by Jim Jones – KC5DOV
Having been prepared for Y2K or not so prepared as we later learned the following winter when we lost electrical power for eight days, I was relieved and let down at the same time that we had weathered another apocalyptic disaster aimed at changing our lives forever. One of the main things we learned was that you can not have too much fuel for cooking!
After the weather cleared and power was restored I began researching alternative cooking methods that could be implemented anywhere anytime. Naturally, our options were to stock a tremendous amount of wood, charcoal, and fossil fuels for cooking or find a way to maximize our geographical area’s renewable attributes. We had ample sunshine year round at our home and a great supply of limbs from nearby oak, pecan, pine, hickory, and numerous other woods on our property and in the private park behind our home.
Since we owned a heavy-duty BBQ grill and a small Hibachi Grill and I could cook on them with tree limbs and twigs anytime, I decided to research and build a Solar Oven. After some serious reading and fact gathering and from our family preparedness standpoint that we would not bug-out unless absolutely necessary, I decided to build a heavy-duty insulated box. The box would be fitted with permanent reflectors after the box proved viable to keep and use.
It was early spring 2001 when Dad and I visited a carpenter friend and started building our Solar Box Oven. The box we made is similar to the one featured in Beth and Dan Halacy’s book, “The Solar Cookery Book, Everything Under the Sun.” We used high-grade ¾-inch plywood to construct the box. Each piece was glued and then nailed into place. Once home with the box I cut 1-inch insulated fire-board to fit the bottom and sides. These were painted with high-temperature BBQ Grill black paint to absorb heat and make the interior hotter. The clear front window pane is Plexi-glass and has a melting point over 800 degree F. The silver knob was replaced by a wooden knob. A small stair-step was made to adjust the angle of the oven to the Sun. I painted the exterior yellow and began curing the inside by letting the oven heat up for several hours a day for several days. Temperatures reached 275 degree Fahrenheit and would later cook biscuits, meats, and other foods.
After cooking numerous foods (roasts, vegetables, biscuits, cakes, and cookies) I constructed a template for the reflectors and then built them from sheet stainless and secured them to the box. 1/8-inch Plexi-glass mirrors were attached via double-sided tape. Castors were added to the bottom for ease in moving around the yard and focusing on the Sun. The temperature now reaches 400 degrees on sunny days. When we cook, we turn the oven slightly off-axis to the Sun and keep the temperature around 325 – 350 degrees. So far we can cook anything outside in the Sun that we can cook inside using gas or electricity.
With the Solar Oven up and cooking great, I researched and purchased a Solar Sizzler Parabolic Cooker from Solar Sizzler of Canada. The unit is approximately 1-meter in diameter and has a very polished reflective surface. It comes in 6 snap together pieces and has a focal point of approximately 22-inches.
We set ours up on a weighted tripod. A metal grate is suspended from a plant hook by chains. The sunlight reflecting off the parabolic is focused on the bottom of a frying pan that sits on the grate. To keep the temperature up, just turn the parabolic dish. We have fried potatoes, bacon, pancakes, cooked, boiled, and stir-fried many different vegetables and meats.
Always keep in mind any solar cooker using reflectors may have more than one focal point and can reach high enough temperatures to ignite the wood on your house! I scorched the wood on the side of the house and learned the hard way!
When looking for a more efficient cooker that uses wood or other renewable fuels or waste I came across a video from Stove-Tec featuring their Rocket Stoves. All I can say is, “Wow! I got to have one!”
The Stove-Tec Rocket Stove fits in a metal bucket and has a light-weight ceramic insert that stores and focuses the heat from a fire up to the pots or other cooking device. The fuel is sticks, twigs, paper, branches, or other type kindling. To start the fire, place kindling in the bottom of the Rocket stove. Place some small sticks on top of the kindling and light. Once the kindling is lit and the small sticks start burning, push bigger sticks into the fire hole. On the top of the stove is a three-legged stove/burner grate. An adjustable pot ring is included to focus the heat up the side of the cooking pot. The temperature/fire is controlled by the air flow and how far in the sticks/fuel is pushed. Once the air-fuel-fire ratio is correct the there is very little or no smoke. To keep the fire going you just push the sticks further into the fire. When burning correctly the fire roars through the stove and sounds like a rocket engine. If you can cook it on an indoor stove, you can cook it on a Rocket Stove!
If TSHTF or TEOTWAWKI happens we may have to eat stuff we would not ordinarily eat, but at least it will be a hot meal!