I’ve been asked about solar ovens several times since I began The Boat Galley, most recently when I wrote about ways to keep cooking heat out of the boat. And it’s a problem since I’ve not only never used one, I’ve never even seen one except in a photo. (UPDATE: When in the Virgin Islands on Beagle Knot, a friend’s boat, we cooked a roast chicken about 75% in a solar oven . . . until the rain moved in and we finished it on the stove.)
However, the Women & Cruising blog recently ran a detailed post by Anne Patterson called “Good Cookin’: Why I Love My Solar Oven” and, as you can guess from the title, she makes a compelling argument for one. And then I discovered that a few cruisers that I know “virtually” through Facebook and various forums also use one and love it.
So, while I still haven’t used one or even viewed one first hand, I wanted to list some resources for readers who are curious about them. These were all written by cruisers and thus contain information useful to boaters:
- Sailing with Totem: Cooking with a Solar Oven by Behan Gifford
- Women & Cruising: “Good Cookin’: Why I Love My Solar Oven” by Anne Patterson
- Cruising World: “Keep on the Sunny Side” by Susan Detwiler
- The Adventures of Sailing Vessel Macha: “Solar Cooking” by Sarah
I’ll just add a few additional items that I’ve read on a couple of forums and email groups for cruisers —
- Solar ovens are really useful in areas where it’s hard to get propane refills, such as some parts of the South Pacific (or where it’s hard to get whatever other type of fuel your stove uses)
- Also great in particularly hot climates
- I assumed they’d be primarily used for stews and things that required long slow cooking. While they are great for that, I also learned that you can bake most items in one and cook veggies, too.
- Eliminates the risk of fire that any stove or grill has
- Very “green” option, using no petroleum and putting no greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere
- Not that useful in areas that tend to be cloudy, even if it gets hot there
- You don’t have to sit with the food and watch it — you can go ashore and do other things
- A couple of people have reported that if frequently used (and in a marine environment, in the tropics, and with the motion of the boat), the Sport Solar Oven with its plastic exterior lasts about 5 to 7 years. There are many other brands and you can build your own (Google for plans); beware of ones that are primarily cardboard as they don’t last long at all.
- The one drawback is that they tend to be large . . . and most don’t collapse for storage.
I have to admit that the more I read about solar ovens, the more intrigued I am. How about you? Have you ever used one? Have any tips to share?