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for a wee bit.

 

 

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Solavore Sport - solar oven / solar cooker review  RSS feed

 
Jocelyn Campbell
master steward
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Location: Missoula, MT
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I give this solar oven 8 out of 10 acorns.

Some times, you think it would be a good idea to use something we permies call "appropriate technology" and then life gets in the way of trying it. I've been exposed to solar cookers, but have never cooked in one myself, until now.

I'm hooked.

The kind folks at Solavore sent us their Solavore Sport to try out. What a wonderful gift!




Today, I tried it out on two simple things. It worked like a dream.

Here's the quick summary. I'll explain more about these following.

PROS:
  • arrived in minimal, efficient packaging
  • lightweight
  • simple to use
  • safe to use, little chance of scorching or burning food
  • readable, organized instructions - including succinct, clear info on food safety in terms of cooking temperatures
  • bonus info and gadget about water pasteurization
  • great cooking pots
  • heats up quickly
  • easy to clean
  • secure from flies and critters
  • more affordable than other solar cookers
  • company ethics that many will appreciate
  • affiliate program

  • CONS:
  • it's plastic (we're trying to move away from plastic)
  • cooks at low temperature mostly/only
  • clips - a bit difficult to put on, and ironically, seem flimsy
  • not big enough for feast night quantities

  • This type of solar cooker is a solar box oven, which means it works similar to a slow cooker or a crock pot. I adore crock pot cooking, I even "bake" things in crock pots, and I had not realized how similar these methods are until today. In the heat this summer, I've taken to plugging in crock pots out on the back porch to keep the heat outside of the house, and this is even better - no electricity needed at all! Plus, I think it's more secure from flies and critters since a crock pot lid has that edge between the lid and the pot that some times slips to make a gap and where flies could hang out and do their nasty things.

    The easy instructions talk about centering your shadow over the oven to make sure it's facing south. This was at about 10:20 a.m. facing a bit southeast. Check.



    Half an hour later, I had food ready to put in and the oven was at 235 degrees F. I put in one pot of some Italian sausages and vegetables, one pot of eggs - like hard boiled, but no water needed. (The picture was taken from the top side to avoid the shadow. )



    An hour later, the solar oven was at 200 degrees F due to still trying to recover from the two masses of what had been thoroughly refrigerated foods.

    I got distracted with other things and forgot to check on the eggs after the recommended 1.5 to 2 hours. I think I pulled them out at about 2.75 hours, so the edges of the yolks are slightly green, but I thought that was far better than underdone! And they peeled fairly easily while warm, too. I was already liking not having to have hot boiling water or hot steam in the kitchen!



    Temperatures averaged about 235F in the oven most of the day, and I could have removed our dinner in early afternoon, but we weren't hungry yet, so I pulled it out around 3:30 p.m.



    I had quickly skimmed the instructions before using the Sport, and was impressed by how smartly the information was laid out and presented. It made using the Sport easier than I thought. After removing the eggs and our dinner, I was excited to learn more about what I could do and read through the booklet a bit more thoroughly. Some things cook differently in the solar oven:  primarily, not as much water is needed, and it was often recommended to cook the water and grains separately first, then combine.

    The plastic is what makes it so lightweight, which is one of the huge upsides of the Sport, even if it's not our preferred material. I really don't know how else something this size could be made out of anything else and still be such a manageable weight. The clips are a bit difficult to put on because they're supposed to fit tightly and create a good seal. I think my impression of the clips being "flimsy" is also part of the lightweight design. Thicker metal would weigh more and might not offer more strength.

    Oh! I didn't even add the reflectors to the top of the solar oven. Speaking of the reflectors, I gained a fun little insight about using them. I was posting about my solar cooked eggs on Facebook and a friend, Amy Grisak, wrote:

    I have the Solavore Sport. I bake carrot cake in there, and even won the best yeast bread at the Montana State Fair. I haven't been able to find anything I can't cook in there.

    When I asked Amy if she uses the reflectors, she replied:

    I do when I'm baking, but often don't need to when I'm making ribs or other meals.

    I'm curious how I might use it for feast night quantities (feeding 8-15 people) as the instructions explain it's better to use multiple, smaller pots for better heat-to-food contact. In the mean time, I think it might become my preferred cooking method for Paul and myself.

    I haven't even gone into pricing, company ethics, or the affiliate program, all of which I think are excellent. I looked up the pricing of a few different solar ovens when I heard the Sport was on its way to us, and I thought this one had the best value, but chose not to detail that research here because I haven't actually used the others.

    The Sport was a gift to us for our review, for which I am of course incredibly grateful, though I think I was still quite open in my critique. Being new to solar cooking, I was pleasantly surprised by almost all aspects of using this device. In short, I highly recommend it!





     
    John Weiland
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    Jocelyn,

    Nice review.  You've pointed out many of the things I like as well about the Solvare sport.  I think you guys are at about the same latitude as I, but you may have the advantage of clearer sun from the mountain air.

    As you noted, it's great to have a lot of long, slow cooking done outside.  As a routine, I will leave pots of beans (often started from dry....not pre-soaked beans) in the oven in the morning and go off to work.  Beans are done when I arrive home....can be used for refried beans, etc. or even chickpeas that can be used in middle-eastern dishes.  Rice needs to be watched.  In my experience it over-cooks over an 8 hour day.  And it's great to have cookies in the summer...normally we will not start the oven at all during the summer months.  I've also experimented with using a drying rack and leaving the lid on, but unclipped (unsealed), which works okay to dry-bake some things, but not enough air-flow with our humidity to dry things like tomatoes.  On a sunny day when I'm all out of ideas, I will just place a pan of water in there and get it hot for doing the dishes later on.  And to date, I have not used the reflectors, though could see where they could increase oven temp on a hot, sunny day.

    Clips:  Yeah, the one frustration, but not that big of a deal given the elegance, spaciousness, and dimensions of the oven.  Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend the following, I got a bit tired of wrenching my fingers when trying to clip the lid into place.  Soooooo...I figured that the metal of the clip was "springy", but bendable.  So for the top three clips, I bent them a biiiiiit more open than the way it was shipped.  The bottom clips I left alone....if you tilt the cover a bit when fastening the bottom clips, they go on much easier.  It's just that when these are in place, the top clips will be struggle (and vice versa if you do the top clips first).  With the top 3 clips bent a bit more open I *may* be sacrificing some sealing of the lid, so please note this for anyone wishing to try it.  In the end, I have not noticed any huge difference in cooking times this year after having bent the clips at the start of the summer.  Still, bend at your own risk.....and here's hoping Solvare maybe comes up with a better solution down the road for this part of the design.

    This evening's dish was some seitan....which survived even after one of the pet pigs knocked over the chair it was perched on to see what smelled so good!  Fortunately, the clips held fast, the low level broth in the pot had pretty much simmered away to nothing, and the seitan was in good shape and already done.  So I like this unit for many purposes, but you mentioned the "set it and forget it" aspect which has been great for days at work.  Photo below is of something my wife was doing, trying to extract some essential oils from various plants.
    oils1.jpg
    [Thumbnail for oils1.jpg]
     
    Tim Skufca
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    We have a "Sun Oven" which I've seen get to temperatures above 350F. The mirrors concentrate the sun into the oven. It's truly amazing. One must be more vigilant with what is being cooked though. My garbonzo beans cooked and then started drying because I left it too long - but a bit more water/stock brought the beans back to life in no time.

    Similar down-sides as it is plastic and holds about the same as the Solvare. It's also not cheap.

    Sun Oven: https://www.sunoven.com/
     
    Jan Cooper
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    Question: Anyone with a good source for pots with lids for solar cooker?
    So far, the camping store sells as a set with 3 out of 4 pots I don't need.  Any Ideas?
     
    Tyler Ludens
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    I've used Graniteware.  http://graniteware.com/
     
    Jocelyn Campbell
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    Tim Skufca wrote:We have a "Sun Oven" which I've seen get to temperatures above 350F. The mirrors concentrate the sun into the oven. It's truly amazing. One must be more vigilant with what is being cooked though. My garbonzo beans cooked and then started drying because I left it too long - but a bit more water/stock brought the beans back to life in no time.

    Similar down-sides as it is plastic and holds about the same as the Solvare. It's also not cheap.

    Sun Oven: https://www.sunoven.com/


    Does the Sun Oven hold about the same? I was thinking it was smaller inside.

    The Solarvore Sport can be purchased without the reflectors, making it more affordable, IMHO. We actually received reflectors with ours, but I haven't tried them yet. I imagine they could get the temperatures up higher like your Sun Oven, Tim!

    Jan, Tyler is correct that they are Granite Ware pots and I really like them! Even overcooked scrambled egg cleaned off easily. The Solavore site also sells the pot size that fits in their ovens here. Or, for options including insulating wraps for the pots and all of the Solavore options, see their full product shop here.

     
    Tim Skufca
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    I believe the Solavore is bigger.  There is another advantage I failed to mention: when cooking on a cloudy-ish day, and one needs all the sun that is available, the Sun Oven tilts to the angle of the sun, and the rack inside swivels to stay level. It is a good design for maximizing on the sun's heat.
     
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