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Learn to cook in a solar oven -- just in time for Houston's summer

Solar ovens come in all shapes and sizes and cost little to make.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

It's July again in Houston, and that means a return of our notorious summer heat and humidity. While you may not want to use your indoor oven because it tends to heat up the interior of your home, you can still cook in an oven by harnessing the heat you're trying to avoid.

Solar ovens take longer than conventional ovens to cook, but they are a great way to introduce your kids to cooking without endangering them by letting them use the stove. Caution still must be exercised because some solar ovens can get up to 400 degrees, depending on the model. Using a solar oven outside can help you to introduce older children respect for the heat of a conventional oven while learning food preparation techniques.

If you want to get your younger children started on solar cooking, use a low-heat solar oven and prepare foods like quesadillas or s'mores. The recipes for those can be found here.

The benefit of cooking with this tool is that you also will not have to heat your kitchen by turning on the oven because you can cook just about anything outside in a solar oven. Whether you want to heat canned foods, cook meats or warm pre-cooked dinner rolls, you can in a solar oven.

Before you begin grabbing your recipe book and converting everything in it to solar oven cooking, some things cannot be prepared as successfully in a solar oven. Foods that require careful temperature control, as all baked goods do, should not be prepared in a solar oven. It's hard to get the oven to the high temperatures required for yeast bread baking, and cakes are very finicky about the temperatures they best bake at. Even a few degrees of temperature discrepancy can ruin a batch of cookies. The best use of a solar oven is to heat prepared foods or keep foods warm.

If you're interested in getting started with solar oven cooking, check out plans for different models here. You will also need to find a spot in your area that gets direct sunlight for most of the day.

Below are some links to solar oven cooking recipes. Use a thermometer in your oven to make sure your device is reaching the recommended temperature range in each recipe.

Cook with the Sun! solar recipes

Solar Oven Society solar recipes

Solar Ovens on Pintrest

Sun Oven recipes

Earth 911 solar oven recipes

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