I enjoy solar cooking for the "fun" factor. I'm in a unique situation where I can cook year round, and I have a place at work that I can set up a solar cooker every morning (when it is sunny) and have hot lunches. I find it easier to set and forget rather than cooking and eating all within my lunch break.
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I made my Cookit about two weeks ago (I posted the "how to create a template" bit at the time I made it). I was very surprised at just how hot the cooking system got. It easily cooks anything I've put in it - rice, curies, even both at once, and sausages. It even browned the sausages where it was in contact with the pot. I'm also surprised that the flavours are nice - I thought it would be stewed, steamed or over/under cooked. It has been spot on every time.
I'm using it in May, which is similar to November in the Northern Hemisphere, air temperature is not much over 20c (68F). Even so - it's getting to over boiling (100c/212F). I'm now using it for lunch most days, setting it up at work in a position where it only needs adjustment once or twice a day.
It was able to cook a meal for three of us (big men - 110 kg) with ease. It was also able to reheat rice from frozen to hot in two hours, keeping all moisture.
I've found these helpful:
The second shows I'm getting 810 W/m2 at noon. The first shows that I'm getting about as little solar power as I'm going to get - this means I'll be able to cook lunches all year long - as long as it is a sunny day.
Cooking a Roast
Just a tip for cooking roast meat and vegetables quicker. It's an old trick to get metal cooking skewers and skewer the meat, potatoes, etc. This transfers heat from the air directly into the centre of the food. The metal conducts the heat very well. I believe this can be done with stainless steel nails.
Blow up the Bag
I've found that blowing up the heat resistant bag helps a lot. Once the pot heats up it keeps the bag inflated anyway, but it heats up much faster if the bag is already inflated.
Mid-Winter Lunch in Brisbane Australia
This probably says more about the idealic location of Brisbane, but I've now shown that a full Chicken Tikka Masala for three can be cooked using a home made cardboard/aluminium foil CookIT in the middle of Winter. On one of the shortest days of the year, with quite a bit of upper cloud, the meal cooked to perfection. I put 1 chopped onion and 500 grams of frozen cubed chicken in at 9:45am, then at 11am I added a tin of Masala mix - the chicken looked cooked by this point. Then at 1pm three of us tucked in to a top meal that was steaming hot. Ambient temperature was about 20-21 degrees Celsius or 68-70 Fahrenheit, with wind at about 10km/h or 6.28 m/h (not very windy).
This proves that year-round solar cooking is possible in Brisbane. Now if we can just get some more sunny days I'll be able to actually cook.
Day length: 10:25 hours Sunrise Time: 06:38 hours Sunset Time: 17:03 hours Max. height angle is 39:07 degr at noon time 11:51 Declination of Sun: 23:23 degr Solar power 732 W/m2 at noon Date: Wednesday on 2009-06-24, the 175. day of the year Location: Brisbane, latitude -27:30, longitude 153:00
This is generated from http://www.gaisma.com.
On this image the orange path indicates the path of the sun on the day in question (23rd of June), and the distance from the centre indicates the angle away from directly above. This means that in my winter the sun rises in the north east, but in summer it rises in the south east. If you want more details on how to read this image go to the gaisma web page - it has full instructions. The point is, the day I did this meal was approximately equal to the lowest sun altitude (only 3 minutes higher, and only 1 W/m2 at noon more). This is the first day in around the solstice that I have been able to test this due to unseasonal rain.
I purchased an oven thermometer that could set on the lid. The temperature gauge got up to 110 C (230 f). I repeated the previous Tikka Masala. It asks for extra water to be added but isn't needed in the solar cooker. This time I used about 750 grams of chicken. It was only defrosted the chicken by 11am (1.5 hours in the sun) - nothing had cooked. At this stage I added the masala mix and stirred. I added an aluminium dish that sits inside the pot to cook some rice.
By 1pm it had reached the maximum of 110, and at 1:15pm I opened the pot. It had fully cooked the chicken and rice.
More recently (spring) the maximum is hitting 125 C.