Published on November 24th, 2012 | by Greg0
SunOven: Solar Cooking?!
It’s tempting to cram in a bunch of puns here. After all, they seem appropriate: maybe suggesting that we’ve been “cooking like cavemen but with modern technology”. Or suggesting that all of your cooking can now be Sol food. But we wouldn’t do that, considering that puns really have no place in modern food journalism. With such restraint, perhaps the staff here deserves a rays.
The SunOven seems a bit silly at first too, though certainly nowhere near as bad as our puns. The feature list starts with “built-in thermometer”, continues with (no joke) “self-contained leveling leg”, and the website looks to have been built more than a few years ago. And here in New York City, there isn’t exactly a demand for solar-powered anything at the moment considering our fairly dim winters. Except, that is, during the recent storm (you may have heard about Sandy). It made the perfect opportunity to take the gear outside, set it up in our “yard”, and check out the results on a variety of foods.
The basic concept is simple: it has no use cost, is energy-saving and green. You can cook, steam, or boil without carrying around fuel or needing to chop wood. In the right environment, the SunOven can reach up to 400 degrees F, enough to bake your cake. They claim no learning curve, but that isn’t really true- it can be a flexible, fun way to cook, but will take a bit to get it all setup and running. It also won’t replace your oven for a big Thanksgiving meal, but it might just give you a better turkey, since it can work nicely over a long period of time. Ideally, you’d reposition it every twenty minutes or so for maximum sun exposure, but we mostly opted for the sl0wer-cooking method of leaving stuff in it for quite a while and checking every so often.
As you imagine, the magic is in the mirrors. And the built-in thermometer did register getting temperatures up to 300 or so degrees for us with direct daytime sunlight, despite it being very much sub-optimal conditions. One benefit that is nice for city dwellers is the flameless method, allowing it to be used in parks and other places where open flames are banned or prohibited. You can smoke hipster beef jerky too!
Unfortunately, it’s a little heavy and bulky to be truly portable- over twenty pounds. Plus, we didn’t love the cleaning required- you’ll want those mirrors highly polished for best results. Also, though it can feel heavy, wind is not a friend- and we definitely faced some troubles dealing with gusts. In the right conditions, though, we can imagine it working out nicely. Campers, especially those in dryer and warmer climes, take note- this is a great survivalist tool or a way to cook in the back country without fuel. Just take care of those mirrors. Available for about $260, primarily online.