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Solar Ovens

A solar oven is a great way to cook using the natural energy of the sun! There's no need to build a fire, so these are a great alternative when you don't have dry wood on hand or there isn't a great place to build one. Whatever the reason, check out how these solar ovens work, and how you can build one of your own.

Types of Solar Ovens

There are three main types of solar ovens: panel cooker, box cooker, and parabolic cooker. The biggest difference between them is how they concentrate the light into heat and how best to use them. Panel Cooker These are the cheapest types to make or purchase and they're pretty easy to use. They are essentially a half dome consisting of mirrors that reflect the sun's rays into the pot. The heat that is generated from a panel cooker is pretty low, so it works much like a slow cooker or crock pot. Use a glass pot or bowl to cook over this low heat. Due to the shape of the panel cooker, wind can penetrate it, making a metal pan lose heat pretty quickly. Use this type of solar oven to make your favorite stews and soups. But start early, as this type of oven will take almost all day to cook. Box Cooker While the panel cooker is more like a crock pot, the box cooker works more like an oven. The box cooker is essentially two boxes, one inside the other, with a reflective lid that props up. The outer box is insulated and helps to hold in the heat. The inner box is usually black on the bottom to draw the heat and reflective around the sides to help conduct it. This is great for baking things such as bread, casseroles, and potatoes. Parabolic Cooker The parabolic cooker looks a lot like an old-style satellite dish made out of shiny metal. Creating heat much like a stove top does, the temperature is pretty high and allows you to prepare dishes quickly. It can also be used for grilling and baking as well. This is the most versatile oven, but it is the hardest to create as you need to get the curve just right.

Buying a Solar Oven

You can make your own solar oven or simply buy one. If you're looking for an inexpensive panel cooker, check out this Solar Oven Bag. At $70, you get an instant oven that is easy to set up and use. Just remember, this type of solar oven takes all day to cook, so plan ahead if using this kind. The All American Global Sun Oven is a box cooker that costs around $300. You can order accessories to go with it such as baking pans and pots that are compatible with this type of oven. A more expensive option is the Parabolic Cooker by SolSource. At around $500, this one offers the most versatility and ease of use. It accommodates many different types of pots and pans.

DIY Solar Oven

Making your own solar oven is less expensive than buying one. And you don't have to be a MacGyver to make one! Just grab a few supplies and tools and get going! What you need:
Pizza box
Utility knife
Heavy duty tin foil
Plastic wrap
Black construction paper How to Make it:

  1. Using your ruler and sharpie, make a square on the lid of the pizza box. Leave 1 inch between the edge of the lid and your line.

  2. Begin cutting out the square at the front and the sides, but leave the back line in tact. This is near where the top meets the rest of the box. Now you have a flap that you can fold up.

  3. On the underside of the flap you just made, cover it with the tin foil and glue it in place.

  4. Now you're going to make the window to the oven. Take your plastic wrap and cut two pieces big enough to cover the hole you made with enough extra all around to secure it. Open your box and tape one piece over the opening from the inside. Close the box and tape the other piece to the outside opening. Make sure your tape doesn't have any gaps in it. The tape will work to trap the heat in, so if there are any areas that were missed, heat will escape through these "vents."

  5. Line the bottom and sides of the inside of the box with the tin foil. This is going to work as an insulator. Place black construction paper on top of the tin foil in the bottom of the box to help absorb the suns rays and bring the heat in.

  6. You're now ready to get cooking! It will need to be a bright sunny day so if it's gloomy or dark you'll have to wait. Place the food you want to heat inside the box and close the top. Prop up the foil flap you created with a drinking straw or stick and angle it so that the sun is being reflected down into the box. Preheat for a while and then pop your food inside!

This is a very simple type of solar oven that can be made easily and without many materials. There are tons of other ideas online that you can try out the next time you go camping. Unleash the power of the sun by using one of these cool solar ovens for your favorite camping meals! Have you ever used a solar oven? If so, what did you make in it? Let us know in the Comments below! We'd love to hear from you!

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