Meet Master Chef Ol’ Sol |

Meet Master Chef Ol’ Sol

John HartBarbara Tonin cooks meatloaf and potatoes and another dish for dinner in a solar oven at her home in Alta Sierra.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Unbelievable as it may sound, simple concentrated sunshine can cook pizzas, breads, meats, vegetables, pies, cakes, rice and even large turkeys.

You can cook just about anything you’d make in an oven or on top of the stove. The time is longer, but the quality is as good, if not better.

In summer 1984, I attended a workshop on solar ovens at Consumnes River College. I was teaching at the time, and energy was an issue.

Our electric company offered energy conservation methods to teachers at a workshop. There we made the solar box cooker that I still use today. In this area, solar cooking is an efficient method.

Solar cooking has been used for some time. In 1764, Horace de Saussure, a French inventor, produced temperatures of 225 degrees in boxes covered with glass and lined with black cork. In the late 1870s, Frenchman Augustin Muchot designed a solar oven that was used by the French Foreign Legion for many years.

Solar cooking can be used during spring or fall, but is most efficient in summer. There are basically two types of solar cooking days:

— Clear and sunny, when ovens will heat up to 275 to 280 degrees or above. During mid-July, my oven reached 300.

— Hazy or partly cloudy, when ovens will heat 200 to 225 degree. On completely cloudy days, solar cooking cannot be done.

On clear days, you can cook or bake anything. On hazy days, you can cook most anything, except bread or cakes.

It is important to follow basic safety when working with a solar oven, because steam and heat can cause injuries. Always use pot holders to handle pots.

Dark pots and pans with lids should be used. Lids are necessary to avoid condensation on the oven glass that would block incoming solar heat. The oven needs to be focused using the prop stick to direct the reflector cover of the oven.

Any conventional recipe that would be suitable for your oven will work in a solar oven. The time needs to be adjusted for the lower temperature. Crockpot recipes work great. Foods use less liquids or cook in their own juices, which produces better-tasting and more nutritious meals.

It is necessary to adjust the cooking time, which gets easier as you gain experience using the solar oven. My husband is a hunter, so I experimented with cooking duck and was very pleased with the quality and taste. When I was teaching, my class enjoyed the solar stew and homemade bread we made.

There are different sizes of ovens; some work great for camping trips. Solar cooking helps keep your kitchen cool on hot days and conserves electricity.

Barbara A. Tonin lives in Alta Sierra.

Impossible Tamale Pie

1 lb. ground beef 2/3 cup Bisquick

1 package taco seasoning mix

2/3 cup milk

1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained 3 eggs

1/2 cup chopped onion 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal

Bake beef and onion for one hour in dark, round roaster; drain. Stir in taco mix. Sprinkle with fresh tomatoes (or one 8-ounce can stewed tomatoes drained and chopped) and corn. Set aside.

Beat together eggs, milk, Bisquick and cornmeal. Pour over ground beef mixture. Cover and bake one to one and half hours.

Pot Roast With


2-3 pounds chuck roast Potatoes, cut in 1-inch pieces

Cut-up carrots

1 package dry onion soup mix

Place vegetables in bottom of dark granite pan and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of water. Put meat on top and sprinkle with the soup mix. Cover and cook 31/2 hours or longer dependent on the weather conditions.


Crustless Apple Pie

6 apples chopped or sliced


1/3 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

Put apples and1/3 cup sugar in buttered round or oval, black roaster and sprinkle with desired amount of cinnamon. Work together flour, brown sugar and butter and sprinkle over apples. Bake in solar oven about two hours. When cool, serve with ice cream.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User