Cooking with a Solar Oven aboard

Solar roasted chicken

We’re in the tropics. There is a lot of sun. We can cook with the sun. It makes sense, right? Still, you don’t see a lot of solar ovens on boats- and that’s too bad.

1. Your galley stays cool.

This is an excellent feature for retaining the sanity of the primary cook aboard (moi) because I don’t have get cranky while I drip sweat in a hot galley, or heat our boat while I’m cooking (it kills me that for the gold plated price they command, Force 10 – like most boat ovens – are not insulated. why, people? why?).

It even makes cake

2. You use less propane.

Sometimes, it’s very  hard (or very inconvenient) to refill propane. Papua New Guinea? Sorry, but the islands we visited din’t have roads or electricity, and they definitely didn’t have propane available… local cooking is done over a wood or coconut husk fire. Indonesia? A strangely unique fitting is used locally, and most places wouldn’t refill our US tanks. We can go about three months on our two cylinders. Being able to extend that time with a solar oven is really helpful.

3. Dinner is cooked while you’re doing other things

Point it into the sun, and during peak hours the oven heats up to 200-250F. That’s kind of like having a crock pot on deck, which slowly turns out a delicious meal over the course of an afternoon and meanwhile… there are far better things that I can think of to do with that time!

so many fish
much rather commune with the fishes (Surin islands, Thailand)…
Komodo island hike
…or hike with my family (Komodo National Park, Indonesia)

4. Food cooked by the sun is DELICIOUS.

I am not clear on the underlying science, but vegetables cooked with minimal added moisture retain flavor better- I suppose because it’s not lost into steam? Whatever it is, veggies keep a brightness that’s lost on the stovetop or oven. Tough meats (which is mostly what we can find) tenderizes nicely with slow cooking.  A whole chicken (stuck into raw rice with a little water) cooks to falling-off-the-bone deliciousness, in about 4 hours. It bakes a carrot cake that was to die for. Back in the less humid Mexican climate, we’d also dry fish jerky and make sundried tomatoes. Too humid in SE Asia, unfortunately.

If you’re planning to go cruising, this is a great galley gadget to try in advance- kind of like a pressure cooker. Have fun with it and get used to it in advance- why not? When we first picked ours up, it was delivered to my family in northern Michigan (on our Escape from Hurricane Season grand road trip of 2009). Up there at latitude 43 or so, it made delicious ratatouille, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, hard boiled eggs, and more.

What’s the catch?

It’s just the bulk, really. It’s a big box, it doesn’t collapse, and it does take up a chunk of space. It’s got a special corner on deck where it lives, and we really would rather minimize what’s on deck… but there’s not another option. We didn’t get the optional reflectors, so I can’t bake loaf bread well (quick breads and cakes are fine, though). That’s it. This thing is great!

I want to plug Solavore specifically- manufacturers of our awesome oven. It’s made from recycled materials, and sales of it support their extensive nonprofit work to bring these ovens to those who truly need it. I don’t know another solar oven brand that can make those claims! If you’re interested in buying, we’d be grateful if you use our affiliate link, as it puts a little coin in Totem’s cruising kitty at no cost to you.

Have you used a solar oven on your boat? Let me know in the comments, or share a picture by posting to Totem’s Facebook page!

19 Responses to Cooking with a Solar Oven aboard

  1. Carolyn - The Boat Galley May 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Hi Behan! I added your post to the list I have on TBG at http://theboatgalley.com/solar-ovens/ — just a note though, I was going to use the Sailfeed link, but got a 404 error. If/when they get it fixed, let me know and I’ll change it.

    • Carolyn - The Boat Galley May 21, 2014 at 12:33 am #

      Never mind, it’s up now and I changed the link.

    • Behan Gifford May 21, 2014 at 8:36 am #

      thanks Carolyn- there’s sometimes a lag of a few hours before the Sailfeed syndication picks up a new post. And, hey, now I realize why solar cooking was rolling around in the back of my brain, I read your Boat Galley piece just last month! (can I blame perimenopause on short term memory loss?) I’d love to know- are you going to try a solar oven on SV Barefoot Gal?

    • Carolyn - The Boat Galley May 22, 2014 at 7:59 pm #

      It’s part of the plan! It may not be immediate, but it’s definitely on the horizon.

  2. Corinne May 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    I don’t plan on buying a boat, but maybe an RV. Do you think it would work the same way if you tied it to the roof of an RV? Your food does look amazing!

    • Behan September 19, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

      Here’s what I heard directly from people who use a Solavore for land travels: “it’s the last thing we pack into the van, and the first thing we take out.” That’s one way to manage it! I imagine it would be fine on the roof– I’d get a carry case to protect it–.Solavore sells one that zips around. On Totem, ours is always on deck (lashed if needed) and just fine without one, but we don’t sail at highway speed. 🙂

  3. Stephan February May 21, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    Looks great. Did you mount on a rail or do you just leave it sitting on deck? Does the bottom get hot enough to mark the fibreglas?

    Stephan

    • Behan September 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm #

      Stephan – no marks on the deck…no problem. We leave it outside full time. It gets lashed to a rail when we’re going to be underway (or if big wind is coming).

  4. The Cynical Sailor May 22, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    Great post – we didn’t have an oven on our last boat and something like this would have come in handy. I’m pretty sure our next boat will have an oven, but I like the idea of having a solar option for all the reasons you mention – especially saving on LPG. Cheers – Ellen

  5. four2tango.net May 23, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Hey, Behan. I am a HUGE believer in solar ovens and use ours all the time. Only downside is finding room aboard, but we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it and proudly brag on it wherever and whenever we can. 🙂 http://four2tango.net/2013/09/13/best-solar-snack-ever/ and http://four2tango.net/2014/01/13/underway-action/ and http://four2tango.net/2014/05/05/some-work-and-play/

  6. Susan May 23, 2014 at 12:31 am #

    I’d never heard of these. They appear to be a great item. Am thinking we might need one.

  7. Carla August 25, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    Behan, the Solar Oven Society is currently out of production on their Sport Solar Oven. I wrote and asked them if they were planning on selling more in the future. Will let you know if they get back to me.

  8. Ronfell September 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm #

    This looks great, I was wondering ig you can get something similar for use in camper vans.

  9. William Latham June 10, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Here is a link to the solar cooking archives

    http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Solar_cooker_plans

    That have plans for folding panel and box type solar ovens. Wander the site for a lot more information as well.

    Regards,
    Bill

    • Behan June 23, 2015 at 3:33 pm #

      Very cool- thanks Bill! We are on the market for a new solar oven at the moment, after years of faithful service, ours finally succumbed. Update: happily have the SAME solar oven, now made by Solavore, back on Totem. Yay!

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