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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Sun Oven

Air Date: Week of

In the dog days of summer, many people try to avoid turning on their kitchen stove. And if you’re like commentator Pat Priest of steamy Athens, Georgia, you prefer cooking with the energy of the sun.


GELLERMAN: As former president Harry Truman once said, “If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Well, with the dog days of summer upon us, that’s just what commentator Pat Priest of Athens, Georgia does.

An aluminum reflective collar surrounds the cooking bowl, amplifies the heat of the sun.(Photo: Pat Priest)

PRIEST: When you say, "It's like an oven out there!"…when one baking hot day follows another, try baking outside using the free radiant heat of the sun. I’m cooking some beets this afternoon in my side yard in my solar cooker as I write this. I occasionally have to adjust the cooker slightly to orient it more squarely towards the sun. But other than that, it’s simple, working like a crock-pot you can leave all day while you’re at work. No plug needed, no danger of fire. The only problem I’ve ever had is that someone ran over mine in the driveway once, causing an explosion of glass and garbanzos.

Most sun ovens are shaped like the Elizabethan collar that you put on your dog so it won’t lick and scratch its wound - the shiny collar funnels the sun inward. The oven I use costs a little over a hundred bucks. It’s a black, enamel bowl that sits inside a rounded glass bottom and top, creating a greenhouse effect. I set the pot inside that reflective collar that cantilevers outward to surround the meal I’m cooking - it’s dazzling, really, gotta wear shades.

With my solar stove, I can cook without using electricity, which I avoid because of the CO2 emissions and the mountain top removal associated with coal-fired power plants. And when I’m cooking outdoors, I don’t have to use more energy still to cool my kitchen on these stiflingly hot days. I love to be outdoors working in my garden and catch a whiff of my dinner cooking. And the neat part about the company that makes my solar cooker is that a portion of its sales helps send these simple devices to developing countries. Fuel is expensive. And cooking with wood or dung is harmful to people’s health. Solar cooking limits the deforestation that happens when poor people cut trees for wood stoves. So there, and here, solar ovens make sense. Sun powered, and very cool.

GELLERMAN: Pat Priest produces a radio program called “True South” in Athens, Georgia. For more information on solar stoves, go to our website – loe.org.

(Photo: Pat Priest)



Solar Household Energy sells the Olla Solar (Hot Pot) and helps provide solar cookers to women in third-world countries.


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