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Posted to
Oct. 13, 2006

You are really wise to get some good info on cooking meat. But to sum it up, basically it's completely safe to cook any well-handled, well-refrigerated meat in a solar oven, as long as the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 160 deg F or higher. If your SO stays at 180 or higher for several hours, and you leave the meat in it for several hours, that meat is cooked. The only exception is ground meat, which can always be a potential source of the deadly form of e-coli, due to the huge amount of surface area throughout ground meat. (Germs don't grow inside meat, only on its surfaces.)

Here's the story in more detail.

The best info, to my mind anyway, is the analysis of the slow-cooking of meats that Adelle Davis did back in the good old days of health food awareness (in her book, Let's Cook It Right). By way of introduction, Adelle Davis was a biochemist with a Master of Science degree from University of Southern Calif, and counselled thousands of people on health and nutrition, as well as writing the astounding books that spearheaded the entire health food movement. (Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit is her most famous one.)

In her cookbook, Let's Cook It Right, Adelle advised the slow-cooking of meat at low temperatures, the reason being that the higher the temperature, the more the protein, vitamins and enzymes are destroyed in the meats. She describes chefs' ovens called "warming ovens," which are designed to stay at 180 degrees F. Meat can actually be cooked in these ovens, she says (why are we not surprised?), and she goes on to list the internal temperatures at which various meats are finished cooking. She was really foreshadowing the entire solar cooking experience in these discussions.

I've listed these meat temperatures online at but here is the info direct. As you can see, meat that reaches 180 degrees F, internal temperature, is done, done, done. Most meats are done quite a ways below 180. If meat is left in an SO for several hours, its internal temperature will reach the temperature of the solar oven. Thus if your SO reaches 180 or higher, that meat will also definitely reach 180 degrees if left in for several hours.

When my SO was getting 160, we twice made chicken legs, leaving them in all day. They browned nicely (I was surprised at that), and were delicious. We're now at 220 (thanks to Vern's encouragement!!), which of course is quicker cooking, and more reassuring as well.

To measure the internal temperature of meat, one needs a "Meat Thermometer" which pierces into the meat. You put the tip of the thermometer approximately in the center of the piece of meat you're cooking. You can leave it in as the meat cooks, or put it in at the end of cooking to check.

It's important to know that germs do not grow inside the flesh of the meat, but only on the cut surfaces of the meat. It's a very good practice to thoroughly rinse all meat surfaces before cooking it ~ this removes a huge proportion of any germs on the meat.

Since hamburger (and any other type of ground meat) has so much cut surface area, it is one of the most dangerous meats to cook. Almost all e-coli poisoning deaths in the US are caused by people eating hamburger in restaurants, I was told by a PhD biochemist. If making meat loaves or hamburgers or sausages in the SO, I would not feel safe unless they'd been cooked at 220 or higher for several hours. (Of course, home-raised meats are nowhere near as dangerous for the deadly strain of e-coli, much as the agribusiness folks would have us believe otherwise.)

TYPE OF MEAT, followed by Internal Temperature when finished cooking, in degrees Fahrenheit (from Adelle Davis)

Beef, less tender cuts:
Rare, 135
Medium, 150
Well done, 160
Beef, tender cuts: 
Rare, 140
Medium, 155
Well done, 165
Chicken, roasting or stewing, 185
Duck, young, 185
Goose, young, 185
Ham, home-cured, 165-170
Ham , tenderized, 150-155
Lamb, leg, 155-160
Lamb, shoulder, 155-160
Liver, uncut, 145-160
Mutton, leg or shoulder, 180-185
Pork roast, 165-170
Roast suckling pig, 165-170
Rabbit, 180
Spareribs, 180-185
Turkey, large or small, 180-185
Veal, standing or rolled roast, 180-185
There's a really good illustration of all the cooking temperatures, and what happens in each range, at the famous Solar Cooking Archive.


"Cooked food at temperatures between 50 F and 125 F ... can grow harmful bacteria. This temperature range is known as the danger zone. To protect against food poisoning, microbiologists and home economists strongly recommend that food be kept either above or below these temperatures. These precautions are the same whether food is cooked with gas, electricity, microwaves, wood fire, or solar heat as well as foods cooked by retained heat, crock pot, barbecue pit or any other method."

Food Safety List of Temperatures
(in Degrees Fahrenheit, from Solar Cooking Archive)
  • 50-125, Danger Zone, microorganisms might grow in food; don't keep food at these temperatures for any length of time (putting meat into solar oven when meat is frozen or cold is ok, as long as SO will be heating normally)
  • 120, Most germs can't grow once this temperature is reached; most dangerous germs grow around body temperature ~ makes sense!
  • 150, Water is pasteurized (sterilized)
  • 160, Food is pasteurized (sterilized)
  • 180, Food cooks (actually, it cooks below this, we can attest)
  • 212, Water boils
  • 200-275, "Solar Box Cooking"

To sum up, basically any meat, except ground meat, is safe to cook in an SO that gets above 180 degrees F for several hours.

Ground meat of any kind should be handled with extreme caution when doing solar cooking. In fact, always. As long as it is very fresh, comes from a source that never mishandles its meat, has been kept well-refrigerated right up to cooking time, is cooked for a long time at 180 F or above, and reaches at least 160 deg F internal temperature, it is almost certainly safe.

For myself, I feel that eating hamburger meat is like playing Russian Roulette. Moreover, burnt-out dairy cows (which die at 2 to 5 years of age due to being milked 5 times a day without adequate nutrition) are routinely sold for human-consumption hamburger, and the things they feed, put into, and do to dairy cows are always astounding to read about. If you can afford it, please consider never buying the cheapest milk or meat ~ this only supports the very worst meat and milk production methods, and makes it hard for the conscientious farmers to stay in business.

Thanks to everyone for your enthusiastic posts!


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