During the scorching summer days, the temperature can get so high that you might believe you could fry an egg on the pavement. If you are an aspiring scientist, you might have even attempted it. However, have you ever wondered if it is actually feasible to cook food using the power of the Sun?
Surprisingly, it is! And numerous individuals around the globe do it on a daily basis. For instance, individuals residing in rural areas of India, China, and Sudan heavily rely on solar energy because they do not always have access to electricity in their homes.
In order to effectively cook using the Sun’s rays, you require a special cooking apparatus known as a solar oven or solar cooker. Solar cookers operate by concentrating sunlight onto a small area. This area serves as the cooking surface and becomes extremely hot when it is exposed to the concentrated heat energy from the Sun.
Solar cookers are equipped with reflective panels made of shiny metals like aluminum, silver, or chromium. These panels are angled or curved so that when sunlight hits them, the light is reflected downwards. In this manner, the panels focus the sunlight into a concentrated area to harness the Sun’s heat energy.
If you have ever walked barefoot on a black asphalt road on a hot summer day, you are aware that the asphalt can feel significantly hotter than the surrounding air. This is due to its color. Darker colors absorb light, which then converts into heat. Therefore, any dark surface exposed to the Sun will be much hotter than a lighter one.
Solar cookers also utilize this scientific principle to cook food. Beneath the reflective panels, solar cookers typically have a box where the food is placed. The walls and floor of the box are painted black, and the cook uses a black dish or pot. The dark color helps the food to become hotter compared to other cookware.
Have you ever noticed that your home remains warm even when the weather outside is cold? This is because of the scientific principle of heat retention. Your home is insulated, and the insulation helps to keep the heated air inside.
Solar cookers also rely on heat retention. The box that holds the food has insulated walls and a transparent lid that allows concentrated sunlight to enter while preventing the heat from escaping. These features enhance heat retention and maintain high temperatures inside the box. How high can the temperatures get? A solar cooker can reach temperatures of up to 250º Fahrenheit (121º Celsius).
Have you ever been instructed to wash your hands before and after handling food? This is because uncooked food can sometimes carry bacteria that can cause illness. Bacteria thrive in warm temperatures, around 140º Fahrenheit (60º Celsius).
Cooks use ovens to elevate the temperature of food in order to eliminate harmful bacteria. For example, most types of meat need to reach an internal temperature between 145-165º Fahrenheit (about 63-74º Celsius) to be safe for consumption.
Most individuals who utilize solar cookers prefer to cook foods that are less likely to contain bacteria, such as beans, rice, soups, and stews. Solar cookers are not like the microwave or oven in your kitchen. They do not get as hot and require a longer cooking time. However, in many regions of the world, solar cookers are an essential tool for preparing food.
Give It a Try
Feeling hungry? Remember to explore the following activities with a companion or a family member:
- Do you enjoy s’mores? Go to the PBS Kids website and discover how to make s’mores using your homemade Solar Cooker made from a pizza box! Make sure to seek assistance from an adult companion or a family member. Did the s’mores taste different to you compared to when you make them over a campfire? Why do you think that is?
- Why do you suppose people opt for solar cookers instead of regular ovens? Are there specific locations where solar cookers might be more effective than regular ovens? How would your meals be altered if you had to use a solar cooker to cook all your food? Which of your favorite foods would be challenging to cook with a solar cooker?
- Do you want to cook other dishes in your solar oven? These Solar Oven Recipes offer numerous ideas on how to utilize your pizza box oven again. Share the food you create with a family member! What are their thoughts on your cooking? Now that you understand how solar cookers work, what homemade recipes can you devise on your own?