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Frequently Asked Questions
Why use a Solar Cooker?
– It is one of the best, most flavorful, most cost effective way to cook
– It uses the sun’s free energy
– It is a renewable energy source
– It can cook food without the need for electricity, wood, petroleum or other fuels
– It can pasteurize liquids (water and milk) safely in minutes for safe drinking, preventing many diseases
– It saves trees, other resources, and our environment
– It eliminates air pollution and breathing harmful smoke while cooking
– It can cook food with little or no stirring, without burning
– It will kill bacteria, viruses and pathogens in the food you cook and the liquids you drink
How does it works?
Solar cookers work on the basic principle that sunlight is converted into heat energy that is retained for cooking. Sunlight is the fuel. A solar cooker needs an outdoor spot that is sunny for several hours and protected from strong wind, and where food will be safe.
The funnel: The Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker reflector panel is made from a unique material that is designed to last for years, with good care. It comes with a special coating to protect the reflective surface from the sun’s rays. It was specifically designed for Solar Zenith. It utilizes a unique and specially engineered parabolic funnel design that reflects the suns energy to a vertical axis, or column, in the center of the funnel. More energy is disseminated along this vertical line making Solar Flare more efficient than other solar cookers. The Solar Flare Solar Cooker’s parabolic design also enables it to cook food more quickly than other solar cookers. Most meals can be cooked in approximately one hour, thus eliminating the need to watch over the solar cooker. A minimal adjustment of the reflector to follow the sun and stirring the contents of the cooking vessel ensure even cooking. Do this about every 45 minutes. The reflector panel is best stored flat to avoid roll memory. If left in the box for prolonged periods of time, the reflector will need to be brought back to its original form by rolling the opposite direction or allowing it to lie flat for some time prior to use. Any memory in the reflector will not effect the performance of the cooker.
The cooking vessel: To convert sunlight into heat energy a dark surface is required. Dark surfaces absorb sunlight and become very hot, whereas light surfaces reflect the sunlight. Food cooks best in containers that are dark, shallow, or, in the case of the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker, a taller narrow container with tight-fitting lids to hold in heat and moisture. The Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker uses a specially coated cooking vessel that is intended to absorb the sun’s energy and heat quickly, therefore cooking meals or pasteurizing liquids more rapidly than other solar cookers.
The bag: Another feature critical to the performance of the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker is the environmental “greenhouse” cooking bag. This is a clear, heat-resistant plastic bag, engineered for high temperatures. The bag aids to build and retain heat, without letting the outside breezes and cooler air affect the cooking vessel. As a transparent environmental heat trap, the bag surrounds the dark cooking vessel letting the sun’s energy in while not allowing the thermal energy out. The bag can be omitted on a hot, sunny and non breezy day (ideally in the summer).
The riser: There are four plastic containers with lids; we refer to them as ‘risers’. These are placed under the cooking vessel to elevate the cooking vessel to the exact height for maximum cooking efficiency. The clear riser assists in transferring the sun’s energy by holding the heat and to allowing sunlight to pass through it. In addition, this shaped container was designed to withstand high temperatures, it will allow positioning of the vessel to help compensate for the angle of the sun, and to provide a container in which food can be served or stored. It is worthwhile to note that any insulator such as a block of wood, coiled rope or even sticks will also work, in an emergency.
Why do you use canning jars?
When you open your Solar Flare Solar Cooker Kit you will notice we have incorporated the use of common recognized canning jars. Why did we do this? First, the jars are readily available and inexpensive. Second, the jars are tempered glass and designed for canning at high temperatures and pressures. Third, they can be replaced easily, by yourself or by your order through Solar Zenith.
Will my food burn in the Solar Flare Solar Cooker?
We have yet to experience any burnt food. When you place your meal in the Solar Flare and direct it toward the sun the food will continue to cook until the sun moves across the sky and less and less energy is focused on the cooking vessel. This usually takes about an hour for the sun to move from its direct focus. Eventually, the sun may not hit the Solar Flare at all and the vessel will begin to cool. At this point the canning lid seals. WE DO NOT recommend our process for the preservation of food.
Can I cook during the winter months?
The Solar Flare Solar Cooking System can be used during the winter months; all that is needed is sunlight. As the sun moves closer to the southern horizon in the winter, solar cookers are naturally less effective. Because the sun is lower in the sky, it may require some adjusting or tilting of the funnel to capture the most sunlight. This adjustment allows the weaker sun rays to strike the entire surface of the jar. Solar cookers naturally work better when the UV index is in the range 7 or greater. In the winter cooking efficiency is diminished but can be accomplished through additional adjustment and increasing the cooking time. The solar “minimum” for the northern hemisphere occurs on winter solstice, about December 21st each year. The solar “maximum” occurs six months later, June 21st. Solar cooking works best from about March 20 – October 1 in the north. If you try to cook with the sun for the first time outside of this time window, do not be discouraged. Continue to experiment with the proper tilting and adjustment of your Solar Flare, understanding that all solar cookers work best when the sun is the most directly overhead. Raising the cooking vessel a little higher up, about 1-1/2inches, inside the reflector with improve winter cooking. This reduces the amount of tilt on the reflector required to gather the sun’s energy. We use a small square piece of wood and place it under the plastic riser in the center of the pail. Another technique, besides positioning the cooking vessel and the reflector in the most optimum manner within the pail, is to suspend the cooking vessel from a string within the funnel. This technique, once perfected, could make cooking faster any time of the year.
How does it cook?
The Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker functions like a small pressure cooker. The cooking vessel is made of tempered glass and comes with a two piece canning lid. The canning lids are designed to relieve pressure at the edges of the lid. We recommend that the securing ring is tightened ONLY finger tight- just snug, not overly tight. If tightened too tight pressure will build in the vessel and it might break. With the lid snugly in place the pressure and heat begin to build in the cooking vessel. It is because of the pressure and heat that cooking time is reduced by half when compared to other solar cookers.
What types of food can I cook?
All types of food can be cooked in the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker. Anything that you can cook in a pot can be cooked in the Solar Flare. At this point we have not attempted fried food, but with further experimentation we might get there also. It is recommended that you experiment with your Solar Flare to determine what foods you enjoy and how to cook them. Dried food flavors are enhanced when re-hydrated and cooked in the Solar Flare because of the unique pressure cooker feature. This is a good thing to keep in mind for preparedness and food storage.
How to use the spoons included in the Solar Zenith 72+ Hour Emergency Survival Kit?
Besides eating and stirring with, the spoons are used to measure the food. To get 1 serving of cooked food measure 1/4 cup of dry mix. To get 1/4 cup of dry mix use 4 spoonfuls of dry mix.
Where can I order more parts?
Replacement parts for all Solar Flare components are available by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or using our website.
Can I purchase cookers in bulk?
Yes, bulk purchases are available. Feel free to contact us for details on quantity and price.
I’d like to share experiences, recipes, etc., with you for other customers…
Thank you! Yes, we would welcome any tricks, successes, experiences that you’ve had. We have a number of people that have approached us on these points. We receive wonderful advice and counsel from our friends and our customers. One thing we can all relate to is we are in this together.
Some of my food is still hard or under cooked?
Check the cooking vessel about 45 minutes or 1 hour into the cooking process. If there is condensation in the bag check the food. Let cooking vessel rest 2-3 minutes, then open jar and stir contents to check if done. If more time is needed, cook for an additional 10 -20 minutes then check again. This will help to ensure even cooking. You might want to cut the size of your vegetables smaller, so the cooking time is shorter. To make sure you are maximizing the energy of the sun, focus the funnel directly at the sun, and then advance it a little so the path of the sun will move into your funnel over the next hour. Depending on your individual longitude and latitude you may need to make some adjustments, but once you figure out what works best for you and your situation it becomes clockwork. It takes a little trial and error to get your cooking system polished for your particular needs. Just stick with it.
Can I bake cookies or brownies in the cooker?
We do not recommend baking cookies or brownies in the cooking vessel, though it can be done. These items are fairly dense that may cause the vessel to break. To drop a glob of brownie or cookie dough into the vessel could create thermal shock, or a concentrated hot spot that may be too great for the vessel to handle. If you choose to try these items it will be at your own risk.
Can the solar flare be used as a refrigerator?
The Solar Flare Solar Cooking System can be used as a refrigeration unit. During the day, the sun’s rays are reflected onto the cooking vessel which becomes hot quickly. At night the reverse is true, heat from the vessel is radiated outward, towards empty space, which is a “heat sink”.
The following are the steps required for the best refrigeration results: The ambient temperature (the surrounding temperature) will need to be 50°F (-2°C) or below, in order for the refrigeration process to work successfully; obviously, the lower the temperature the greater the success.
For Daytime or Night time Use: Set-up the Solar Flare Solar Cooker as normal except the funnel now is directed towards the open sky away from the sun, with no obstructions such as buildings, trees, etc. (The thermal radiation from walls, trees, or even clouds will diminish the cooling effect.)
For the best results try the refrigeration process after sunset. Using this process, the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker will cool the contents of the cooking vessel approximately 20 degrees below the ambient temperature. It helps to place 2 (two) bags around the cooking vessel instead of just one, with air spaces between the bags and between the inner bag and the cooking vessel. The nearly transparent bags work well for the transfer of the infrared radiation, allowing it to escape into the “heat sink” of the dark sky.
How long will the cooker last?
The Solar Flare Solar Cooker does not have a shelf life. The components will last indefinitely when cared for properly. Over time the cooking vessel lid, bags, and twist-ties may need to be replaced to maintain peak performance. These items can be found at your local supermarket at minimal cost. Our original cooker is still in use after more than 10 years.
What are the dimensions of the Solar Flare?
The Solar Flare dimensions when assembled are 20x27x16 inches. When laying flat the reflector dimensions are 20x40inches. The cooking vessel is 3×6.5 inches – it is a quart size container.
What temperatures does the Solar Flare reach?
The cooking vessel will maintain the temperature of the food or liquid inside. However, the external temperature of the cooking vessel is much hotter. On a sunny summer day we’ve reached temperatures of between 300-400 degrees F.
Your Solar Flare Solar Cooker Kit includes two pails with two lids, and four plastic ‘riser’ cups with two lids. The pails and lids are designed to support the parabolic Solar Flare reflector, hold all your various Solar Flare components together in one place when not in use, act as a wash basin for clean-up before and after your meal, and a container with which to prepare your food, and it can also be used to serve and eat your food. The small ‘riser’ cups can also be used to store smaller components and to serve and eat your meal. The Solar Flare Solar Cooker is designed to be compact and easily transported. It can easily be carried in a backpack. Place the pail(s) at the floor of your backpack with the contents inside. The reflector can be rolled up and placed vertically in your pack.