Solar Cooking
Last edited: 12 April 2022      

Designers and manufacturers have taken varied approaches in creating thermal solar cookers. The most common have been solar box cookers and solar panel cookers. They work well for slow cooking, are fairly easy for people to build themselves, and are generally less expensive to buy than other styles. Variations of these designs have been used to introduce solar cooking in deforested developing countries since the 1950s. High-quality manufactured models of all styles are available for purchase from vendors in a number of countries.

Parabolic solar cookers also have a long history of use, primarily in Europe and Asia. They cook at higher temperatures and usually require more complicated fabrication. The higher possible cooking temperatures require more frequent repositioning of the reflector when cooking. A variety of designs are available from manufacturers. They can also be used in series to create steam for institutional kitchens, feeding thousands of people per day.

Evacuated tube solar cookers are compact and can cook quite efficiently due to the insulating properties of the evacuated tube cooking chamber. Several models are offered commercially, and insulated glass tubes are available for building your own cooker.

Solar panel cookers


The Fun-Panel is a simple solar panel cooker

  • Inexpensive to build or buy, and typically can be collapsed for storage or transport
  • Slow cooking retains flavors and nutrients, and requires little, if any, reorientation to the sun
  • Usually achieves temperatures of 110 - 150 °C (230 - 302 °F)
  • Weatherproof materials should be considered for construction

Solar box cookers

All American Sun Oven

The All American Sun Oven is representative of solar box ovens available commercially

  • Some are large enough to cook with multiple pots, great for baking and slow cooking
  • Can be constructed with simple materials, with several high quality commercial designs also available
  • Tipping the cooker towards the sun can eliminate partial shading of the cook pot
  • Cooking temperature range is 135 - 200 °C (275 - 392 °F)

Parabolic solar cookers

AlSol 1

The AlSol 1.4 is typical of the parabolic solar cooker style

  • Cooking times are similar to a traditional stovetop
  • High temperatures will allow for food to be fried and grilled, typically 120 - 230 °C (248 - 446 °F)
  • Requires periodic reorientation, often every fifteen minutes, which may be done with a mechanical solar tracking apparatus
  • Generally more expensive than panel and box cookers, they also require more storage space

Evacuated tube solar cookers

SLiCK SM70 photo, 8-19-15

The SLiCK SM70 is a manufactured evacuated tube solar cooker example.

  • Usually compact, and can cook quite efficiently with relatively small reflectors
  • Contemporary designs have aesthetic appeal
  • The cooking chamber requires careful handling
  • Glass technology somewhat limits the size of opening of the cooking chamber

Solar trough cookers

Parabolic Trough Solar Cooker

A parabolic trough bread oven powers a solar bakery run by the Bethel Business and Community Development Centre in Lesotho.

  • The curved trough reflector is efficient at gathering and focusing sunlight along a straight focal line
  • Works well with evacuated tube cooking chambers

Solar array cookers

GoSol Solar Concentrator

The GoSol Solar Concentrator, a typical solar array cooker design.

  • Mirrored reflectors are flat panels, not requiring the complex curved shape of parabolic cookers, they can still reach temperatures typical of parabolic cookers
  • The metal frameworks to hold the mirrors can be assembled by craftspeople with basic welding skills
  • Due to the relatively large size and geometry of some designs, they need to be reoriented by hand or by a mechanical tracking system
  • Can require more ground space than other solar cookers

Fresnel solar cookers

Solar Cooker v4-3

Heliac's solar cooker uses a Fresnel lens with a wide focal point, ensuring efficiency and safety.

  • High temperatures can be reached to boil and fry when cooking
  • Easy to build on-site with manufactured flat lenses
  • Highly concentrated solar radiation needs to be closely monitored to avoid accidental fires
  • Using in windy conditions can be a problem
  • May require more storage space than other solar cookers

Other types

See also

External links

All construction plans

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