Maybe it’s the current trend of zombie apocalypses influencing me, but lately I’ve got all kinds of interest in survivalism. A year or two ago, the county north of where I live got hit with a severe windstorm. We’re talking gusts of 75 mph (that’s 120 km/h for my international peeps). Anyway, they were without power for 5 days, which doesn’t seem like a long time at first glance. But try and picture yourself without electricity for 5 days. That means no heated water, no ability to heat food, no heat (unless you’ve got a gas line), no means to charge any electronics, and no light at night.
Even more recently comes to mind Hurricane Sandy. Having extra food and supplies on hand doesn’t seem so crazy when you’re faced with the possibility of being without electricity or in a disaster type situation.
My first priority in life is always good food. At first I wondered if solar power could run an oven, but unless you’ve got serious $$$ to install serious panels it’s unlikely. A good poor man’s option is always keeping propane tanks around to run mini-stoves or the grill, but that requires propane. Someday I still plan to build a wood-fired oven, but again that requires fuel and wood may not always be easy to come by.
The solution? A solar oven.
These little babies are a bit pricey (I got the accessories bundle for $320, I think the cheapest one is around $240-260) but after only two uses I’m convinced they’re worth every penny. It weighs only 22 pounds (about 10kg), folds up pretty compact and is extremely easy to use.
You’re probably thinking, well, that’s fine for the summer, but what about the winter when it’s cold outside. Aside from this thing functioning just fine at the base camp of Mount Everest, I’ve also read other blogs that it heated up just fine at 30-40F (-1 to 4C). (This other woman was successful at 22F!) I’ll have to do a winter post when the time comes.
But the proof is in the pudding, as they say. So here’s my own personal experience with the thing. First of all they tell you to clean the interior by allowing vinegar to boil in a pot for a steam cleaning. That means you can use the sun to heat up water, both for sterilizing drinking water and turning bath water from chilly to at least tolerable in survivalist conditions.
And then I wanted to test out the baking capabilities. And what better way to do it than with delicious cookies?
NOTE: You can bake multiple racks of things, but you have to rotate the racks. Since there’s a lot of heat loss with an open door (true of any oven) I found doing them one rack at a time was the easiest option.
These are Jae’s famous ginger cookies—incredibly dangerous for human consumption, as they have a highly addictive effect. I may have been able to squeeze a couple more cookies on the rack, but I didn’t want them to stick together. I just used parchment paper, but you can use cookie sheets if they’re small enough to fit (and according to the user’s guide sheets might do the cooking better).
I had to pre-heat the oven, which takes about 20 min. and will get you about 300F (149C). If you wait a little longer, the oven is supposed to reach between 360-400 F (182-204 C) in ideal conditions. Mine reached 350. I popped the cookies in and set the timer for 10 min, not sure exactly how long it would take. The recipes calls for 375 F in a conventional oven for 9-12 min.
See the white plastic parts toward the near the bottom of the glass? Those holes are your sun alignment devices. You want it to look like a perfect circle underneath and your oven is focused right (you can see a sample in the next picture). They say you need to turn it every 30 min or so to follow the sun. I just readjusted after putting in new batches. This was a 100 degree day yesterday, so not heating up my house with a traditional oven was big bonus points.
I checked on them after 10 minutes. They were starting to look good. All this based solely on the power of the sun. No electricity, no fuel. I was in survivalist heaven! If you can still bake, I think roughing it won’t be so rough. Plus, I cannot stress enough the benefit of NOT heating up your house in 100 F weather.
And here we have the beautiful finished product. These cookies were extra moist, and still are very soft the next day. I can’t wait to try bread and maybe even a roast of some kind. You could even do boiled items, I may try pasta or potatoes. There’s lots of options to be had.
So there you have it folks. The only downside is you need sun to use it, but if you couple this with fuel sources like wood or propane, you can make your supplies last much longer. And in the summer you can save on the A/C bill by doing the baking outside. Let’s not forget camping. Bring a little cookie dough in the cooler and surprise everyone at lunch with fresh-baked cookies.
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m loving it!
What do you think of the solar oven? Is it on your wish list now? Are you a survivalist? What other things would you put on your own prepper list in case of disaster?