Mike bought me a book for my birthday last year called Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century. It’s kind of my homesteading bible and also a motivator for me. It gives me good guidance in my everyday gardening but also is chock full of interesting projects that I should invest time in. One of these was a solar cooker. As I mentioned in my last post, I am a ‘hurried gardener‘ and often do things somewhat half-assed because I don’t have the time to devote to make something perfect. I get it to a ‘it will do’ status and am content. Also because I am so busy, I use my crock pot all the time so I don’t have to worry about dinner when I get home. I read about making a solar cooker in the book and was fascinated. I researched online and found there are so many different types you can make I felt a little overwhelmed but I figured that if there were that many different styles, I could certainly find one that would be easy enough to put together in an hour while children napped. I was right. I picked one plan off of the solar cooking page but found a better description on how to make it over on the Instructables blog.
Overall, I followed the steps but made a few small modifications. When I had been researching I read that you shouldn’t actually use tin foil because it deteriorates over time but you should instead use one of the reflectors you put in you car windshield. I found them for $1 in at the Dollar Tree so don’t spend a lot on this. I actually ended up needing 2 so I stole the one from Mike’s car (that he never uses) and chopped it up. I cut up an old styrofoam cooler for insulation and filled in the gaps with crumpled up newspaper. Also, I didn’t have a piece of glass that fully covered the whole top. I stole glass from a few unused picture frames and found one fit perfectly over the inner box (which I am guessing is the most important area). I took 2 other pieces and layered them over the rest of the box but there were still gaps so some heat was going to escape. My worst fear was of course that it wouldn’t cook but when I looked at some of the other solar cooker plans I realized that some styles couldn’t require a piece of glass and that they must hold heat some other way. They said you should put clear oven bag over the pot in those cases. I didn’t have that and used a giant ziplock storage bag. I had also read that you should use a dark pot but more specifically a cast iron pot if possible. I just so happened to have one of these that I picked up at a thrift store years ago for $10. I only use it one day out of the year…on Halloween as our candy dish cauldron.
So finally, I had the whole thing together and I stuffed the pot with nothing more than pork chops with barbeque sauce. I put the lid on and slipped the whole thing into the bag. I dropped it into the box and assembled the glass on top and shoved it into the sunlight. I cooked it from 10am to 5pm and it was HOT when I took it out. I needed a pot holder to remove it so I knew there was no chance that I was about to poison my family:) I would highly recommend this project to anyone. I was simple and successful and that makes me very happy.