Does a Solar Oven Get Hot?
Solar ovens and solar cookers use the free energy that comes from the sun to heat the device. On a clear sunny day, solar cookers do get hot enough to cook. Panel cookers reach temperatures between 250° F (121° C) – 300°F (149°C). This type of cooker is good for general cooking of soups, meats, vegetables, casseroles, and desserts.
Depending on the type and design, box cookers reach temperatures between 250° F (121°C) – 400°F(204°C). This type of cooker is extremely versatile and can cook almost anything, such as soups, meats, vegetables, casseroles, bread, and cookies.
Parabolic cookers reach extreme temperatures of 500°F ( 260°C) – 700°F (371°C) that can fry food and pop popcorn.
How hot the cooker will actual get on any given day will depend on the weather and how focused the cooker is to the sun. If the sky is blue with few clouds, you can expect the hottest temperatures. If the sky is white or hazy, then you will have trouble cooking. Look for a dark shadow. The darker the shadow, the better the cooking. Don’t worry about a few clouds passing over. As long as there is good sun for about 20 minutes every half hour, a good solar oven will hold the temperature. And of course, if the sky is dark and overcast, there will be no cooking.
Food begins to cook at 180° F (82°C). Water boils at 212 °F (100 °C). Unless pressurized, food containing water will not get hotter than that. The lower temperatures in a solar oven are certainly high enough to cook, but it might take the food longer to cook. Higher (kitchen) oven temperatures will cause the food to cook faster and to brown faster. The longer, slower solar oven times will cause the food to cook slow and to brown slower. Cooking times need to be adjusted to allow for the longer slower times. The slower cooking time has the added benefit of making food moist and tender.
Use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature of the solar oven. Most solar ovens come with an oven thermometer. If it doesn’t, they can be purchased in the housewares section of most grocery markets and department stores.
For more information see How Long does it Take To Cook in a Solar Oven.