Solar Oven Experiment

 Mar 3, 2017; Ogilby Road BLM, Yuma AZ

I'm in the land of lots of sun - why not a solar oven?

I'd been wanting to try a solar oven experiment for awhile now.  There are lots of design plans online and on Pinterest.  I found one that was created by a Peace Corps worker in South America who wanted a simple, cheap design that could be made from readily available materials.  

I had most of the materials already!  
  • Windshield sunscreeen
  • Velcro
  • Oven baking bag (like for cooking turkey)
  • small grill rack (I used one from my Coleman grill)
  • Black pot (my old camping pots are black)
  • Oven thermometer (I found one at a goodwill - but I also could have used my laser temperature scanner I use for other things)

Set up was a bit more difficult than I had imagined

Well, it's sunny today - but also kind of breezy.  The sunshade won't stay in shape and I don't really have anything with which to reinforce it.  I resort to duct-taping it to the side of the trailer.  Not an ideal solution because now I can't track the sun  keeping the heat focused directly on the pot.  Also, the sun makes the duct tape gooey; it leaves a residue on the side of the trailer and tends to come loose.  

I'm making notes for design improvement!

First test:  See how hot it gets inside the bag

Result - not as hot as I'd like (I'm not using any insulation and it's pretty windy today) - but got enough to need oven mitts!  Kind of like a slow cooker.  After 10 minutes, the temp is 225F; after 30 minutes, it's up to 260F.

Second test:  Add some food!

Mostly, what I'd like to bake in a solar oven is bread - I love home baked bread.  So, I decide to start with biscuits (from a can).  Further, since I'm not sure how this will work, I decide to make them very small so that there isn't a ton of dough to heat and cook.  

I have no idea how long to cook them (directions say 8-10 min @ 350F; I'm only getting 260F so . . . .)  but the solar oven site I was looking at said to treat the solar oven like a slow cooker - hard to burn anything.  So, I decide on 2 hours.

Part-way through the cooking process I came back to check - the wind had blown 1/2 my parabolic structure down!  I tried taping it into a chair for more structure.  

Success!  . . . . mostly

The biscuits didn't puff up as much as I would have liked but they did cook through and browned nicely without burning.

not bad with honey!

My next solar oven will be based on a cardboard box - more rigid, but still collapsible.  Perhaps with some insulation to help offset the effect of wind pulling off some of the heat.

Fun things to do by yourself in the desert . . . .

The end of another lovely day

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