The MODERN KITCHEN is a multi function work place incorporating a variety of cooking apparatus and tools and is forever being upgraded with new equipment and periodically remodelled in line with current fads and fancies. Lets face it, it is a busy workshop producing culinary consumables for the family and visiting guests . Looking around my conventional modern electric kitchen, I can quickly identify 6 distinct cooking devices 1 – kettle, 2 - microwave oven, 3 - toaster, 4 - electric fry pan, 5 – stove top (hot plates), 6 - oven and I haven’t yet looked into the appliance cabinet. If I was forced to choose only one appliance to do all my cooking on it would probably be the versatile ‘stove top hotplate’. ( our modern home kitchen is used nowhere near as often as it was before we ‘Saw the Light’ )
The SOLAR KITCHEN or the ‘outdoor kitchen’ is also multi functional and no single apparatus will satisfy all cooking needs. In my ‘solar kitchen’ I am able to select from a variety of cookers depending on the situation and volume to be cooked however if I was limited to only one device (pray it never happens) I would opt for the versatile ‘parabolic’ dish. As a recommendation to a new enthusiast I would suggest the slow cooking ‘box oven’ or for those wanting more heat, the ‘parabolic’ which produces greater heat but is more hazardous to use. To a ‘backpacking tourist’ or ‘hiker’ ( or myself preparing for our outback jaunt ) I would recommend the lightweight folding ‘panel cooker’. A serious solar boffin like myself, would certainly be advised to invest in one of each design. ( I personally have a collection of over 25 different designs and sizes, and am forever designing and redesigning and expanding the range. )
My SOLAR KITCHEN . My house has an easterly aspect (ie the front of the house facing the east) with the solar kitchen divided into two areas, one on the northern side patio, and the other on the open southern side paved area (as shown in photograph below). Since I spend most of my day and some evenings on this northern patio which incorporates a huge round outdoor table setting, lounge chairs with a coffee table between, a gas fired BBQ at one end, a fish pond on another and a finch aviary yet on other side and a vegetable garden conveniently located nearby, most of the cooking is performed here in lightweight portable cookers, either on a sunny section of the patio or moved on to the adjacent driveway. Since Queensland’s mild weather allows us to spend most of our days outdoors, this area has bacome the nerve centre of the household and even used as my office (we no longer have a formal internal dining room). On the southern paved area we use the large box cooker when long cooking times are required and perform most of our dirty cooking (fire) using the clay hob oven or sitting around a camp fire lit in the cast iron fire pit.
Sample Variety of Cookers ‘A Solar Addiction is a Healthy Affliction’
The picture below is a good representation of some of the items I have in my ‘SOLAR COOKER ARSENAL’, some of which get more usage than others. I shall describe each device and its main attributes, commencing with the box cooker located in the top left hand corner of the picture and go around clockwise.
Some solar cookers with a fire pit and a wood fired clay hob oven
A - ‘BOX OVEN’ family size. Here we have a plywood box with 50mm thick insulated walls and floor, double glazed top, adjustable reflector lid, an entry hatch at the rear, a thermometer inside and twin oven control knobs at the front and sitting on a swivel base. This device will handle 4 large pots at once and being so well insulated will keep the food warm well into the evening. Like a conventional oven it needs time to preheat and because of its weight is best used as a fixture on the patio or in the garden.
B - ‘BOX OVEN’ small. This scaled down version of the larger oven with an additional four reflector panels for extra sunlight capture, is used mainly as a functional display model.
C - ‘JANE’ family cooker . She is the best cooker of the lot, capable of working ‘day and night’ but occasionally runs ‘hot and cold’ and sometimes needs motivation to get going. Very expensive but I’m told well worth the investment.
D – ‘PARABOLIC OVEN’It is the most versatile of all. It is a purchased item but well worth the money. Its heating capacity is tremendous and being farely light weight and on casters, its shape can act like a sail, becomes mobile in a stiff breeze. I recommend that it be tethered if left unattended or else you may find it sailing down the street. Units identical to this are highly utilised in the barren expanses of the highlands of China, and also very popular in India.
E - ‘BRASIER / BBQ’ Made from the stainless steel agitator drum of a front loading washing machine it serves as a BBQ or a fire pit on those chilly winter evening socials gatherings. It is NOT solar powered however it is made of totally recycled material. The small perforations around its perimeter cause it to glitter like a sparkler at night.
F – ‘BOX OVEN’ Suitcase shaped. It is a factory made item capable of cooking four servings at a time. It is a little costly but is very popular in northern India where it is heavily promoted and cost subsidised by the Government.
G – ‘BOX OVEN’ ex cardboard box. Fair performer with one pot capacity. Simple design and easy to make, ideal as a school science project.
H – ‘CLAY OVEN’ Wood fired (top RH corner). Made of local clay and sand mix (100mm thick). This oven when fired up with a large bucket of twigs for say 30 to 45min will absorb enough heat to cook for about 8 hours. Handy for pizza, bread and when a pork roast or lamb shanks are left to cook over night you end up with a lip smacking delicacy in the morning. A great showpiece in your garden it doubles as an incinerator for garden twig trimmings and tree branch sheddings while creating usable stored heat for later use. Excellent for night time and cloudy weather cooking. The clay will fall apart in wet weather hence the dog house.
J - ‘PANEL COOKER’ multi faceted and adjustable (one of many designs). This is the most intricate of all my panel cookers and can be reshaped to suit the time of day then when finished with it can be folded up to a compact flat pack. The design was downloaded off the Web, it is a very useful unit but a little challenging to assemble.
K – ‘FIRE PIT’ cast iron. Good for making the camp fire in or preparing a traditional camp meal and boiling up a billy, while relaxing after a heavy day at the office. Elevated off the ground the heat does no damage to the floor below and can be moved about.
L – ‘PANEL COOKER’ four reflector. Light and quickly assembled / disassembled (5 sec) A proven performer, it has accounted for itself admirably on two major outback treks (see second picture below) ( it lost its lunch in a ‘dust devil’ or ‘willy-willy’ and was almost attacked by wild animals )
X – ‘X-TREME DEATH RAY’ It is a multi-function Parabolic shaped concave reflective GIZMO made from 100% recycled material. The reflector body is a recycled TV satellite dish laminated with 1000 square mirrors hand cut and glued down, is fixed on to a heavy cast iron umbrella stand for stability and because of its total weight is mounted on to a trolley for mobility. This ‘DOOVIE’ has amazing powers, – it can bring a hardwood chunk of timber to flame in 1 second, cut through an aluminium beer can in quick time, make ‘disco mirror ball’ type reflections on your ceiling, will fuse your fingers together if placed at its focal point, and convert to a spotlight or beacon, ideal for spotlighting of tree climbing nightlife in the neighbourhood trees or a farmer searching for wayward farm animals, and you may ask can it cook? Oh how it cooks.
This ‘CONTRIVANCE’ is capable of great evil having already destroyed my shoe, attempted to burn my house down and made a valiant attempt to burn a friends car (further pages will explain these events)
As a Cooker it is ideal for Boiling, frying, and other activities requiring extreme heat.
Four reflector Panel cooker at a campsite in central Australia