Solar cooking

Solar Cookers

Solar cookers use the sun's energy for cooking or heating the food, boiling water or pasteurizing beverages. The main principle of its work is to use reflecting surfaces to concentrate sunlight thus providing high enough temperatures for cooking. The ambient air temperature, wind, and the location's latitude also matter. By using dark-colored pots light's energy can be converted into a heat energy. Cooking temperatures are achieved by trapping the heat and reducing convection by properly closing the lid.

Some useful measures to take before starting to solar cook: wear sunglasses as sunbeams reflected from the cooker surface have higher intensity and may damage your eyes. Another recommended precaution is to keep the children away especially from parabolic cookers.

There are several major types of solar cookers
  • Box solar cooker. This is the most basic type of cooker. Usually, it is 3 - 5 feet in width and it's colored black to better absorb the heat. Foil covered reflectors are attached to the box to concentrate sunbeams. It can heat the pot placed inside up to 150 °C (300 °F).
  • parabolic - Focuses sunlight onto a pot, can induce very high temperatures. Needs to be regularly repositioned to face the sun or use automatic sun tracker.
  • panel - a combination of box and parabolic cookers. Can heat food up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. That is plenty since food starts to cook at 180 degrees F.
  • vacuum tube cooker - It's made of 2 layers of glass tubes with a vacuum between the layers. Vacuum insulation preserves the entrapped heat very well. Tube cookers have prolonged design and the pieces of food are slid inside. They can cook without sunlight reflectors but can provide twice as much temperature when combined with them.

Solar Cooking Advantages

Slow solar cooking doesn't need stirring and frequent supervision as stove cooking. Also, it retains more flavor and nutrients. Box and panel cookers can be left unattended if directed towards the direction of the sun at its highest altitude. The food is not overcooked even if left an hour or 2 longer than when it's ready. Parabolic cookers require more attention as they can heat the food up to grilling/searing temperatures, that is about 750 F (400 C). Another advantage is that cooking with the sun requires less water than traditional cooking.

Sunflair Portable Solar Oven (Incl. Cookware, Racks and Thermometer)

Sunflair portable solar oven

Main Features:
  • Can accommodate a wide variety of cookware.
  • No assembly required. Easy to use.
  • Includes:
    • solar oven thermometer
    • heat-conducting/baking trays
    • 2 baking/dehydrating racks,
    • 1 enamelware pot
    • 2 silicone pots
    • a handy carrying bag
  • Weighs only 1 lb, 2 oz
  • Durable and portable for outdoor activities

Can prepare food for 4 to 8 people. Sunflair cooker heats the food up to 285 F. Includes foldable silicone pots, an enamelware pot, and 2 dehydrating racks. Quite handy to take with you on trips and camping. In contrast with, say, vacuum tubes it can accommodate a range of different cookware making it more versatile.

Pros Cons
Effective design Would perform better if the interior were coated with a polyester film or foil film
Easily portable Zipper may get stuck sometimes 
Comes with cooking utensils

Large Solar Oven/Stove Evacuated 4" Glass Vacuum Tube Cooker Grill BBQ Prepper Rand Solar

Main Features:
  • Volume is over 1 Gallon
  • Just like a conventional oven. No special recipes
  • Includes a Silicone rubber cap to keep the heat inside while letting out the excess pressure

This vacuum tube can cook, bake and boil. As a tube cooker, it has 2 layers of glass tubes with vacuum insulation between the layers. Outer layer acts as a greenhouse trapping the heat and heating up the inner darker layer. Being made of glass it's quite durable if not dropped or otherwise mechanically damaged. The rubber lid comes out after the tube is heated so you may want to drill small holes on it to let the steam out

Pros Cons
Not affected by cold weather thanks to insulation The lid loosens up if small holes are not made on it
High quality, easy to use Not many cookware made for it
Cost effective Somewhat heavy and fragile

The GoSun Sport Solar Cooker

Gosun Sport Solar Cooker

Main Features:
  • Retains up to 80% of sun's heat
  • Heats up to 550F (288C) temperature
  • Cool enough for touching after cooking
  • Food cooks evenly from all sides
  • Easily portable, weighs 7.5lbs (3.5kg)

Thanks to its design this cooker leverage sun's available heat in diverse weather conditions. GoSun Sport comes with an evacuated cooking chamber, two collapsible parabolic reflectors made of aluminum, a cooking tray made of stainless steel, a user’s manual, a cooking booklet and a cleaning tool. For an easier cleaning, you line the cooking chamber with aluminum foil and discard it after use. GoSun Sport is easily portable and cooks the food  360° thanks to its cylindric shape. Some disadvantages are narrow chamber width and susceptibility to shocks.

Pros Cons
Easy setup Small tube diameter
High-quality materials Fragile
Keeps food hot for several hours after cooking Cannot use liquid inside (soups, etc)

SolSource Classic Solar Cooker

Solsource classic solar cooker

Main Features:
  • Reaches a temperature up to 550 °F (300 °C)
  • Adjustable reflectors for regulating the temperature
  • Made from 100% recyclable materials. Has no emissions
  • Weight: 39.6 lbs (18 kg)
  • Easy cleaning: no need to wait for reflectors to cool down

SolSource is a parabolic solar cooker with an opening on its surface for an easier access. Being a parabolic cooker it can quickly heat the dish up to 550 °F (300 °C) - 5x faster than a charcoal grill. The reflectors are adjustable to achieve optimum cooking temperatures. The meat will have the flavorful crispy taste from outside and be tender, slow-cooked inside. Works perfectly in summers and sunny winters. Can be placed in your balcony, backyard or patio and it's easy to move if you need to. The stands allow to tilt and turn the cooker to orient it towards the sun. SolSource is easy to clean with just a soapy water and a cloth. The reflectors don't get hot so you can clean it right after cooking.

You can practice all types of cooking with SolSource be it grilling, pan fry, slow cook or boiling water. The best part is that SolSource solar cooker doesn't restrict your choice of cookware. It features a versatile, reversible pot stand suitable for all kind of pots starting from light-weighted skillet for fish frying and ending with heavy cast-iron dutch pots for slow-cooking. Just use the cookware you already own.

Pros Cons
Good customer service Withstands winds quite well
Exceptionally easy-to-follow assembly instructions The bulky size
Easy to disable and transport

Solavore Sport Solar Oven

Solavore sport solar cooker

Main Features:
  • Easy to use, made from durable, recycled plastic
  • Lightweight. Weighs 9 pounds (4kg) and comes with a carrying case
  • Included are a thermometer and 2 quarter gallon pots - even cooking and easy to clean up
  • Detachable reflectors have corrosion-proof mirror-like finish
  • Weight: 8.8 lbs (4 kg) 
  • Dimensions: 27.2" x 12.2" x 17" (69 x 31 x 43 cm) 
  • Made in the US

Solavore Sport solar oven is lightweight solar cooking oven made of post-industrial durable plastic. It's made to be mobile yet robust. The surface doesn't get very hot when exposed to the sun so it's safe around the kids. You can nicely bake bread, rolls, biscuits, make soups, stews, meat dishes.

The package includes detachable solar reflectors, 2 GraniteWare black pots, a free-standing oven thermometer to check on the food, water pasteurization reusable indicator and a getting-started guide with beginner-friendly recipes. Perfect for baking, slow-cooking or roasting. That being said you cannot use Solavore Sport for grilling. Box solar cookers are not good for that. Your best bet for grilling are parabolic cookers like SolSource Classic reviewed above.

Pros Cons
Useful manual The black bottom finish may flake off
Easy to clean
Comes with pots