Cookware Guide for Solar Oven Cooking

Dark pot with lid, glass lid, steamer basket used in solar cooking

Dark pot with lid, glass lid, steamer basket used in solar cooking

So you finally invested in a solar cooker. Maybe you bought it. Maybe you made it yourself. And now you are ready and anxious to get cooking when the thought suddenly hits you, “What about pots? Do I need special pots?”  The answer is no, you don’t need special pots.  The pots you have will probably work. However, some pots work better than others. Here are some guidelines.

Use dark metal pots.  Shiny pots reflect the light away from the vessel. Dark pots absorb the light and energy and will heat faster.  Thin, dark metal pots, such as granite ware, heat quickly. Ceramic pots and cast iron heat slowly. However, once cast iron is heated, it holds the heat and cooks well.  Pots suitable for solar cooking may be as close as your own kitchen.   The steamer basket has been part of my kitchen collection for years and fits perfectly inside of the granite ware pot.  But if you are looking for other inexpensive pots, try the discount stores.  And finally, check out Goodwill.  I bought several pots there.  I have pots in all sizes, from very small to very large, to accommodate almost any thing. And of course, pots can be purchased online. For more info, here’s a great site.

Bread, cakes, cookies, and brownies should be baked uncovered.  For almost everything else, use a lid. The lid helps hold in the heat and the steam.   The glass lids that I use all came from the set of pots in my kitchen.  They fit the granite ware pot and allow me to watch the food.

Dark  colored bread pans are essential for successful solar cooking.

Dark colored bread pans are essential for successful solar cooking.

Glass jars are convenient and popular, and come is a wide variety of sizes.  As a safety precaution, when using  jars with one – piece lids, such as mayo and jelly jars, it is extremely important to tap a hole into the center of the lid to allow steam and pressure to escape.  Canning jars are meant to withstand the high temperatures associated with canning and the two piece lids allow for the release of pressure.  For best results, clear jars and shiny pots can be painted black.  When painting jars, place a strip of masking tape down the length of the jar.  When the paint is dry and the masking tape is removed, the remaining clear window will allow you to keep an eye on the progress of your dinner.  On a cautionary note, these jars will get extremely hot during cooking. Remember to always use a pot holder when removing the jars from the solar cooker.

Black Silicon pots, black cookie sheet, black painted canning jar

Black Silicon pots, black cookie sheet, black painted canning jar are part of my solar kitchen collection.

Foil can be used in a solar oven when necessary, but just like with shiny pots, shiny foil will reflect the light and heat, and food will cook slower.  Covering the foil packet with a clean black cotton or cotton blend fabric, or using a black fabric bag or sock, will trap and hold in the heat and facilitate cooking.

Silicon pots can also be used successfully in a solar oven. Although they do not get as hot as a metal pot, they are light weight and easy to carry around.

Once you have your pots, and are ready to start cooking, here are a few  other tips.  When possible, use a wire rack to raise the pot from the floor of the oven. This allows the air to circulate underneath the pot to heat the bottom.  My own preference is to use several rings from canning jar lids since they can be configured to fit any size pan and still leave room for something else.  I keep them in the oven all the time

Get a good oven thermometer.  They are inexpensive and can be found in cooking stores, and on the cooking aisle of grocery and department stores.  The thermometer will allow you to monitor the oven temperature without opening the door and losing the heat.  An internal digital thermometer will allow you to monitor the temperature of the food.

Pot holders, pot holders, pot holders.  Don’t forget to get a few potholders. Those pots are hot!

That’s my basic solar kitchen collection. What’s your favorite pot to cook in?

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