Solavore gives new life to solar ovens, promotes clean cooking

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Solavore is a solar oven that cooks food using only the power of the sun, and the 9-pound oven can heat to more than 300 degrees. Photo from Solavore.

It’s not unusual for Anne Patterson to be baking a carrot cake on a sailboat.

The former high-tech executive and her husband spend half the year living on a boat based out of Puerto Rico and the other half in an off-the-grid cottage in Connecticut. But even during her Hewlett-Packard and 3Com days, Patterson was interested in sustainable living.

She’d been a fan of a solar oven from a Minnesota-based nonprofit called Solar Oven Society, which sold more than 20,000 of the appliances since launching in 1995 but had stopped production by 2013. When she learned that the organization was folding, she decided it was time to add yet another dimension to her career: solar oven entrepreneur and clean-cooking advocate.

In the past year, she’s rebranded the product and built a vision for a socially conscious, for-profit company that not only sells ovens to adventure seekers but also — at a reduced cost — to people, especially women, living in sun-rich developing countries who are currently cooking over smoky fires at great risk to their health.

Patterson noted at a recent launch event that their babies, often worn on their backs, are also dying at an alarming rate because of respiratory problems related to exposure to wood, charcoal or kerosene cooking fires. Nearly half of the world’s population prepares food over an open fire, and according to the World Health Organization, household air pollution from cooking fires kills 4 million people every year, with half of them younger than 5.

IMG_7842The signature product is the Solavore Sport solar oven, which can heat to a temperature of nearly 300 degrees but still remain cool to the touch. The ovens, made in the U.S., weigh 9 pounds and can hold two pots that come with the kit. The lid is a clear top with a double layer of plastic, which allows the sun in while keeping the heat in, and the oven is made with an inch of rigid insulation to also maintain the heat.

Patterson compares the cooking process as something similar to a slow cooker. If you’re at a campsite, you can put together a dish in the morning and then head out for the day without worrying that it will overcook. When Patterson wants to bake cakes or cookies, she adds a reflector, sold separately, that can boost the temperature to activate the leavening.

She also advocates its use at home, especially during the summer months, when turning on a standard oven will heat an entire house and kick the air conditioning into overdrive. (She provides recipes and cooking tips on the website.)

The basic oven costs $229.50, and you can add on the aluminum reflector set for $39.50. A portion of the proceeds help offset the costs of sales to low-income customers. The oven isn’t yet available in retail outlets, but you can buy it online at solavore.com.


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