Cooking With The Sun!

Look what I got!

Cooking with a Sun Oven

My new baby! I couldn’t wait to try out my new Sun Oven Solar Cooker!

I have been reading the Taylor Made Ranch blog for a couple of years now, and have been so jealous of Tammy’s beautiful Sun Oven.  I have several plans that I found (here’s a good one in Mother Earth News Magazine) to build my own, but somehow my husband and I have never found the time to build one.  When the Sun Oven went on sale this past fall, I jumped at the opportunity to own one!

The oven can do so many things.  Of course it can cook and bake, but it can also be used as a dehydrator and a water sterilizer!  Since Ray and I are trying to live a self-reliant off-grid lifestyle, we decided it would be a great idea to have several methods of cooking food, and the Sun Oven is one of the best off-grid cooking methods we have found!

Cooking in a Solar Oven

Wild blackberry pie filling – nothing better!

I couldn’t wait to try it out.  The oven was out of the box and cooking within an hour! 😉

For my first item, I decided to bake a blackberry cobbler.  Ray and I live in an area where wild blackberries are very abundant. Every year in July and August we gather the blackberries and either freeze them to use in muffins, infused water, cake filling, etc. or make blackberry pie filling. I can the pie filling in pint (for cobblers) or quart (for pies)sized jars. So, I got a pint jar of the blackberry pie filling and made the cobbler, then set it into the preheated Sun Oven.

Wow!

Just…          Wow!

Even though it was early November with the sun low in the sky, the cobbler cooked very well, browning nicely around the edges!  It was really good and I was so impressed! In a normal oven this recipe takes about 45 minutes to cook.  In the Sun Oven, it took almost an hour to cook.  No matter – it wasn’t using any electricity, natural gas or propane, so I was happy to let it bake away!  It was delicious!  (and gone within 24 hours 😉 )

Solar Oven Baking

The cobbler is almost done. You can see that it is starting to brown a bit around the edges. You can also see the temperature dial, showing approximately 340 degrees inside the oven.  Niiiiiiccceee!

Next I wanted to try cooking some kind of meat.  I had a pork loin in my freezer and I also had a bottle of Morse Farms Mandarin Jalapeno Barbeque Sauce, so I thought the two would make a wonderful pulled pork sandwich.

Cooking in a solar oven

Here is a pork loin roast sizziling happily away in my Sun Oven!

Without bothering to preheat the oven, I stuck the roast in and let ‘er go! No, I didn’t add any liquid.  The instructions that come with the Sun Oven says that it’s almost impossible to burn anything, so I decided liquid wasn’t necessary! Within an hour the roast was sizzling and browning and smelling oh so good.  I let it cook for about 3 hours, as the temperature never really got over 325 that day and actually hovered between the 275-300 degree fahrenheit range, due to the overcast skies.  What’s cool about this is that the oven was working much like a slow cooker or “crock pot” and I knew the meat would be good and tender after several hours.  After about three hours, I shredded the pork loin (easily done with 2 forks) and added about 1 cup of the marinade. But wait, there’s more!  I decided to try stacking an apple/raisin/walnut crisp on top of the now shredded and flavored pork loin.  The Sun Oven came with these stacking pans and they work wonderfully!

Here is the apple/raisin/walnut crisp baking, stacked on top of the pork roast! The smell coming from this box was amazing!

Here is the apple/raisin/walnut crisp baking, stacked on top of the pork roast! The smell coming from this box was amazing!

After just another hour, the pork was moist and delicious and the apple crisp was done.  I had dinner and dessert!  The stacking pans really come in handy.  If I was just a bit more industrious, I could have also put in a small loaf of bread on the rack right next to the pans!

Pulled pork in Mandarin Jalapeno barbeque sauce, with a slice of Swiss cheese on a hamburger bun. Sooooo Gooooood!

Pulled pork in Mandarin Jalapeno barbeque sauce, with a slice of Swiss cheese on a hamburger bun.

The pulled pork turned out very moist and delicious.  The apple/ raisin/walnut crisp was to die for!

The best part?  Nothing burns!  Really!  To be honest, folks, I am notorious for burning things.  In fact, when my kids were growing up they used to tease me and say that the smoke alarm was their dinner bell!  😉  Even after cooking the pulled pork for an hour in sticky barbeque sauce, they were very easy to clean up afterward.  I literally swished the pans with warm soapy water, rinsed them off and – et voila’ – clean!

Speaking of bread…

Cooking bread in a Sun Oven

Two full sized loaves of french bread happily baking away in the solar oven. They didn’t really brown much, but that’s okay because they tasted amazing!

I had to try baking bread.  French bread.  On a day with lots of white puffy clouds.

Hmmmm…  It was sunny first thing in the morning.  Not a cloud in sight!  So I made some french bread dough, let it rise, made it into loaves and let it rise again.  Just when I was ready to pop them into the preheated oven, a few clouds obscured the sun.  Then a few more.   Lovely.  Can you hear my sourchasm?

It didn’t matter!  It took almost 2-1/2 hours to get these loaves baked, but by golly, they baked.  And they were good!  The insides achieved a great crumb with really nice texture in spite of the weather.  I thought they would be concrete inside, or perhaps gooey, but no – perfect french bread minus the browning.  I read that I could get the bread to brown if I put either a sugar glaze or an egg white wash on the loaves, but that’s just to make them pretty.  We don’t care if our bread is pretty, we just want it to taste good!

My next experiment?  Brownies!  My youngest son was coming up for a day to help out with some of the heavy chores, and one of his favorite desserts is brownies!  Michael graduated from college recently with a Major in Social Science and a Minor in Sustainability, so he was excited to see how the Sun Oven performed.  Well…

Baking brownies in a solar oven

Mmmmm… these brownies turned out great!  And I didn’t have to worry about burning them!

These brownies turned out so good!  I could have left them in the oven just a tad bit longer, however, because the very center was a bit on the gooey side. Since foods cooked in the Sun Oven don’t burn, I shouldn’t have been so hasty to take them out. No matter, that’s how Michael likes them anyway!

So, what have I learned so far?

  1.  Cooking in a Sun Oven is a lot of fun, and it really does work!
  2. Food does not burn in the Sun Oven, so if in doubt whether the food is done, cook it a little bit longer instead of constantly opening the door to check it.  Every time the door is opened, you loose a lot of heat and it will take just that much longer to cook.
  3. The food cooking in the oven smells so good, it will attract various wildlife along with your local neighborhood dog.  Place the oven where you can see it at all times or, better yet, put it somewhere the dogs can’t get to it.
  4. Wear sunglasses.  The reflection from the oven can be blindingly bright!
  5. Use hot pads.  Yeah – for some reason I had it in my brain that these don’t get very hot.  They do.  If the temperature gauge reads 350 degrees, your food and pans will also be 350 degrees.
  6. Place the Sun Oven on a level surface.  Since I have been cooking during the winter, the sun is very low in the sky, so the Sun Oven is tilted at it’s max!  If you don’t have a level and sturdy surface, the oven just might tip over!

My next experiment is going to be making zucchini chips and hamburger jerky, because I am curious to see how the Sun Oven works as a dehydrator.

I am so glad we bit the bullet and bought this Sun Oven.  We still plan to build our own solar oven with the plans mentioned above (here is another DIY solar oven), because there will be days during the summer when we will want to cook down tomatoes for canning, bake bread, dehydrate vegetables and fruits, etc., all at the same time!

The solar oven is another important tool for our off-grid homestead.  On days when the sun is shining, even in the winter, we have a free energy source to cook food.  If the time ever comes that our well goes dry and we need to drink our collected rainwater, the solar oven will provide a way to sterilize the water and make it safe to drink.

Have you ever cooked in a solar oven?    0001

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24 thoughts on “Cooking With The Sun!

    • Thank you so much, Joy! I have been envious of Tammy’s (Taylor Made Ranch) Sun Oven for a couple of years now and always wondered if it REALLY worked as well as she said it did. It does! Actually, it works better than I had hoped, and I can’t wait for the sun to get higher in the sky to see what this puppy can really do! Thank you for reading my blog, Joy, as I very much enjoy yours also!

    • Hello, Liz. Me too. Just never got around to it! But now that we have the commercial version, we are even more motivated to make another ourselves! We will probably use one of the plans I found in the Mother Earth News Archives. Of course, we need to build another bee hive, the chicken house, our permanent garden, and – oh yeah – our house first! 🙂 Have a great week, Liz!

  1. wow didn’t realize how useful the sun oven is! I have seen some info on them but mainly cooking. A great tool for sure and I will have to check into getting one for our preps and to experiment with!

    • Oh, Wendy. Seriously. This sun oven was BAKING BREAD in November! Of course, I had it tilted to the max so it could get all the sun that was available, but it had no problem maintaining 325 to 350 degrees, as long as I kept the door closed. Apparently this puppy can get up to 425 degrees during the height of the summer sun! We can bake crispy cookies! I will be posting more experiments with the Sun Oven and hopefully (soon) about building our own from scratch, so maybe I can convince you to get one 😉

    • It is, it is! I think I am going to get a lot of use from this oven. Here on the homestead, when the house is built, we won’t have air conditioning – just use ceiling fans. The solar oven will be great to prevent heating up the house to cook dinner. Of course, this will just be one component of our food cooking schemes. We will also build a wood fired BBQ and a wood fired Pizza oven (where bread can also be cooked or roasts baked), in conjunction with our propane stove/oven in the house. Also, we will be building a masonry heater with a bread oven insert, so that I can bake in that on cold days! Electricity – who needs it? 😉

    • It actually started to brown just a bit, although the instructions said I needed to do either an egg wash/ butter or sugar sprinkle to get it to brown. Either way, it was delicious! I just checked out your website and found a lot of posts about YOUR solar oven – so now I will be stalking around your blog to see how you do things with yours! Thanks for stopping by!

    • You make me blush! Actually, cooking with the solar oven isn’t any more difficult that a regular oven. It’s just that food may take longer to cook on partly over-cast days. But, the upside is that food doesn’t burn, so if you forget you are baking, the food might get over-done, but not burnt! This is a win-win for me. Thanks for stopping by today, Debbie!

  2. Excellent review! I have wanted a Sun Oven for a while, but hadn’t bit the bullet. I was wondering if it would attract wildlife. I mean, I assumed it would, but I wasn’t sure what you could do about it. I think I would need to build something to hold it. Wildlife is abundant here, and I wouldn’t want any wild visitors (mostly bear) feeling like invited guests. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Boy, do I hear you! We had a bear come through and disrupt quite a few things a week or so ago. Took us a while to find our garbage can, but we did. It was way up the back road with teeth marks all over it. Poor bear had a heck of a time trying to get into the darned thing!! 😉 But, yes, I have to be around when I am using the oven because we don’t have a permanent place to put it yet, away from critters. And when it’s not in use, it has a home in our laundry shed. I read one blog where she keeps hers on a south facing second story balcony. That would solve that problem! Thanks for commenting, Amanda.

  3. I experimented with a backyard version. It involved a cardboard box sprayed black and one of those car reflectors. It took some effort bc I had to keep moving it, but I did eventually end up with a pot of beans. Your commercial oven looks a lot more efficient ! Can’t wait to see what else you manage to cook in there 🙂

    • Yes, I am glad I got the big commercial version first. I am afraid if I had tried a DIY version first, and if it didn’t work very well, I would have been discouraged from the whole idea altogether. Ray will be making another one for me, as time allows, now that we know they really work – and which design works! This last month has seen rain or overcast skies almost every day, so cooking on our wood stove is much more efficient than cooking in the solar oven, but as the seasons change, so will the cooking method!

  4. Thanks for sharing on Hope In Every Season. You must be very prepared for your days meal to do something like this am I right? It looks like it would be a lot of fun though. We did something like this in school, cooking hot dogs outside in our shoe box made ovens and it was fun.

    • Prepared… me? I laugh in jest 🙂 Actually, the best sun is between 10 AM and 2 PM in the winter where I live. Since cooking takes just a bit longer with the solar oven on winter days, I do have to be a bit better prepared. But, in the summer when the sun’s rays are higher in the sky, the cooking window will be more like 9 AM to 4 or 5 PM, so I should have more time to bake/cook/dehydrate. The biggest problem in the winter, of course, is cloud cover. So, as long as I have a sunny day, even in January, I can cook in the sun oven!

  5. Hello Vickie,
    that’s a great thing with the oven.
    It seems that you can do many good things with it.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Very, very interesting.
    hugs
    Uwe

    • Greetings, Uwe. I know that many people have solar systems for their homes in Germany. Do people cook with solar ovens in your country also? Thanks for stopping by and commenting today!

      • Hi Vickie,
        Solar ovens there with us also.
        I can not say whether these are used by vieln people here unfortunately.
        Since I would only make me smart.
        Best regards
        Uwe

  6. How fun is right! I had seen another blogging friend post about theirs and I was already Googling plans and showing hubby! Now you re-excited me about the concept. We use solar water tank with tubes for our hot water in the home and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am with solar FREE (yes free) energy. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Good morning! I can’t wait until you build yours, and we build another one, then we can swap recipes and techniques! Using the solar oven as a dehydrator would be great for drying all of your herbs! Thank you for hosting your wonderful party, JES.

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