The sun is one of our oldest methods of food preparation, and solar ovens are typically simple designs utilizing a black box of some sort with a clear lid to capture and retain the heat. And while many students find themselves making small ones in science class (sometimes out of pizza boxes) to see how hot they truly can heat, the commercial solar cookers make baking a cake a whole lot easier.
Solar cookers and ovens come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the Solavore Sport fits the bill for ease and efficiency in most camping situations, plus it is durable and packs well in the car or camper. To use it, after placing your food inside, simply secure clear lid and clip on the reflector, if you need it to bake or cook dinner faster. There is absolutely no fuel or open flame of any sort, makes it particularly nice if you are camping with children.
If you can see your shadow, you can cook with a solar oven. Set your solar oven in an area where it will have an unobstructed view of the sun for several hours, and plan on 2-4 hours for most meals or baked goods.
But on a clear day anything goes. Whether you want to bake a cake for the family to have for dessert, or roast entire chicken, when you put your food in the solar oven, pretty much all you have to do is wait. There’s really no risk of burning the food, and the beauty of the solar oven is it very much like a slow cooker at home. Everything tastes better as it cooks slowly together and retains all the wonderful flavor and nutrients.
It’s truly amazing at how well foods turnout without any fussing whatsoever. For example, barbecued ribs made in the solar oven are fall off the bone tender and beyond delicious. It may mean you will never make them in the regular oven again, even when you’re not in camp.
Two to four hours prior to cooking, rub down the ribs with the seasoning and let it marinate in the refrigerator. (You can even do this at home before you leave and keep them in the cooler until you’re ready to bake them.) When you’re ready to cook, cut the ribs into portion size pieces that can fit in pans, put a lid on them, and place them in the solar oven that has preheated in the sun to at least 180°F.
Clip on the lid of the solar oven, add the reflector, then do what you want, which is one of the best features of the solar oven. You can enjoy your time in camp without having to babysit dinner.
After a couple of hours, check the ribs and pour off any excess juices. Add your favorite barbecue sauce, replace the lid on the cooking pan, and put it back in the solar oven for up to 2 more hours depending on when you want to eat. Leftovers are definitely not guaranteed.
A super easy dessert that is sure to be a favorite is the solar oven baked carrot cake. By preparing many of the ingredients at home, it’s easy to put together this delicious dessert, set it in the oven and enjoy the rest of the day.
At home, grate the carrots and put them in a Ziploc bag along with the sugar. Mixed together the applesauce, vegetable oil, and eggs, and pour it in a separate Ziploc bag. In a third bag, add the flour, baking soda, and salt.
When you are ready to bake the cake, in a bowl, mix together the carrots and sugar along with the applesauce, oil, and eggs. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix thoroughly, then pour into eight greased 9 x 13 pan. Place a piece of aluminum foil over-the-top along with a towel (because it allows the cake to absorb the heat and not reflect it, plus the towel will not burn), and place it in the preheated solar oven with the lid and reflectors attached. It might take a couple of hours for the cake to bake thoroughly, but it will undoubtedly be moist and absolutely delicious. It’s ready when a toothpick comes out clean.
Frost with the following cream cheese frosting:
The cake is sure to be a hit with everybody, especially since all you had to do was put it in the oven then enjoy the rest of your day. But this is typical of cooking with a solar oven. You don’t have to heat up the recreational vehicle, nor do you have to mess with the camp stove. The solar oven is simple and very environmentally friendly since it uses no fossil fuels to cook your food.
A solar oven is an ideal means of cooking while car camping or traveling in an RV or camp trailer. Home-cooked meals are just a few sunny hours away.
Even after chasing grizzly bears and mountain lions for National Geographic Television programs for a decade, freelance writer Amy Grisak is having more fun exploring the mountains and trails of her Montana home with friends and family. She loves sharing these experiences with her readers in national publications, as well as her website, amygrisak.com, or on Instagram @amygrisak.