As a prepper the Sun Oven was definitely on my list of gear that I wanted to add to my preps; after all, it uses solar power and here at SRS we love anything powered by the sun. But as I often learn when I review products on my “add to preps” list it has more applications than emergency preparedness. The Sun Oven is also just fun to use! It almost feels like I’m cheating the electric company every time I use it.
As I did research for this review I found out that Sun Oven has a global reach which is lead by the owner Paul Munsen. Sun Oven is about helping people in third world countries have sanitary water and nutritious food cooked in a clean air environment. It’s inspiring and to this girl, who dreamed about going into the peace corps when she was younger, it raises Mr. Munsen to superstar status.
Although it’s important to know about a company before you buy a product, the product is still the focus, right? So here we go!
The first thing we (my husband helped me with this part, we actually fought about who was going to get to write this review…) did was adjust these screws that hold the glass down over the airtight seal. They were a bit tight but were easily adjusted with a screwdriver.
Then we placed this rod that elevates the Sun Oven into place.
The back rod slides up and down easily to adjust the elevation of the Sun Oven. This is especially useful in the morning and evening hours when the sun is low in the sky. It also helps in the Winter months when the sun also sits lower in the sky.
You can see here how the rod fits into these holes to keep it in place.
The Sun Oven also comes with stakes (similar to tent stakes) that will allow you to anchor it to the ground. This is helpful if you are setting up the Sun Oven on un-level ground, like a hill.
There are two stakes, one for each side. You can get a visual from the picture above of how the oven would be staked down.
Where the solar panels attach to the oven is a wingnut that you can turn to keep the solar panels from blowing in the wind. You don’t have to use it if there is no wind, but during the days it took me to do this review we had plenty of wind. So I used it quite a bit.
When you first get your new Sun Oven there is a protective plastic coating that you’ll need to remove.
The Sun Oven comes with a thermometer in the upper left-hand corner. By the way, this is the only part of the Sun Oven not made in the U.S. Again, I have to point out how conscientiousness Paul Munsen has been in trying to keep as many parts of the Sun Oven as possible made in the U.S.
This is a shot of the sky on the first day I set up the Sun Oven. Yeah, not an ideal sunny day.
Still, there was enough sun to heat the vinegar water that directions say to initially clean your new Sun Oven with. The Sun Oven comes with a rack that swings when you re-position the oven for more efficient cooking.
The next day was sunnier.
Let me back up a moment before getting into the cooking. My Sun Oven did not come with any cookware so I went in search of cookware that would fit. Turns out the best pots for the Sun Oven are the enamel coated granite cookware – you know, the kind you might take camping. The reason is that it’s dark and doesn’t reflect light back out of the Sun Oven.
Also the darker (non-stick) bakeware works best for this same purpose. You can use something like aluminum or stainless steel but you’ll need to cover it with a dark cloth to keep it from reflecting light back out of the oven. You can use glass but it will take a few minutes longer for things to cook. Which brings me to the ultimate off-grid cookware, cast iron. You can use cast iron but the thing is that even though it cooks great it takes a lot of energy for it to heat up. The thin granite cookware heats up in no time, and since there is an airtight seal on the oven everything heats up evenly. So you don’t have the same problem with granite cookware you might in a conventional oven. You can use cast iron but I would reserve it for when you want to use the Sun Oven as a slow cooker.
My first dish to try in the Sun Oven was tomato soup.
To cook in the Sun Oven you need to line it up with the sun.
It’s super easy to do with the guide on the bottom of the glass door. See how the sun dot is in the middle of the lower circle? That means it’s lined up.
The first day I decided to give the Sun Oven a try, I had to leave for a few hours so I was not able to align it to the sun every 30 minutes. So the soup didn’t cook all the way through by dinnertime. This would actually be the method you would use if you wanted to slow cook a meal. You would place your pot in the Sun Oven and not really worry about positioning it toward the sun. Then leave for 6 to 9 hours. If I would have put my soup on earlier I would have come back to thoroughly cooked soup, but I put it on too late in the day so I had to finish it up on the stove top. A rookie mistake.
My next attempt at dinner in the Sun Oven was a potato lentil soup.
You can see the temperature was about 325 degrees.
Perfectly cooked soup. Can you see the steam in the picture?
I wanted some cornbread to go with the soup. I have a family of 5 and I’m the only girl. So my crew eats a lot. You can cook large meals in the Sun Oven but you have to stack your bakeware. Here you can see I stacked a smaller pan on top of a larger pan with wooden spoons.
Also, the sun was very low in the sky because of the time of day and year, the back rod was not long enough to position the oven. So I had to improvise. It looks like the solar panels are touching the ground in this picture but they are not. I did, however, tip the oven further than the rod would let me by placing the bottom part of the rod on some firewood.
The cornbread cooked just fine. You can see as I tilted the oven the liquid cornbread became a bit uneven, but still perfectly edible
The next day I made cookies pretty early in the day. I simply placed parchment paper (or as my youngest calls it, cookie paper) down to help with the reflection.
I had to leave the bottom layer of cookies in for a few more minutes than the top layer, but still, it was worth stacking them rather than cooking them separately.
Cookies after they had cooled. Yum!
You can use the Sun Oven, as I mentioned above, for emergency preparedness to cook food and to pasteurize water. Water is pasteurized when water is kept at 159 degrees for 6 minutes. People tell you to boil water to kill bacteria and have safe drinking water but the truth is it doesn’t need to get all the way to 212 degrees. They tell you that so you’ll have the visual of the bubbles. The Sun Oven won’t bring your water to a rolling boil but it will bring the temperature of your water well above the 159 degrees needed to pasteurize water. So how do you tell when the water is safe? You use this little gizmo called a WAPI. It’s basically a little glass vile with wax in it. The wax will melt when the water reaches 159 degrees or higher.
Here is a closer look at the cool WAPI.
This is how it is stored and how it comes from Sun Oven.
Simply pop the glass vile into the hole on the bottom of the high heat plastic.
Place it in the water.
The plastic acts as a buoy.
You can see the wax is now totally liquid indicating this water is the correct temperature for pasteurization.
Next, I wanted to try “hard boiling” some eggs.
This method is so easy I really didn’t believe it would work. Make sure you use a cardboard box carton even if you are using fresh laid eggs. The thing is that you need an egg tray because if you allow the eggs to touch while baking you’ll get a brown spot on your eggs. Place the eggs in the oven. Come back in 30 to 40 minutes and you have perfect “hard boiled” eggs.
You can tell that the eggs are done by the way they spin. If you spin an uncooked egg it’s kind of wobbly (the liquid floats around) but if you take a cooked egg and spin it, it will spin smoothly. I didn’t believe I could tell the difference but try it; you’ll be surprised how easy it is to see the difference. Hint: spin the egg slowly.
Perfectly cooked eggs.
So it took me about a week of following other people’s recipes before venturing out on my own. Here I’m re-hydrating some dehydrated onions and potatoes to make a frittata. I had some fresh broccoli so I threw that in to warm up and maybe cook a little while the potatoes and onions re-hydrated.
Then I added a dozen eggs, garlic powder, some mushrooms and salt, and pepper.
How long it takes to cook will depend on the season and how often you re-position the Sun Oven. My frittata took about an hour to bake. The Sun Oven is very forgiving, because of the airtight seal things don’t dry out. This is my kind of cooker! I am the worst timekeeper in the world. It’s also hard for me to change gears on a dime, whether I’m writing, homeschooling, cleaning, or whatever. I need to finish my thoughts when I’m writing or finish my explanation when I’m homeschooling. I’m not a multitasker. So being able to turn the timer off for 5 or 10 or 20 minutes and knowing my food is not going to burn is worth the price of the oven!
Also, as corny as this may sound, aligning the Sun Oven to the sun several times a day makes you realize the power (it’s needed by all living things) and position (passing of time) of the sun. Maybe it’s been a long winter, but the point I’m trying to make is that it puts you in touch with nature no matter whether you’re in the middle of a city, in a suburb, or out in the middle of nowhere.