Angie Gorkoff places her family's dinner into a solar oven in the morning so it can cook for most of the day. Gorkoff uses the solar oven about once a week, except during the monsoon season. MAMTA POPAT / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Stay-at-home mom Angie Gorkoff regularly roasts meats and vegetables in a solar oven to feed her family of five.

Krista Miller prepares Easter dinner, including a 3- to 5-pound ham, peas, dressing and green beans.

Her sister, Katharine J. Kent, president of The Solar Store, likes to break out cookie dough to bake up for customers visiting the North Country Club Road shop.

Some 40 to 50 solar-oven owners will demonstrate the sun's cooking power at the 29th annual Solar Potluck and Exhibition Saturday at Catalina State Park.

"I find it to be a huge time-saver," says Gorkoff, who uses her two-year-old Global Sun Oven almost all year. "You set it and forget it for the most part."

Gorkoff likens the portable oven to a slow cooker. Food in a glass-lidded container goes into the black box. It's covered with a clear plastic lid. Sun rays bounce off aluminum panels that direct heat as high as 400 degrees into the box.

Eight hours later, Gorkoff serves dinner.

Miller, chief financial officer at The Solar Store, bought a Global Sun Oven because she got tired of wasting energy running the air conditioner to cool the house heated by a conventional oven.

"I've been getting more and more energy-conscious," she says. She uses the oven because "there's only so much you can do with a toaster oven on your back porch."

Besides holiday dinner, Miller likes to warm frozen food such as mini-pizzas.

Miller says her oven heats quickly, but the temperature will fluctuate depending on sun's position.

While regular adjustments to face the sun are ideal, says Gorkoff, it's not necessary for all-day cooking. She faces hers at the sun's position at high noon.

The three women say they get the most out of their solar ovens with these strategies:

• Positioning the oven in the sunniest spot around the house.

• Using dark, lightweight pots and pans to absorb the most heat.

• Using clear lids to allow more sunlight into the pot.

• Keeping the door closed tight to retain heat.

The Solar Store sells the Global Sun Oven for $299. Expert Solar Systems also sells ovens ranging from $250 to $325.

Expert Solar owner Jerry Samaniego says retail ovens are easy to use. "You just open the lid and you can rock and roll."

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Resources

• Expert Solar Systems, 749-3538, www.expertsolar.com

• The Solar Store, 2833 N. Country Club Road, 322-5180, www.solarstore.com

If you go

Solar Potluck and Exhibition

• What: Citizens for Solar will host vendors displaying and demonstrating solar products such as photovoltaic cells and solar water heaters. Solar ovens will cook snacks for eating throughout the day and meals that will be served at the potluck.

• Where: Catalina State Park, 11570 N. Oracle Road.

• When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. The potluck will start at 5 p.m.

• Admission: Free, but admission into the park is $7 per vehicle holding as many as four people.

• Information: 883-8880, www.citizensforsolar.org

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Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net