1. Solar cooking has been around for hundreds of years, and using sunshine to cook food has become a much more viable option for many since the technology to produce more powerful reflectors is here. People have discovered many the benefits of solar cooking to save money on energy or simply to enjoy delicious food baked in solar ovens or solar cookers. Solar ovens and cookers gather the energy from the sun much like a parked car does on a sunny summer day, but temperatures get much hotter because solar ovens are built to capture substantially more energy.

    The three types of solar ovens are box ovens, panel cookers, and parabolic cookers. Nearly all box ovens use reflective panels to direct the sunshine into an enclosed box where the heat builds. They have tempered glass doors and some can reach temperatures from 350 to 400 degrees. People buy or make box-style solar ovens. Each square foot of the reflective panels generates the equivalent of 100 watts, so the larger the reflectors, the more people save money on energy use.

    Panel cookers are open and the cooking vessel sits inside in a protected, covered pan. The reflective panels direct the sun’s energy into the cooking pot and food cooks in the same way as it does in a slow cooker. A parabolic cooker is shaped like a satellite dish and covered with highly reflective materials. Parabolic cookers concentrate the sunshine into a focal point that can be hot enough to boil water quickly or fry food.

    Just about anything can be cooked using solar ovens, from turkeys to delicate cakes. Besides being used in backyards, patios, tailgating parties, and campgrounds around the country, solar ovens have an important role in helping families in third world countries cook their food without using fuel. Organizations around the world work to get solar ovens and cookers to those who need them.

    Recent efforts by Sun Oven International and Solar Cookers International allowed these organizations to send nearly 1,000 solar ovens to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in February 2010. Other than the cost of buying or making a solar oven, there are no other expenses related to cooking food in them. They are the ultimate way to save money on energy without installing solar panels and using batteries for energy storage.

    Solar ovens are lightweight and portable, although installations in China and India are sophisticated and huge. One solar cooking array in India creates enough steam using sunshine to cook for 20,000 people a day. The Villaseca Solar Restaurant in Chili serves its customers food cooked using a dozen box ovens and several parabolic cookers. Solar cookers are even used on Mount Everest to cut back on the fuel to cook food.

    Besides playing an important role in developing countries, solar ovens are wonderful ways to cut back on the heat in the house and help people save money on energy. If the sun is shining, food can cook. Many people experience a pleasant surprise when tasting their first meal from a solar oven. This is an effortless cooking style since no stirring is required, even for risotto or polenta.

    All good things come from the sun, and solar cooking is no different. It can cost pennies to get started, it is a good first step in saving money on energy, and it is an easy way to enjoy delicious food cooked the way nature intended, using abundant sunshine.

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