What could be more fun that creating your own solar oven to cook s’mores as we enter this beautiful fall season. Solar ovens use solar energy (light and heat emitted from the sun) to cook food. So, what is the science behind it?
Sunlight is the fuel. A solar cooker needs an outdoor spot that is sunny for several hours and protected from strong wind where food will be safe. Solar cookers do not work on cloudy days and at night.
Convert sunlight to heat energy:
Dark surfaces get very hot in sunlight whereas light colored surfaces do not. Food cooks best in dark, shallow, pans / ovens with tight fitting lids so the heat and moisture is retained.
One or more shiny surfaces reflects extra sunlight onto the oven increasing its heat potential. Similar to when you swim and the water reflects light onto your skin, materials like aluminum foil can help reflect the light and enhance the heat potential.
So let’s get ready to build a solar oven ourselves and cook some yummy s’mores!
- Cardboard box / pizza box
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap or bag
- Black construction paper
- Heavy tape
- Glue stick
- Thermometer (for cooking)
- Chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows
How to create your solar oven:
- Put together the pizza box and trace a square on the top 2-3 inches in from the edge. Cut out three of the edges of the square to create an oven door. This will be important for you to have visibility to the s’mores as you cook them and also allow you to control the heat in your oven.
- Use aluminum foil, black paper, glue and tape to line the oven and decorate it. Remember, dark colors like black absorb the light and will help retain heat in your oven. Aluminum foil reflects light and will help in aligning the light into your oven.
- Place your s’mores in the bottom of the box.
- Tape a thermometer next to the smores.
- Cover the inside of the box (above the s’mores, below the lid) with plastic wrap to seal the area where the s’mores will cook.
- Cover the lid and tape the lid down.
- Be sure you now have a sealed oven with s’mores inside of it. You should be able to lift the flap to see your s’mores cooking.
Running the experiment:
- Write down the outside temperature. What temperature do you think your over can reach? How sunny is it today?
- Write down what angle you think will be most optimal to cook your smores.
- Take your oven outside and record the initial temperature on your oven and angle towards the sun.
- Continue to take recordings every 5 minutes.
- The chocolate will be your indicator and you will eventually see it start to melt. Depending on how you like your s’mores, you can continue to bake in the oven in the sun for up to about an hour to get an optimal s’more depending on the temperature and availability of the sun.
- Now you get to eat the s’mores!