How to Cook Using the Sun in an Emergency by Gary Benton
In the event of an emergency, such as a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other type of survival situation, it is important for us to know alternate methods of cooking. Most of us can start a simple fire and cook, but what if you don’t have any matches? Did you know you can use a casualty blanket or car sunshield to cook with? It only takes a few other items and you’ll be cooking in no time. While this idea is not new, there are some ways to make the process easier, faster, and more effective.
People all over the world have been cooking using the sun for years. In some countries it is an inexpensive way to prepare meals, while in others it is the only way to prepare meals, due to a lack of gas or electrical power. The concept explained below has been around a long time and it is a proven method of cooking using the sun.
In an emergency you can use a reflective silver reflective car sunshade or a casualty blanket, an oven rack (or BBQ grill), 4 ½ inches of male and female Velcro (you can do without the Velcro, but it makes the job easier), a black pot, a bucket or plastic wastebasket, and a plastic baking bag (like we use for cooking turkeys for Thanksgiving) to cook with. It’s easy and most of us will have the needed components in the house. Or, you can carry them with you into the field to insure you always have an alternate method of cooking. This “stove” is easy to make.
To make the funnel shaped solar cooking device:
1. The notched side of the sunshade should be toward you (If using a casualty blanket lay it widthwise).
2. Cut the Velcro into one even piece, each about five inches long. Use the hook and pile on opposite sides so they will “lock” when pressed together.
3. Sew by hand (to avoid damage to the soft reflective material) one half of the Velcro on edge to the top of the notch (or at the bottom edge of the casualty blanket) sew the matching half of the Velcro onto the bottom side (or opposite side of the casualty blanket), so that they “hook and lock” together when attached to make a funnel.
4. Push the two pieces of Velcro together, and place the funnel on top of a bucket, plastic wastebasket, box, or any other object capable of holding the funnel.
5. Place a black or dark pot with your food on top of an oven rack, placed inside a plastic baking bag. An American oven rack is approximately 10 inches. This is placed inside the funnel; resting the rack on the top of the bucket, wastebasket, box, or other container. Since the sunshade material is extremely flexible, this rack is used to support the pot and to keep the funnel open. By holding the funnel open, the suns rays can reflect on all sides evenly, making the process more effective. If such a rack is not available, a wooden or metal platform could be made or used to work as well.
While the technique is simple, here are a few hints to make your cooking easier, faster, and more affective.
1. Turn the shiny material toward the sun, so the rays strike the surface with full force.
2. Use a stick to keep the material open and it will also keep the “stove” more secure from drooping during use or collapsing when there are winds.
3. Keep in mind, your food will become very hot—near 350 degrees if properly made. To avoid burns when removing the food oven mittens are recommended.
4. Your reflective material and most of the other supplies, except for the stick and grill, can be placed in the bucket for ease of transportation.
Cooking with the sun is not hard, but it does take a little planning and consideration. Remember to use shiny reflective surfaces for your “stove”, if you have an interior to your “stove” it should be a dark color (black is suggested). If the interior is painted, use a non-toxic paint and one that is heat resistant. Keep in mind, while the pan may not look hot, it can easily reach 350 degrees, so remove the pot with caution to avoid burns. From my research, any foods you can cook in a conventional oven, at 350 degrees can be cooked in a solar “stove” but the cooking times may vary depending on the meal prepared, brightness of the sun, and type of cooker you are using.