Friday, March 4, 2011

Tips for Using Your Global Sun Oven


The Global Sun Oven is the industry standard for solar oven cooking.  In my experience, no other sun oven heats up as well, maintains its heat as well or cooks food as well as the Global Sun Oven.  There are several key elements to the construction of this unit.  First, this unit has a glass top.  This is not a magnification type glass top, but it is tempered glass that allows the heat of the sun to pass through in order to heat the black interior of the box.  This glass top is essentially the lid to the sun oven as you open and close this for food placement and extraction.  Inside the box, the unit has anodized aluminum sidewalls and features a leveling tray.  This leveling tray not only allows you to adjust the unit up and down with the rear stand, but it also keeps the food off of the bottom of the oven to allow for air circulation which prevents hot spots.  The inside of the unit includes a built-in thermometer that allows you to monitor the internal temperature.  The box itself is nicely insulated with food-grade fiberglass batting and has a plywood top finish to help with its overall durability.  The outside portion of the box is made of ABS Plastic and has a handle attached to the front to allow for easy transportation.  The back of the box has a built in stand that adjusts up and down.  As we progress through the seasons of the year, you raise the stand during the cooler seasons to more fully align the face of the Global Sun Oven with the sun relative to the horizon.  In the front, the aluminum reflector panels also help to redirect the rays of the sun.  (However, the efficacy of the unit itself is primarily based on proper centering of the unit towards the sun.)  The Aluminum Reflector panels fold up nicely for storage and the back piece has a nylon strap and snap that fit to the front of the unit to secure the panels during transportation.  Overall, the unit is well built and made to last for 20 or more years.  The only thing that I would change could be instead of a top loading system have a rear loading system.  I would love to see an insulated rear entry door.  It would be much easier to get in and out of.  However, this would certainly add to the cost of the system greatly.

As to the food you can cook in the Global Sun Oven, the sky is the limit.  The only thing that you won't be able to do is fry foods (or heat frying oil).  Thesre is not a sufficiently high enough contact temperature to provide this type of cooking.  What about breakfast you ask?  Well, you can actually start this unit as soon as the sun is fully up and light can hit the oven.  Turn the Sun Oven upside down.  Swing the leveling tray around and Voila, you are ready to cook in the morning.  The only problem is that the relatively low ambient temperature outside makes this the least effective time of the day to cook and requires much longer cooking times.  For the most part, count on 1.25x to 1.50x longer in cooking times during the day.  During the morning, it could be up to 2.0x to 2.5x as long.  The best time we have found is to start cooking between 10:00 and 11:00.  If you use the unit as a slow cooker, place the food in it and readjust the unit to face the sun a couple of times to help with the cooking.  Your food will be ready for you in a few hours and will stay warm until you are ready.  Going to work in the morning?  OK, put your food in a pot, face your sun oven to where it will be facing the full sun at about 1:00 PM, put your food in it, and come home in the evening to a warm meal.  It really is that easy!  Need to bake bread?  Pre-heat your oven for 1/2 hour, place your bread loaves in, rotate the oven after 1/2 hour to compensate for the movement of the sun and have wonderful tasting bread in 45-60 minutes.  I know some folks we let their bread rise in the sun oven and then just let it naturally lead into the cooking of the bread.

We use our oven 3-5 times a week.  This definitely sounds like a sales pitch, but food just tastes better in the Global Sun Oven.  There is something wonderful that only the direct rays of the sun provide in cooking.  Meat or chicken cooked in the Sun Oven used as a slow cooker becomes tender and falls of the bone, while maintaining its moisture.  Bread has a wonderful thick crust on the type, with thinner crust on the sides and bottoms.  I always tease my wife that I like her bread better from the Global Sun Oven.  In the regular oven, the radiant heat from the oven creates thicker crust on the sides and bottom of the loaf.  I like the "Sun-Kissed" top crust of the bread for the Global Sun Oven.  We have also cooked casseroles, stews, soups, muffins and cakes in the sun oven.  You can either cook the things you normally like, make up your own recipes for the oven, or scour the internet or books for recipes.  You will never get bored with this stove!
Whole Wheat Bread

Here in the desert region of Arizona this unit typically has a temperature rating of 340 - 380 degrees in the summer and 320 - 350 degrees in the winter on a sunny day.  We have also tested this unit out at over 5,000 feet on a cool day (45 Degrees) and had the unit reach 300 degrees, which is sufficient to cook food and bake bread.  In my conversations with Paul Munsen, the President of Sun Ovens International, the maker of the Global Sun Oven, we have discussed the limitations of the oven in colder temperatures.  On a sunny day in the mid-Thirties, you can reach a temperature of over 180 degrees, which believe it or not is sufficient to bake a loaf of bread.  Not your best looking loaf mind you, but it will cook!

In terms of cookware, we find that the dark, thin-walled enamelware pots are wonderful.  These heat up well and help to collect heat because of their dark color.  For warmer areas, small dutch ovens in the 2 - 4  quart range (without the feet) work great.  These smaller dutch ovens take longer to heat up than thin walled pots, but retain their heat better.  Glass cookware and stonecookware are also wonderful options.  Experiment with these as well.  Avoid white, shiny or metallic cookware.  These naturally reflect light and are slower to heat up.  However, in spite of the fact that traditional bread loaf pans are metallic and shiny, since the bread covers most of the surface, these work fine.

As I write this post, hundreds of these units are being deployed to Haiti in order to provide meals, and more importantly, to pastuerize water, in order to help with the aid efforts to the Haitian people.  Of course, a hot meal is often a luxury in a crisis, but drinking water is essential.  Solarizing water is another in a number of methods to provide potable drinking water.

It is obvious that there are limitations to the Global Sun Oven.  On cloudy or partially cloudy days, the temperature may not be sufficient to cook food.  Thus, a dutch oven and a supply or wood or charcoal becomes important.  However, on sunny days there is no better alternative to cooking than this.  These units are relatively expensive, but the investment can pay huge dividends both now and in the future.  So, don't delay........use a Global Sun Oven Today!

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