Cooking With Alt-Power

- Steamed Rice -

This is the first of a series of articles I'm putting together about how to use Alt-Power to cook food.  You might try this to be greener, or be looking for other methods of cooking food when the grid goes down. 

We're in central Florida, lightning capital of the USA.  Also a frequent target for hurricanes.  Last major outage for the local area was in 2004.  We had two back to back hurricanes knock out power for 18 days.  We've had other, much shorter outages, since that time.  Hurricane season starts again in less than two months.  Here we go again.

When the grid goes down, how do you plan on cooking food?  The locals often fire up the BBQ grill.  That works as long as you have fuel, is weather dependent (not grilling in driving rain), and might attract unwanted attention.

Solar cookers do work, but need a sunny day, and get a lot of mixed results on the web.  Also take many hours to provide cooked food.  Big reflective box in the yard also might get the neighbors curious about "what's for dinner?"

With the battery bank, inverter, and solar panels, I can cook everyday, using common appliance inside my home.  For those without all the hardware, you could connect an inverter to your automobile's battery, run your engine, and do the same thing.  Running the engine prevents depleting the battery. 


The Setup


The steamer I'm using is a Black & Decker HS900.  Nothing fancy.  It'll cook rice, veggies, and meats.  For this test, I'm cooking a couple cups of rice.

The peak wattage observed was 590 Watts.

The total cook time was 36 minutes.

Total number of watts was 0.34 KWH, or 340 WH.

Fluff & serve.

2 cups of uncooked rice makes about 4 cups of cooked rice.


From the comfort of my kitchen, away from the nasty weather and pesky neighbors, I could easily cook using this method.  Nice part of having a battery bank is being able to use the energy whenever I need it.  The solar array can replenish the energy the next morning if cooking at night, or during a storm. 

For this task, I used 340 Watt Hours / 12 Volts = 28.3 Amp Hours.


During the peak of the day, the 610W solar array is supplying a tad over 29 Amps.

You could power the steamer with a generator, or use a propane stove to boil the water, but eventually you'll run out of resources during a major outage.  The sun shows up most everyday, and quietly recharges the batteries.  This isn't the method most people think of when someone mentions solar cooking, but that's really what it is.  My next step is to hardwire an Alt-Power outlet in the kitchen.  A heavy duty extension cord to the inverter in the garage does work, but it's less than convenient.  Project for another day...


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Last updated 04/05/11    All rights reserved.