We use the sun’s energy all the time. It gives us light. It makes plants grow. It dries our clothes. We use it to make electricity. And we can cook with it! A Thailand solar oven focuses the sun’s energy onto a dark cooking pot. The oven is made of a light, shiny material that reflects the rays. The dark cooking pot absorbs the sunlight and converts it into heat.
The clear plastic bag around the pot creates a greenhouse effect. The sunlight energy passes through the plastic to the pot. The sunlight energy turns into heat energy. The heat energy cannot pass out through the plastic. The heat stays in the bag and cooks the food in the pot.
Thai solar ovens are easy to use and affordable. Simple ovens can be made for around a hundred baht. But training is very important. Most people are used to stirring their food often, especially over a wood fire. With a solar oven, it’s important to keep the cooking pot closed. Too much heat escapes when it is opened. It’s hard to convince people that food can cook for hours in a solar oven without burning.
It’s easy to cook in Thailand with solar and the fuel is free, renewable and non-polluting. You can’t broil in a solar oven, but you can bake, boil, and roast. You can even pasteurize water in Thailand. Simple Thai solar ovens made of cardboard boxes can reach 325 degree Fahrenheit or 163 degrees Celsius.
Activity: Making a Thai Solar Oven
- Tri-fold presentation board or cardboard panel
- Sharp knife or scissors to cut board
- Wide, heavy-weight aluminum foil
- Glue stick and clear packing tape
- Clear plastic bags
- Cooking pot
*Optional. Use pizza boxes covered with foil to make mini-ovens.
- Cut board according to the diagram below.
- Lightly score (cut/notch) new fold lines before folding
- Use tape to reinforce folds and to straighten pre-fold on wings.
- Cover entire board front with aluminum foil, taping or gluing securely.
- Slide points of wings into slits as shown in the picture to the right.
- Enclose cooking pot in plastic bag and place in middle of oven.
Thailand Solar Cooking Tips
1. Think dark! Use black metal pans and dark brown glass dishes. Never use light colored cookware. A canning jar painted flat black works fine to boil water.
2. Use an oven thermometer. It will help you figure out how long to cook things.
3. Use black cast iron if you’re cooking something that must be stirred. It won’t lose as much heat when you open the lid.
4. Don’t add water when roasting vegetables. Use a pan with a lid and they’ll cook in their own juices.
5. When baking potatoes, rub with oil and put in a pot with a lid. Don’t wrap with aluminum.
6. Bake bread in dark glass dishes with lids. If you use a cookie sheet, it won’t have a nice crust.
7. When baking cookies: chocolate cooks fastest, then peanut butter, then sugar cookies. Use a dark cookie sheet!
8. Marinate meats in advance. Place on a rack in a cast iron pot.
9. One pot meals are great! Cut everything up, throw it into the pot, put a lid on and walk away.
10. Remember-food won’t burn in a solar oven. It might lose too much water, though, if you cook it too long.