Solar Cooking Experiment

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I have a friend who is a solar cooking expert.  I have been wanting to try solar cooking since we’ve been friends (which has been years).  She swears you can make a solar cooker out of anything in your house so I took on that challenge.

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Here is my “basket”.  She did say that this would probably be a little too deep of a container but you could work around that.

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I taped foam board scraps over the holes that made the handles.

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This is a window reflector that we bought from the dollar store and it started to fall apart earlier this summer.  The reflective coating is still very good so I saved it for this experiment.

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I used some aluminum foil to cover up the parts of the basket where the reflector didn’t cover.  I used plastic packing tape – not sure how it will hold up over time but it was what I had.

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Since this was an experiment, I used 1/2 cup barley and 1/2 cup lentils.  I put them in their own jars and filled the rest of the space with water.  You see two sets of jars because I did another experiment at the same time but that is tomorrow’s post.

I went with barley and lentils because they are super cheap.  If the experiment completely failed and I lost the food, I knew I could afford to lose those.  They also do just fine with inconsistent cooking and won’t spoil quickly.

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Since my jars were so low in the basket, I added a plastic container to raise them up.  I probably should have covered it with more foil but I won’t know until we do this again.

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I covered the whole thing with a scrap of plexiglass and weighted it down with a rock since my basket wasn’t flat across the top.

We were able to get the temperature of the inside of our cooker up to about 120 degrees.  The outside temperature was about 60 so there was some success.  The problem was we didn’t have a great sunny spot on our porch for as long as I thought we would.  I took too much time building and fiddling around that it was after 1 pm when I got the basket on the porch.

By 3 pm, we were losing our best sunlight.  Had I realized that this would happen, I could have built a reflector to redirect the sunlight into my solar cooker.

In the end, this was not completely successful but it had potential.  I share, not only because it’s good to share what’s not working, but to encourage you to try your own experiments.  We did get our cooker to hold that 120 degrees until after 5 pm even though we didn’t get it hotter and our food didn’t really cook.  Had I started earlier and had something to reflect the light into the basket, we might have had cooked lentils and barley for dinner that night.

Why experiment now?  Well it is better to try and fail now when I don’t need to cook my food like this.  If I continue to experiment until I succeed, then I have knowledge and experience when the time comes that I need it.  You never know when a disaster might come and I will not have the resources to cook my food like I usually do.

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