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Ovens to Make
Unlimited possibilities exist for making an oven that will cook food in the sun. We have made a large, versatile solar oven from an old Weber barbecue and an automobile sunscreen for a reflector.

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The "Barbecue Gone Solar"

It's easy to turn a regular barbecue into a solar oven, by simply lining it with aluminum foil and covering it with clear glass, plastic, or oven-baking bag. You'll need to stop the heat loss out of the body of the barbecue, which can be done two ways: either make an insulating sack to cover the metal barbecue body, or spread a "space blanket" under the barbecue and let the sun heat it from the outside. You'll need to add energy with a reflector ~~ in this case, a readily-available car front windshield sun protector (the accordion kind, cost $10). It attaches with two large safety pins and a large paper clip in back. If you lay a second layer of clear lid over the main lid, with a small airspace between, you'll likely see another 15 degrees of temperature gain.

Temperatures inside will be very adequate for solar cooking: 180 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our own "barbecue solar oven" is the famous Weber hemispherical barbecue, on three legs (with wheels). It is about 23 inches diameter inside the top rim. It has two grates: 17 inches diameter lower down, and 22 inches diameter sitting a couple of inches under the lid. This oven will take several pots. It can be tipped slightly by putting a brick under one leg.

Glass companies can make you a tempered 1/4-inch glass lid, for about $40. Ours is 24 & 1/2 inches diameter, and hangs over the rim of the barbecue roughly an inch.

Collecting sun's heat on a clear, sunny day. Notice the weather stripping attached to the under-side of the glass lid, to close off the air leaks caused by the rim of the BBQ not being perfectly flat.

Raise the leg on a brick. Tape the reflector's sides back to prevent them from shading the glass.

Here's the initial experiment, "SolarQ-1," which had clear plastic sheeting, aluminum foil, and voila! An oven! Here you see the insulating blanket attached onto the four grate-stoppers, which the original SQ-1 lacked. But with a reflective "space blanket" on the ground under the BBQ, temperatures reached 180 degrees F on the bottom grill (thermometer shown). Higher up in the oven, temperatures were tens of degrees hotter. The grate is a roomy 17.5 inches diameter, and there's a lot of height, so large casseroles and roasting pans have ample room.

Here's the interior of SolarQ#2. Quite roomy! Water kettle holds half a gallon of water. Casserole is 10 inches diameter. Little pot makes a single cup of tea.

Here's the interior of SolarQ#2, with steaks that have cooked to a beautiful degree of doneness.

Making Oatmeal Cookies and a single cup of tea (roasted barley tea this time, quite like coffee!).

The finished "Solar-Baked Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies" (the raisins were made in our yard by the sun as well).

Rear detail: The indentation on the reflector (intended for a car's rear view mirror) is perfect for fitting the reflector to the BBQ handle. Tie a cord around the handle, and fix a large paper clip to the cord. Make a hook in the far end of the paper clip. After pinning the reflector in front and looping the elastic over the front handle, raise the rear of the reflector to the desired height, and punch the paper clip's hook right through the reflector to hold it in place. First, though, cover the handle with a sheath of thick cloth ~~ it gets too hot to touch!

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Experience The Great Warming. Exclusive engagements in several US cities, opening Nov. 3, 2006.


SO: Solar Oven, a contraption that, darn it!, cooks using only sunlight
SQ: Solar Barbecue, a solar oven made by converting a standard barbecue