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What is a Sun Oven?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sun oven is a special type of cooking tool which relies on sunlight to produce heat. Some of these devices, which are also known as solar ovens, can generate cooking temperatures around 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius). A more typical temperature for most cooking situations is generally around 200 or 350 degrees Fahrenheit (93 to 176 degrees Celsius). These ovens don’t use any electrical power or consume any perishable resources like wood, so they are very highly prized by many people who are environmentally-conscious. Sun ovens tend to cook food very slowly and evenly.

There are several different designs for sun ovens that have different ways of harnessing the solar energy. Some are built as boxes with glass lids and walls that are lined with something black. Most of these also have some kind of reflector on the outside to help focus the sun's light into the glass lid. The basic idea is that the light will be captured by the black surface and turned into heat, which is trapped inside the box. Another common approach uses a curved reflective surface that focuses the sun back onto a cooking pot of some kind.

Most people either use black pots with lids or lidded glass cookware when making things in a sun oven. The black surfaces help capture more heat, and a lid helps trap any moisture inside the area where the food is cooking, which generally makes the oven hotter and the food juicier. Sun ovens often need to be adjusted so that the sun is pointing directly on them. Some people like to set them up in the early morning so that they can catch the warmest sunlight in the middle of the day. They will often put food in a sun oven before work and allow it to cook very slowly for hours, generally peaking in temperature around noon.

One of the main uses for sun ovens has been as a survival tool for people in less developed parts of the world. In some of these areas, it can be difficult to get electricity, and fuels for building fires can be hard to come by. A sun oven can often be a usable alternative that is relatively simple, versatile, and inexpensive.

Many people choose to build their own sun oven instead of buying one. Many of these ovens can be made with basic tools and inexpensive parts. There are also plans for easy-to-assemble sun oven designs, and some organizations sell kits that give individuals everything they need to build their own sun ovens.

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