Solar Cooker

Added August 28, 2010

Earlier this summer while searching for information about electric solar panels, somehow I stumbled upon several web sites discussing solar cookers (aka. solar ovens). As it happens, solar panels are only about 10-20% efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. Solar cookers, on the other hand, operate much more simply and efficiently by collecting and concentrating sunlight toward a focal point where it is converted directly to heat for the purpose of cooking. No electricity is involved!

Several designs are common, and I chose the simplest "panel" type to experiment with. It's basically a cardboard box cut diagonally and lined with aluminum foil (shiny side out!). I used a glass serving dome with tray to allow sunlight in, trap heat and prevent its loss from drafts, and also to act as a barrier from insects. To minimize heat loss through the underside of the pot, the metal frame from a scrap candle heater was used to elevate the pot by a couple inches or so. This also had a side benefit of increasing the surface area exposed to sunlight, thereby enhancing the efficiency of the cooker even further.

Below are before-and-after photos of some of the foods I cooked with this particular design. Each dish was left in the sun for about 2½ hours. I can't begin to tell you how tender meats are when cooked this way - chicken usually falls right off the bone on the first bite. To crisp the skin on drumsticks and give them a barbeque zest, after removing it from the dome I usually drain the drippings and pop the open pot under the broiler for about ten minutes. Are you getting hungry yet?

Theory of operation, assembly instructions and even recipes are all covered in the 58-page document, Solar Cookers: How to Make, Use and Enjoy. (4.5MB PDF)

Before cooking:

After cooking: