Even though it sounds very green and challenging, there are a few ways you can cook with the sun and ignore the fire when you are camping. What would you say if someone told you that you could cook a great meal using only the power of the sun and in 20 minutes? You probably wouldn’t believe them. People around the world use the sun every day. Those who live in the rural areas of India, China, and Sudan rely on the sun for their daily cooking needs. People in these areas may not have electricity to cook their food, but the sun is always available. Take a cue from these people and try using the power of the sun for cooking on your next camping trip.
How can you cook with the sun while camping?
The best way to utilize the sun’s rays is a special piece of cooking equipment called a solar oven or solar cooker. Solar cookers work by focusing sunlight into a relatively small area. Solar cookers can become very hot, and you can cook, or bake acorn squash, baked fish, barbeque chicken, and even s’ mores. Heard about frying an egg on the sidewalk using the sun? Well, you can indeed cook an egg on the sidewalk or a flat rock in the campground. The surface needs to be at least 158⁰F, and you might want to use a piece of foil placed on the flat rock. Using foil will help prevent undesirable additives from getting into your breakfast.
Cooking with the sun is an ancient culinary art. It’s your best bet for a green lifestyle while you are camping. It is also a cost-saving and easy method to try. A solar oven purchased, or a DIY solar oven consists of a system of reflectors and a cooking pot. The solar oven coverts the sun’s rays into heat energy to boil, bake, or steam your meal. You can cook anything in a solar oven you cook in a conventional oven. Try it; it’s fun and economical.
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The Sun Cooks Your Food!
There are many different types of solar setups you can use while camping. Create your solar oven by using a variety of recycled or inexpensive materials. A box and aluminum foil go a long way toward cooking your dinner.
Cooking with the sun will help you save on propane and electricity costs while you are camping. Solar cookers eliminate the risk fires in your RV, not being able to start a fire properly or give you a sense of adventure. Keep your RV cool, your camp space tidy by cooking your food outside using a solar cooker. Sounds challenging? It’s not that hard to make a solar oven and cook your food.
DIY Solar Cooking Camping
If you are leery of purchasing a solar cooking setup that can range up to $150+, then make your own with simple materials for about $20 or less. You need cardboard boxes, or heavy poster board, reflective material like aluminum foil and crafting supplies like tape, adhesive, and maybe black paint or paper.
Making a Solar Oven
You will need two cardboard boxes. (Size doesn’t matter, but make sure one box is larger than the other box). Place one cardboard box inside the larger box. Remove the tops of both boxes and place the small box inside the larger one. Make sure you have at least a gap of 1 inch between the boxes. Secure the small cardboard box into place by gluing the small box on the bottom and pressing the small box into the larger box.
- Fill the gaps between the boxes with torn newspaper. Fill up the gap until there is no space. The paper acts as insulation and helps keep the heat trapped inside the oven.
- Line the inside of the small box with black construction paper. Use glue to set the paper in the small box. Note: black absorbs heat very easily so it will keep your oven warm.
- You need to cut trapezoids from additional cardboard or poster board. The narrow side of the trapezoid should be the same width as one side of your large box. This narrow side is the side you attached to the box. The wide edge of the trapezoid would be about 2 inches wider than the small edges.
- Cover each square of cardboard with a reflective material. Use aluminum foil, mylar a mirror, or even a metallic auto-shade. This reflective material will reflect the sun’s rays into your oven and heat your food. Tape the foil securely to the cardboard by using duct tape. Once the cardboard is covered in foil, it becomes the reflector. Make sure your aluminum foil has few wrinkles as possible.
- Attach the reflector to the top edges of the big cardboard box. Tape each reflector to the top edges of the big box. Security tape each reflector. They may flop over, but that’s okay, you will prop them up.
- Find some strong sticks or thin, sturdy metal rods. Stick the rods into the ground underneath the reflectors and prop the rod against the reflectors. Glue them into place.
- Position your oven in the full sun and put your pan of food inside. The best results are using your solar oven between 11 am and 2 pm, or when the sun is at its most intense. You can use your solar oven at any time of the year as long as you can access the sun.
Think of your solar oven like a crockpot rather than a conventional electric oven. Solar ovens are usually set at lower temperatures, so they tend to slow cook your food.
A great accessory to use is a meat thermometer to determine the internal temperature of your food as you are cooking. Meat needs to get up to at least 170⁰F to be safe to eat.
You can also use a pizza box to make your solar oven. Line the box with a reflective material like aluminum foil, keep the lid lined and up, and place your food inside. Set our pizza-box solar oven in direct sunlight. A pizza box will not cook your food fast, but it will cook food eventually.
If making your solar oven is a bit challenging, you can also invest in the real thing. There are many leading manufacturers of solar ovens. You can find solar oven sets complete with reflectors, granite cooking pots, a thermometer, and even water purification tools.
High quality made solar units only require enough sunlight to cast a shadow on the unit. Your homemade solar cooking oven will require full sunlight to cook at desired temperatures.
There are hundreds of different ways to make solar ovens or solar ovens to purchase. Do your research and find the one that suits your lifestyle.
Fun Solar Recipe
Whole Bean Enchilada Recipe
16 ounce can of whole black beans
16 ounce can of sweet corn
¾ cup of red onion, diced
1 large tomato, chopped
¼ cup cilantro chopped
2tsp olive oil
16 ounce can of enchilada sauce
Six corn tortillas
1/1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper
Drain and combine in a mixing bowl black beans, corn, onion, tomato, cilantro, and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
Marinate your mixture in a cooler or your RV refrigerator for at least an hour.
Add half the enchilada sauce to the enchilada mixture when you are ready to cook.
Roll up the filling into a tortilla (six tablespoons at a time is sufficient).
Roll up the tortilla and place it in a medium-sized glass casserole dish with a lid.
Use the remaining enchilada sauce to cover your food and add cheese.
Place a lid on our solar pot and slid it into your solar oven.
It will take at least 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the filling is heated through.
Place your oven in direct sunlight. If you need, rotate it to keep it in the sunshine. It is best to allow your oven to heat up to 350⁰. If you are using a DIY oven, allow your unit to get as hot as possible. (Here’s where investing in a thermometer pays off.)
Cook with the Sun on a Flat Surface
Great, fun way to fry an egg and you don’t have to use a pan or a fire. You can also fry bacon on a rock (use foil) and melt cheese in a sandwich; your bread won’t look toasty, but it will be warm.
1 strip of tinfoil
Hot sunny day
Spread out the tin foil on your rock.
Crack the egg in the middle of the foil and curl up the edges to keep the egg on the tin foil.
If the day is at least 95⁰F, you should have a nice sunnyside-up egg in about 5 minutes.
Use your solar oven to whip up s’ mores and other camping treats but get a little more inventive and use the power of the sun to cook just about anything without using a campfire or a kilowatt-hour of electricity.
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