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Solar cooker + mirror-finish reflector = high performance clean cooking

Solavore solar cooker
When you pair a lightweight and efficient solar cooker with a reflector that has a mirror-like finish, as Solavore has done with its Solar Oven and TR-86 Reflector, you end up with a remarkable low-cost and high performance zero-carbon cooking appliance.

I’ve been using the Solavore Sport solar cooker for almost a year now, and considering how easy it is to use in almost any climate, it’s surprising that more people aren’t getting onboard the solar cooker train. With a solar oven, the sun provides all of the energy for slow-cooking a wide variety of meals, which means that not only do you save money on utility costs, but you also reap the tasty benefits of a slow-cooked meal without having to do much more than put all the ingredients together in the morning.

I previously reviewed the Solavore Sport solar cooker here, but just to recap, here’s a little refresher:

“The Sport, which is made entirely in the US and weighs just 9 pounds (4 kg), has a base made from injection-molded resin, with an inch of closed cell foam insulation between the outer and inner powder-coated liner, and can maintain high enough oven temperatures during brief cloudy periods to keep food cooking (“thirty minutes of bright sun out of every sixty will keep you cooking”). The top, or lid, also integrates a double-layer insulating system, although with an inch of dead air space instead of foam, and although it fits snugly on the oven, it also features metal clips for securing the lid (handy on windy days), as well as attachment points for the reflector system if needed.”

how a solar cooker works

And now the Solavore solar cooker has a new reflector accessory, the TR-86 (which stands for Total Reflectance of 86% – an almost mirror-like finish), so those looking to enhance their winter cooking experience (when the sun is lower in the sky), or have faster pre-heat times and higher possible temperatures, should take a look at adding this detachable accessory to their solar oven.

According to the company, the TR-86 has a few other advantages as well:

“The anodizing process hardens and coats the aluminum, creating a weather, and tarnish-resistant surface on the reflector that will keep the finish looking like new for years. Like the original, the TR86 reflector is detachable – a distinguishing feature of the Solavore Sport – enabling worry-free unattended slow cooking. Fingerprints can be cleaned off the reflector and as always it won’t burn children’s hands.”

The TR-86 solar cooker reflector does indeed have a remarkably mirror-like finish, and I was surprised at how effective the new reflector was at quickly bringing the solar oven up to cooking temperatures, even on days with short hours of sunshine and cold outside temperatures. This new reflector could be a serious game-changer for those who live in northern climates, with short winter days and much lower temperatures than I experience here in southern New Mexico.

The Solavore Sport solar cooker by itself is $239, or with the TR-86 reflector it costs $287, and both options include two 2-quart graniteware pots with lids, an oven thermometer, a water pasteurization indicator (WAPI), and a user manual with quick-start solar cooking recipes.

Here are three solar cooker tips for wintertime cooking:

1.Use your reflectors. ‘Tis the season to capture every ray you can.
2. Get an early start. This month the sun is at its lowest point all year; don’t wait until after noon to start cooking.
3. Experiment with using the Sport in its winter angle (Solavore Sport logo down). The “floor” measures 8” x 18” in this position, so loaf pans work great, as does a 7 ½” x 11 ½” metal casserole from the discount store; squash can simply sit on the floor of the oven, halved and cleaned; root vegetables, roasted garlic, onions – wrap in foil and bake away!

The above tips come from Dave Gillmore, who also filmed the following winter solar cooking video in December at 5º F.

Learn more about solar cookers at Solavore.

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