Let me try to summarize the various cooking methods I hope to use regularly in future. Almost all involve a solar cooker at some point.
I’ll begin with what started this whole journey for me: the solar box oven. Pretty much any slow cooker recipe will work for a box oven. The main constraint is consistent sunlight for a long enough period of time. Intermittent clouds can sometimes reduce the oven temps below safe levels. Also, if you are not home to re-orient/aim the oven every hour or two, then longer cooking times will be necessary.
The parabolic cooker does not require as much sun time as the box oven, but you need to be ready to cook when the sun is out. This works fine if you have sunlight an hour or so before the planned meal. One way to extend the cooking time is to use a heat-retention method (hay-box or thermal cooker) to keep the food hot until mealtime. You can find other sources of insulation if hay is not handy.
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Thermal cookers (wide mouth thermoses work) and hay-boxes are especially good for cooking stews, curries & soups; dishes with high liquid content. The parabolic cooker would bring the food up to a boil and then the boiling hot food would be transferred to a pre-heated container to cook further in your choice of heat-retention apparatus. This way the food stays hot even if mealtime is hours away. When cooking for 4-5 people I use a 4 qt. Zojirushi thermal cooker. For 1-2 people I will be using this Thermos Nissan 48 oz. Wide Mouth Stainless-Steel Bottle.
Another tool to help with limited sun time is to use a pressure cooker. Recipes abound for this cooking method and you can often have a main dish ready with less than an hour of parabolic cooking time.
The final method is arguably not cooking per se, but dehydrated food can often help in speeding up cooking when sunlight is limited. It doesn’t take nearly as long to reconstitute dehydrated potatoes or meat as it does to cook them in from their raw state. Of course dehydrated fruit, veggies, jerky & fruit leather can be eaten as snacks.
To bring it full circle to solar cooking, the trays of my electric dehydrator can be placed into my solar box oven with a few modifications (subject for another blog post). I will have to pick the types of food to match the amount of sunlight anticipated on a given day, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate I can always complete the dehydration in the electric dehydrator.
*box oven: slow cooking & dehydrating
*parabolic cooker: re-heating, fry/sauté & bringing to boil to put into hay-box or thermal cooker
*thermal cooker: slow cooking soups, stews, curries
*pressure cooker: too many to list
*dehydrator: almost anything you can think of including fruit leather, jerky, fruit chips, cooked corn/potatoes/beans…