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Solar and Thermal Cooking

Cooking the Evening Meal by Solar Power

Rainbow Power Company

Nimbin, Australia.

You may have heard the joke about the Irish inventing a solar powered torch.

The trouble with this joke is that it's not funny, solar powered torches exist just as solar powered houses exist. Instead of making the Irish look foolish as was the intention of the joke, it must rebound on the person who tells the joke as he or she has obviously not thought of storing the solar energy in rechargeable batteries.

In the same fashion as you can store the electrical output of photovoltaic solar panels you can also store the heat energy of a solar hot water system or the heat energy of a solar cooker with a well insulated container.

This is where Thermos has come to the rescue with several models of Thermal cookware comprising of one or two stainless steel/carbon steel pots that fit very snugly inside of the large thermos flask for which it was designed (check the www.ThermalCookware.com internet site).




The idea then is to commence cooking your meal with the solar cooker and then to complete the cooking process in the Thermos flask where the meal continues cooking very slowly like in a crock-pot for the rest of the day.

This means that you can have your hot evening meal without burning any fuel and without spending a lot of time at the solar cooker. The Thermos will keep it hot till the evening, making it possible to prepare dinner at a time best suited for solar cooking.

Depending upon the ingredients, in many cases you only need to bring the food to the boil and then let the Thermal Cookware do the rest. On a sunny day you can get a pot to boil in probably around 15 minutes and certainly in less than 1/2 hour.

Slow cooking is the preferred method of cooking Chinese meals where the vegies retain their shape and texture and the protein is soft and tender because protein cooks at a lower temperature than carbohydrates. Slow cooking also enables you to have a hot meal where most of the nutrients stay intact and aren't destroyed by the heat of faster cooking.

You will need to be aware of the different times required to cook different ingredients. Brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice and vegetables and so you will need to keep the brown rice cooking on the solar cooker for a little while whilst preparing your vegies.

Because of its higher protein content, beans, lentils and wild rice will cook better at the lower Thermos temperature than brown rice and you won't need to cook wild rice on the solar cooker for as long.

One downside of the Thermal cooking process is that you will need to fill the entire Thermos flask with hot material.
Thus, if you only want to prepare a small meal you should do so in a smaller sealed pot inside the larger pot filled with
boiling water.

Any quantity of air inside the Thermos flask will rapidly reduce the temperature and thus cease cooking the meal.

The Thermal cooker if used correctly, will only drop 3-4 degrees C per hour because of the superior insulating properties of the vacuum flask over any other material, allowing you to have a hot meal 8 hours after you placed the cooking meal in the pot.

Don't be tempted to open the Thermos flask before you are ready to eat it because each opening represents a rapid heat loss.

As with Solar Powered Households, with the combination of a Solar Cooker and a Thermos pot, you can cook your meals without contributing to Global Warming by burning fossil fuels or by reducing tree cover for firewood.

Peter Pedals