The next thing I did after I unpacked my Sun Oven and familiarized myself with it was to put it through the pre-use cleaning regimen. That involved heating a pot full of soapy water for about 2 hours and then scrubbing down the inside of the chamber and on the outside around the gasket.
|Soapy water heating up. By the end of the two hours, |
the glass was completely fogged over with condensation.
Even after all that, my Sun Oven still had a lingering chemical smell. I pushed my doubts to the back of my mind and decided that the first recipe I would try would be chocolate chip cookies. After all, I had successfully baked chocolate chip cookies in my mini-van in July. This would be a great test of the merits of the Sun Oven.
While I made a batch of standard chocolate chip cookie dough, I set my Sun Oven outdoors to preheat. It would easily have reached 300 degrees in the cooking chamber within 20 minutes but I forgot to latch the glass lid. Oops!
Once the oven thermometer finally read 300 degrees, I slid the cookies into the chamber.
A less than impressive amount of cookies, eh? Well, I had a hard time coming up with an appropriate pan that would fit into the oven. I settled on using this nonstick cake pan but I could only fit three cookies in at a time. If you are going to get a Sun Oven, I highly suggest that you invest in some cookware. Brownie pansor these toaster oven sheet panswould be ideal. The cool thing about the Sun Oven is that because it is uniform in temperature throughout the entire chamber, you can stack the pans by crisscrossing them and fit several in at one time. They will all cook at the same rate. In my case, the tiny amount of cookies I baked on my solitary cake pan turned out to be a good thing. More on that in a bit.
It took about 20 minutes for the cookies to brown and look like they do when I pull them from the regular oven. They looked great, but what would closer inspection reveal?
|The end result|
The first thing I noticed was the texture. They came out very crispy. When cookies get this brown in my regular oven, they end up chewy, which is the way we prefer it. Lesson #1: Obviously, I can't use the level of browning as an indicator of doneness in a Sun Oven. Next time, I would take the cookies out about 5 minutes earlier.
I took a big bite of a cookie. It tasted like I had eaten a spoonful of baking powder - it was a bitter, chemical taste. I can't even describe how repulsive it was and, needless to say, I ended up spitting it out. I baked the same cookie dough in my regular oven and they came out perfectly, so obviously the chemical smell from the Sun Oven had permeated the cookies baked inside it.
This was disappointing to say the least, especially when you compare the results from my mini-van experiment.
Mini-Van vs. Sun Oven
Outside temperature and season: 110 degrees, late July vs. 75 degrees, mid-September
Time it took to bake the cookies: 2 hours vs. 20 minutes
Appearance: pale vs. browned
Texture: soft, a bit crumbly vs. crispy
Taste: Kids loved them vs. Ended up in the trash
Obviously the Sun Oven is a powerful tool. It certainly has the capability to harness the sun's energy, even on cool days. The chemical taste, however, is unacceptable.
I did the cleaning routine again and the chemical odor has diminished yet further, though it has not completely disappeared. The next thing I cook will be in a covered pot so the odor can't affect the food. I'm hopeful that I'll get this to work yet!
Coming Soon: Sun Oven, Part Three: Can the Sun Oven Work like a CrockPot?