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Solar Cooker Teacher Kit Review by Kate Kessler

Solar Cookers International
1919 21st Street, Ste. 101
Sacramento, CA 95811

The Solar Cooker Kit from Solar Cookers International is a wonderful educational kit. However, before I get to the kit, I want to tell you about Solar Cookers International. They are a nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, California with an office in Nairobi, Kenya. "Since its founding in 1987 SCI has spread solar cooking skills and technologies worldwide. Over 30,000 families have benefited directly from SCI's field projects and countless others have used SCI's resources to learn how to make and use solar cookers and teach others to do the same." The have helped refugee camps in various African locations where fuel is scarce and the people are in great need. This is a neat company!

In the kit you will find the following: the solar cooking unit called the CooKit, a black pot for the food itself, Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI), educational posters, and the Suncookers DVD. The DVD is an 18-minute documentary that takes it viewers on a journey across western Kenya as they visit SCI's solar cooking projects in various refugee camps. The DVD also includes the following resources in printable PDF format: Solar Cookers: How to Make, Use and Enjoy, solar cooker recipes in various languages, a diagram for making your own CooKit, solar cooking stories to inspire you, among other bonus features. This is a valuable resource all on its own. Spreading Solar Cooking Leaders' Guide also came with my Kit, but on the website this is not included.

How do solar cook kits work? The sunlight is the energy or fuel you use to cook your food. No cost but the daylight! A solar cooker needs an outdoor spot that will be sunny for several hours. In my neck of the woods, this is not a tall order at all. They will not, obviously, work at night or on cloudy days. Because dark colors absorb the heat, the pot you cook in is black with a tight-fitting lid. Within the CooKit, there are several large clear plastic bags that fit over the whole pot. It acts as a "transparent heat trap" that holds the heat around the pot. The shiny reflectors of the CooKit capture the extra sunlight from the area surrounding the pot. This area is roughly three times the size of the pot. The pot will make a meal for four to six people, depending on what you choose to cook.

What can you cook? Almost anything you set your mind to: meats, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, desserts or even bake bread. It is essentially an oven in the open run by the sun.

Winter is the only time of year that (at least in my area of Sacramento, California) that we are limited. Their general rule is that you can use the CooKit when the "length of your shadow on the ground is shorter than your height." The CooKit comes with very detailed instructions. You will not have any questions as to how to make this work for your family. They also share that you can actually cook twice a day--a meal to be ready for lunch and one for dinner. The sun is the hottest between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and they suggest that it is at that time that you should cook, if you are going to, breads or pastries.

The Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) is one of the more fascinating aspects to this kit. Obviously intended for third world situations, this would be an excellent preparedness supply to have on hand for the unknown emergency situation. You can pasteurize either water or milk with this small device and the CooKit. Complete instructions are given in the kit so I will not go into detail here, but suffice it to say, a child can figure out whether the liquid is safe to use or not.

So what happens if you take your Solar Kit camping and you forget the instructions? Fear not - they even thought of that! They have them all written on the back of the CooKit. All you really need is your pot, the food, and the CooKit and you are ready to make some delicious food. A solid emergency preparedness necessity, great for camping, and just plain fun for every day use in the homeschool. This is a highly recommended resource. Let's get solar cooking!

Product review by Kate Kessler, Product Reviews Manager, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2010