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Solar Oven Cooking

Energy, Chile

Have you ever felt a sizzling hot rock in the sun, as if it might burn you? And did you ever wonder whether it might just be hot enough to fry an egg on it? In fact it is possible, albeit highly inconvenient. That is why a lot of effort has been put in to optimize the use of solar heat to be able to prepare a complete meal.

Chilean solar revolution

In the Ovalle region in Chili an experiment with solar ovens has grown out to a great success. Here, on the high altitude dessert planes, is an amazing rate of 310 days of sunshine per year. In contrast to the abundance of sunlight, the dry area lacks trees to use as firewood. The few trees that do grow there, have become very scarce. From a family perspective this means that it is a full day task for one family member to collect enough wood to prepare the evening meal. From an environmental perspective the same problem is to been seen as an approximately 328.400 acres of forest being cut down yearly, as calculated by The Forestry Institute of Chili. Since the introduction of the solar oven almost all inhabitants of Villalesa, a town in Ovalle, have switched to cooking in solar ovens. There is even a solar oven restaurant, where tourists line up hoping to be one of the daily 60 customers the restaurant can serve.

The preparation of food in a solar oven takes about twice as long than cooking in regular ovens or on stoves. You can bake a bread in two hours and a stew in three. But the advantages are plentiful. Preparing food on a smoky fire does not only contribute to deforestation. It is also quite   unhealthy as it leaves traces of carbon mono-dioxide in the food and in the air to breath. Another diet improvement lies within the restriction to bake, instead of to fry food. All this is apart from the fact that – once the solar oven has been easily built – cooking is for free.