessel is used. The high temperatures you see in cookbooks for conventional ovens are just for convenience and for special effects such as quick browning.

    HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COOK A MEAL?
    As a rule of thumb, you can figure that food in a single-reflector box cooker will take about twice as long as in a conventional oven. However, since you can't really burn your food, you don't have to watch the cooker or stir any food as it cooks. You can just put in a few pots with different foods and then come back later in the day. Pots will cook to perfection and stay hot until you take it out. Panel cookers cook smaller portions, usually only in a single pot, but often they cook slightly faster. Some people have reported the need to stir food every once in a while when using this kind of cooker to assure that the food heats evenly. Cooking with a parabolic cooker is very similar to cooking on one burner of a conventional stove. Since the concentrated sunlight shines directly on the bottom of a pot, the pot heats up and cooks very quickly. The food will burn though. So you have to stir it and watch it carefully.

    DO YOU HAVE TO TURN THE COOKER TO FOLLOW THE SUN?
    Box cookers with one back reflector don't need to be turned unless you are cooking beans which take up to 5 hours. Panel cookers need to be turned more often than box cookers, since they have side reflectors that can shade the pot. Parabolic cookers are the most difficult to keep in focus. These need to be turned every 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the focal length.

    WHAT KIND OF POTS WORK BEST?
    Ideally, you want to use a dark, light-weight, shallow pot that is slightly larger than the food you will cook in it. Metal pans seem to cook best. Hardware stores in the US usually carry dark, speckled, metal pans called Graniteware. Shiny aluminum pots can be painted black or can be blackened in a fire. Cast iron pots will work, but extra solar energy is used to heat up the pot as well as the food, so they will not work in marginal conditions.

    Placing your pot in an oven proof plastic bag will enhance the cooking process. Be sure to rest your pot on several stones or small pieces of wood so the pot is raised several inches off of the ground, Then the warm air will surround the pot. One excellent, easily-obtained source of plastic film is oven cooking bags. These are for sale in grocery stores and cost less than US$1 per bag.

    CAN YOU STERILIZE WATER IN A SOLAR OVEN?
    Yes. In all three types, water can be brought to a boil. A little-known fact, however, is that to make water safe to drink, it only has to be pasteurized, not sterilized. Pasteurization takes place at 65 C (150 F) in only 20 minutes. This treatment kills all human disease pathogens, but doesn't waste the energy needed to bring the water to a boil. One reason that people are told to boil their water is that thermometers are not readily available in many places and the boiling action serves as the temperature indicator. Dr. Robert Metcalf has written a very informative piece called: Recent Advances in Solar Water Pasteurization. http://solarcooking.org/pasteurization/metcalf.htm

    CAN YOU COOK PASTA IN A SOLAR BOX COOKER?
    To keep the pasta from getting pasty, use two pans. Heat the dry pasta with oil in one pan; heat the liquid with herbs in another. Fifteen to 20 minutes before eating, combine the two. If you are going to use a sauce, heat that in a third container.

    WHAT FOODS SHOULD I TRY FIRST IN MY NEW COOKER?
    A good first food to try is a small quantity of rice, since it is fairly easy to cook and looks very different cooked than it does raw. Chicken or fish is also very easy to cook. See cooking hints. http://solarcooking.org/cooking-hints.htmcooking.

    WHAT HAPPENS IF THE SUN GOES IN FRONT OF THE CLOUDS WHILE I'M COOKING?
    Your food will continue to cook as long as you have 20 minutes of sun an hour (using a box cooker). It is not recommended that you cook meats unattended when there is a possibility of substantial cloudiness. More information on food safety, go to http://solarcooking.org/foodsafety.htm If you can be sure that the sky will stay clear though, you can put in any type of food in the morning, face the oven to the south, and the food will be cooked when you get home at the end of the day.

    WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE?
    Solar Cookers International sponsors the Solar Cooking Archive on the World Wide Web at http://solarcooking.org where you will find illustrated construction plans, photographs, documents, and an international directory of solar cooking promoters.

    Their thrice-yearly newsletter, the Solar Cooker Review, is also available there.

    An excellent document for further reading is The Expanding World of Solar Box Cooking by Barbara Kerr. You'll also find a number of audio programs that you can listen to online. http://solarcooking.org/kerr.htm

    http://Makewappies.blogspot.com provides detailed information about The Wapi Project currently being participated in by Valley Teens including students from FUSD, Clovis, Porterville Kerman and Sanger . Who's who in solar cooking: http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page