So, this month we’re celebrating National Preparedness month and we’re going to share a few of the off-grid cooking methods we’ve been practicing this summer. I am NOT an expert in this DIY stuff, just so ya know! Growing up, I went “camping” every year with my family but we always went to a KOA Kampground…at the beach. So, does that actually count? Anyway, one of my favorite off grid cooking options is definitely my solar oven. So, here we are sharing an easy, peasy solar oven recipe: Budget Chicken Dinner.
Solar Oven Recipes
Solar ovens are a great option if you enjoy any amount of sun during the year. Right now, we live in Utah and we average 226 days of sun per year. Even in the winter you can plan to use your solar oven recipes as long as the sun is shining, they just usually take a bit longer. You can use any regular oven recipe for your solar oven but your timing will be very different. The best part about using your solar oven is that its absolutely free to use since it’s powered by the sun!
The other thing to keep in mind when using any solar oven recipe in your standard oven is that solar ovens move a lot more moisture around inside and so food doesn’t dry out the way it does in a regular oven. That means that bread never really browns up like you might be used to but it also means that you rarely burn anything in a solar oven.
Just a handy tip: when I’m taking items to my solar oven outside, I now make sure to use a bag instead of trying to juggle everything in my hands because when I don’t, I invariably discover why I’d make a lousy clown.
Solar Oven Recipe: Budget Chicken Dinner
Roast a chicken with veggies just like you would in your oven or slow roaster, but use your solar oven instead!
- 1 Whole Chicken
- 1 Tbsp each of Granulated Garlic, Oregano and Thyme
- 3-5 White and Sweet Potatoes, washed and pricked with a fork
Pre-heat your solar oven by placing it in direct sunlight at least an hour before you need to cook your chicken. Depending on cloud cover and ambient temperature, it could take much less time to bring your oven up to 250F/121C.
Using an oven safe dish (probably your solar oven came with one), place chicken inside and apply herbs to the top of the bird and rub in gently. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a sliced onion over the top, if you like.
Tuck whole potatoes to the side of your chicken pot. They'll bake nicely on the bottom of the solar oven.
Put a lid over the pot and place it your pre-heated solar oven. Be careful as you remove the lid to lift it away from you - it will be hot! Re-secure clasps and be sure your oven receives full sun as the chicken dinner cooks.
Cook for five to six hours or until an internal meat thermometer reads 180F/82C. The meat will probably be pulling away from the bone. You won't get a brown skin on a solar oven baked chicken, FYI. Potatoes and carrots should be soft.
Serve hot with sliced tomatoes, lots of butter on the potatoes and/or a rich gravy from the leftover chicken drippings.
Reserve abundant juices from your baked chicken for making gravy. Also, save leftover chicken for chicken tacos or chicken soup later this week. Three meals from one chicken!
Bear in mind that the solar oven acts more like a slow cooker for roasts meats. Roasts and whole birds will end up juicy and very tender but won't have a browned skin, though herbs and sugars added on top will give it color. Likewise, baked potatoes won't have a crunchy outer skin.
Budget Chicken Dinner
Now, for the cost! A lot of the cost for the meal depends on where you live, what time of year it is and if you’re growing a garden this year. I have seven people to feed and I do it as healthy as I can. However, I can’t afford certified organic meat or even my local grass fed meat provider most of the time. I manage to purchase some other meats there but chicken continues to remain too pricey because its our primary meat.
Chicken Price Realities
So, my chicken came from Sprouts and is a domestic, sustainably raised but not certified organic or grass fed bird. That’s why we pray over our food and grow much of our own meat in any given year.
This chicken was close to seven dollars. The years we grow our own meat birds, we enjoy the savings that harvest can provide – we usually average around Sprouts prices per bird, after calculating feed and some labor. We don’t use certified organic grain and that’s how we keep our costs down. Would love to but can’t afford to, again.
So, we try for local and trustworthy. We’re also trying to figure a system for sprouting grain which will save a ton on feed costs and will ensure a great diet for our birds. I digress.
Potatoes and Tomatoes
The potatoes we used were from our local farm and aren’t certified organic but are grown responsibly. The sweet and white potatoes cost about three dollars. If you’re growing your own potatoes this year, then I’ll let you do the math on your seed potatoes cost vs. your harvest and the resulting savings.
To learn to grow your own sweet potatoes, please visit this article from Attainable Sustainable. To learn to grow your own brown potatoes, read this article from Grow a Good Life – she has several different ways to grow potatoes outlined on her blog. Also from Rachel is how to grow tomatoes!
For a few tips on getting started growing your own, visit our post called Grow Your Own Food.
For more ideas on One Pan Chicken Dinners to play around with in your solar oven, try this post from Rockin W Homestead.
Bottom line, you can do this for somewhere between 10 – 20 dollars, depending on how you do it and how much of it you’re producing yourself.
The best part about growing your own anything is that your supply of quality food is stable and not subject to any outside turmoil except the weather. (Civil unrest will cause upheaval; I sincerely hope that is not a problem for you).
Leftover Budget Chicken Dinner?
But wait, there’s more! Don’t toss out those leftover potatoes – slice them up the next day, fry them in pastured bacon fat with some red peppers and garlic and you have an awesome breakfast! Or, if its sweet potatoes you have leftover, modify this recipe for Healthy Fried Sweet Potatoes from Intoxicated on Life.
Garnish with any leftover tomatoes, should you actually end up with leftovers which doesn’t happen often in our house.
Don’t even think about throwing out those chicken bones. Put all of your chicken carcass into your crock pot, cover with filtered water, add any spices you’d like and cook on low for 24 hours. You, my friend, have just made chicken stock for soups, stews and sauces – like this simple tortilla soup recipe from Don’t Waste the Crumbs using bone broth.
So, really, you just stretched this meal over several days and still only paid between $10-$20. You are so savvy!
For more basic zero-waste cooking ideas, be sure to email me for a FREE sample from The Homestead Kitchen chapter of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. We have 26 upcycled foods we feature, one for every letter of the alphabet! Don’t throw away food you can repurpose into new, healthy meals for your family and budget. Email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com or visit below to learn more about the book:
Solar Oven Recipe Ease for Busy Moms
One of the best parts about using the solar oven for dinner is that you can set it up early and forget about it! If you have wild animals in your area (possums, raccoons, bears), then you’ll need to keep an eye on it because they’re not animal proof. Even a large, intelligent dog could give your solar oven some grief so watch it.
If you have any other solar oven tips or recipes, please share them in the comments. Even the stuff that didn’t work out would be helpful to know, so fire away!
For example, this dinner worked beautifully but the last time we had solar oven lasagna, it grew overcast while we were out and instead of tucking into piping hot lasagna when we got home, we sat and stared at it in the conventional oven for a half hour while it finished baking. Eh, you win some, you…eventually get to eat lasagna. Life is good.