Learn Solar Cooking


The Power of the Sun

How to Cook Using the Sun in an Emergency  


by Gary Benton

© Copyright 2008, All Rights Reserved

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In the event of an emergency, such as a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other type of survival situation, it is important for us to know alternate methods of cooking. Most of us can start a simple fire and cook, but what if you don't have any matches? What if you're unable to get a fire started for one reason or the other? Did you know you can use a casualty blanket, space blanket) or car sun shield to cook with? It only takes a few other items and you'll be cooking in no time. While this idea is not new, there are some ways to make the process easier, faster, and more effective. But, first, let's look at why some people living normal live use solar cooking.


People all over the world have been cooking and using the sun for years. In some countries it is an inexpensive way to prepare meals, while in others it is the only way to prepare meals, due to a lack of gas or electrical power. Though you may find this hard to believe, wood is even scarce in some countries. The sun, which shines in al lands, doesn't have to be high and bright to cook meal for you in just about an hour. Of course, it all depends on what you are cooking, how big the meal is, and the amount of


sunshine you're getting. I'm sure in desert lands, like the American southwest or some Arab countries; the cooking is much faster and easier due to sunlight and heat. Remember, solar cooking can work in all countries of the world. The concept explained below has been around a long time and it is a proven method of cooking using the sun.


In an emergency you can use a reflective silver reflective car sunshade (1) or a casualty blanket (2), an oven rack (or BBQ grill), 4 � inches of male and female Velcro (you can do without the Velcro, but it makes the job easier), a black pot, a bucket or plastic wastebasket, and a plastic baking bag (like we use for cooking turkeys for Thanksgiving) to cook with. It's easy and most of us will have the needed components in the house. Or, you can carry them with you into the field to insure you always have an alternate method of cooking. This �stove� is easy to make.



To make the funnel shaped solar cooking device:


The notched side of the sunshade should be toward you (If using a casualty blanket lay it width wise).


Cut the Velcro into one even piece, each about five inches long. Use the hook and pile on opposite sides so they will �lock� when pressed together.


Sew by hand (to avoid damage to the soft reflective material) one half of the Velcro � on edge to the top of the notch (or at the


bottom edge of the casualty blanket) sew the matching half of the Velcro � onto the bottom side (or opposite side of the casualty blanket), so that they �hook and lock� together when attached to make a funnel.


•  Push the two pieces of Velcro � together (1), and place the funnel on top of a bucket, plastic wastebasket (4), box, or any other object capable of holding the funnel.


•  Place a black or dark pot (2) with your food on top of an oven rack (3), placed inside a plastic baking bag (2). A normal American oven rack is approximately 16X24 inches. This is placed inside the funnel; resting the rack on the top of the bucket, wastebasket, box, or other container. Since the sunshade material is extremely flexible, this rack is used to support the pot and to keep the funnel open. By holding the funnel open, the suns rays can reflect on all sides evenly, making the process more effective. If such a rack is not available, a wooden or metal platform could be made or used to work as well.


Some hints when cooking with this method. While the technique is simple, here are a few notes to make your cooking easier, faster, and more affective.


•  Tilt the shiny material toward the sun, so the rays strike the surface will full force. This increases the temperature of the funnel and reduces cooking times.


•  Use a stick (1) to keep the material open and it will also keep the �stove� more secure from drooping during use or collapsing when there are winds.


•  Keep in mind, your food will become very hot�near 350 degrees if properly made. Avoid burns when removing the food from the �stove� and oven mittens are recommended.


•  Your reflective material and most of the other supplies, except for the stick and grill, can be placed in the bucket for ease of transportation.


This �stove� can be used to cook any foods that can be prepared with a conventional oven and the temperature will reach around 350 degrees. Total cost to make a solar funnel is less than four dollars if a sunshade is used or space blanket (buy most of your supplies in a dollar store). A casualty blanket will raise the price of your �stove� and can be purchased at an Army Surplus store for around eight dollars. But, the casualty blanket can be used to sleep with once your cooking is done. To make your solar �stove�, you'll need,


•  A plastic oven roasting bag (about a dollar each or so).


•  A dark pot, black works the best (from your home).


•  An oven rack or gill rack (from your home).


•  Approximately 5 inches of Velcro � (less than a dollar).


•  Bucket, wastebasket, or other stable container (from your home)


•  Casualty blanket, space blanket, or car sunshade (from two to eight dollars)



In many African and Arab countries, this method of cooking is often the only one available. And, keep in mind, there are many different designs and ways of using the power of the sun to cook with. I have seen them made with sheet metal, aluminum foil, or just about any shiny and reflective surface. Additionally, as shown in the photo, there are even commercial �solar cookers� available on the market. For those that lack electrical power, gas, or firewood, this is an excellent way to cook and the cost is absolutely zero per use.


Cooking with the sun is not hard, but it does take a little planning and consideration. Remember to use shiny reflective surfaces for your �stove�, if you have an interior to your �stove� it should be a dark color (black is suggested). If the interior is painted, use a non-toxic paint and one that is heat resistant. Keep in mind, while the pan may not look hot, it can easily reach 350 degrees, so remove the pot with caution to avoid burns. From my research, any foods you can cook in a conventional oven, at 350 degrees can be cooked in a solar �stove� but the cooking times may vary depending on the meal prepared, brightness of the sun, and type of cooker you are using. I also suggest you do a little research on solar cooking to discover the technique you might prefer to use in an emergency.




Solar cooking can be done in most areas of the world, even in the arctic. In the event of a survival situation, it only takes a few minutes to have your stove operational and it use. The key to using the sun to cook with is making sure you have the needed materials on hand before you need them. Once the power goes out, the gas quits flowing, the wood is gone, or your stranded, is not the time to think about solar cooking. Your cooking method should have already been planned. Keep the materials you will need stored in the home or your vehicle for use when needed, and the cost is almost nothing.


If you are interested in learning more abou t solar cooking, visit Solar Cookers International and The Solar Cooking Archive at http://solarcooking.org . They have a large selection of photos and many articles on various ways to cook with the power of the sun.


Note: The photos of the African village (bolivia-inti5-hr.jpg), the commercial solar cooker (cookits1.jpg), and the man removing the roasted chicken (bob-metcalf-cooking.jpg), were used with permission from Tom Sponheim of Solar Cookers International ).



Solar Cooking




Gary Benton has over 45 years of outdoor experience in camping, hiking, fishing, and other activities. He's no armchair survival man, he's walked the walk from the arctic to the desert and all the area in between. Gary has an associates degree in Search and Rescue, Survival Operations, a B.S. in Industrial Occupational safety, and all but his thesis completed for a M.S. in Counseling Psychology.
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