The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild - Dave Canterbury (2016)

Part IV. Emergency Cooking

Chapter 23. Solar Cooking

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

—Julia Child

Solar cooking takes advantage of the sun’s rays, a renewable resource, to cook, heat, or pasteurize food and drinks. The technique of this cooking is to concentrate heat by reflecting the radiant heat to a central location. It is different from drying, as cooking needs concentrated heat.

Solar cooking is a great way to cook food without leaving any environmental impact or when fire restrictions are in place.

There are many solar cookers on the market. Some are very expensive, some are less so, but you can improvise them in many ways. One of the easiest ways is to use a simple windshield reflector (the kind for your car, sold commonly in stores for about $5–$10). It also helps if the cooking container you are using is black for maximum absorption of heat. You can accomplish this with high-temperature black grill paint if needed.

Windshield Reflector Cooker

Materials needed:

·        A windshield reflector (one that folds like an accordion)

·        3 strips of hook-and-loop fastener (Velcro), about 11⁄2" long each

·        5-gallon plastic bucket

·        Black cook pot

·        Cake rack (or wire frame or grill)

·        Plastic baking bag

1.    Separate the Velcro strips into the hook sides and the loop sides.

2.    Spread the reflector out. One long end should have a section cut out for the rearview mirror.

3.    Along the left side of that cutout, evenly place the hook sides of all 3 hook-and-loop strips and sew them down.

4.    Do the same on the underside of the right side of the cutout, using the loop sides of the hook-and-loop strips.

5.    When you’re done, you should be able to bring the reflector sides together in the shape of a funnel, using the hook-and-loop fasteners to secure the reflector into this position.

6.    Set the reflector in the plastic bucket.

7.    Place the cook pot (with food to be cooked) on the cake rack, then place both inside the plastic baking bag. Set the rack and pot into the funnel so the rack rests on top of the bucket.

8.    Tilt the reflector in the direction of the sun. After cooking, the oven can easily be disassembled and stored.

Timing and Solar Cooking

Everything takes longer to cook using a solar stove, but most things just get more tender the longer they cook, so times are flexible. For example, cut-up pieces of chicken take about 2 hours to cook but can be cooked for 4 hours without harming the taste. This means you can start a meal before leaving camp, then return hours later without worrying about your meal burning or overcooking.

Bushcraft Tip

Make a baked potato just by adding clean potatoes to a dark, covered pot (no water needed). Don’t add water to vegetables when using a solar cooker. Most vegetables (such as asparagus, cabbage, corn on the cob) will take 11⁄2–2 hours to cook. Root vegetables like potatoes and carrots will take about 3 hours.

Most food takes about 3 times longer to cook in a solar oven than in a conventional oven. With experimentation, you’ll be able to find the best times for your food. Remember that the brightness of the day will make a difference in how long it takes to cook a meal.

Tips and Tricks

·        Usually you will achieve best results if you cook foods in containers that are black.

·        Using a glass lid on a pot can help concentrate the sun’s power—but while durable, glass lids can break under tough camping conditions, so consider the pros and cons.

·        You can even make bread, cakes, and cookies in a solar cooker. Give it a try.

·        You may have to refocus the cooker on overcast days or when you’re cooking a lot of food at once. Large quantities of food will cook more evenly if divided between several pots.

·        Roasts, stews, and casseroles are great choices for solar cookery. Most recipes need less water when cooked in a solar cooker.