Make Your Own Solar Cooker
September 26, 2011 by Peggy Layton
A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of making a solar oven out of three square mirrors inside a box or crate. The idea requires the use of mirrors inside the container to reflect heat to the pot or Pyrex® cooking dish so it doesn’t burn or melt the box, crate or wood. It is safe this way.
I like to put the solar cooker on a table outside or on the cement sidewalk just to be safe. The mirrors are reflective, so keep them away from buildings and aim them south toward the sun, because mirrors can start fires. Rotate or refocus them every half hour to keep the food cooking evenly.
This cooker has two glass bowls, one on top of another. You will need a Pyrex® bowl and lid as well as an inner bowl made out of black enamel or glass, or even a small cast iron pan without a handle. The inner bowl traps the heat and cooks the food, while the outer bowl acts like a greenhouse, keeping heat and moisture inside the pot. You can use oven roasting bags. This will eliminate the need for an outer bowl or pot. I like to stock up on the roasting bags and keep them in my food storage.
This solar cooker is inexpensive. I purchased my mirrors at Wal-Mart and used a heavy-duty cardboard box, with two sides cut off. The box works fine unless it rains. Wood would work, too, unless it got too much rain and started to warp.
My friend is very resourceful; he has used broken mirrors as well as scrap material that he salvaged. In event of some emergency, we may need to find broken mirrors and pieces of wood and make do with what we have. I believe it is imperative that we have skills that help us be better prepared in case of emergency. Learning how to make and use a solar cooker is one of those skills.
Windshield Sun Shade Oven
Use any type of reflective material such as a reflective Mylar® windshield visor, Mylar® bags, tin foil, Mylar insulation, aluminum, etc. Wrap it around in a half-circle or funnel so the bottom is open to the sun. Make sure the back is taller, so the sun can reflect into the bowl or cooking pot. Aim the oven to the south and watch the sun so it is focused on the reflective material. You can cut pieces of cardboard or wood and wrap tinfoil around them as well.
I decided to try it out, so I dug some new red potatoes from the garden, washed them and put them in the pot with water. I put the lid on the pot, put the pot in a turkey-roasting bag and tied it up with a twist-tie. I placed the pot on the cookie rack in the center of the Sun Shade Oven. In an hour the pot was boiling, and within three hours my potatoes were cooked. It was amazing and lots of fun. With a little creativity and skills we can improvise and learn to cook outdoors.
How To Build A Solar Cooker
Materials needed to build a solar cooker include:
- A reflective Mylar® accordion-type folding car sunshade or insulation material that has Bubble Wrap® covered with reflective Mylar® material.
- A cake rack or grill.
- 6 inches of Velcro®, strips of duct tape or aluminum tape.
- A black pot, Dutch oven or black enamel roasting pan.
- A plastic roasting bag.
- A small outdoor table, if needed.
- Lay the sunshade down so the notched side is toward the bottom. If using insulation, cut it into a rectangular shape that can be folded to provide 2 feet of reflection on three sides and a piece across the bottom.
- Cut the Velcro® into three 2-inch pieces. I like the Velcro® that has a sticky back on each side. I didn’t have Velcro® so I used aluminum tape, however duct tape will work as well.
- Space the Velcro® on the bottom of the sunshade. Put one piece on the right side and the other piece on the left side. The goal is to make a funnel shape out of the sunshade or tape the sunshade into a funnel with a flat bottom. I had to fold it over and take darts in the material to get it to lay flat.
- Put the Velcro pieces together. Set the Mylar® sunshade on top of an outdoor table or on anything that lifts the solar oven off the ground and can be turned and refocused toward the sun. I tried it on the cement sidewalk low to the ground, and it worked fine.
- Set the cake rack or grill in the center of the funnel so the pot will have a stable place to sit. The rack will keep the pot up away from the Mylar®. This allows the sun to reflect on the bottom of the pot and lets air circulate around the pot.
- It is good if you attach a temperature gauge to the inside of the pot so you can tell how hot it gets. Use a candy thermometer if you have one. This step is not necessary unless you are baking bread or something that you need to stay at a constant temperature.
- It is necessary to use a black pot or a roasting pan with a lid. If baking, you can use a cookie sheet, cake pan or bread pan. It is best to use the dark pans because they hold the heat. Put them inside a roasting bag and twist-tie it shut. Use a plastic roasting bag to enclose the pot. This keeps the heat inside the bag and helps the heat remain constant. These bags can be used over and over until they fall apart or get too dirty to clean. Just rinse the bags in between cooking with them.
This oven acts like a slow cooker; if you leave it all day, your meal will be ready when you get home from work. Point the cooker in the direction of the sun to the south. Set it early in the morning pointing so that it will face the sun at noon, when the sun will be the highest. Let it set all day and enjoy a meal in the afternoon.
This solar cooker can be folded up and stored flat. It is lightweight and works really well. If you used duct tape to shape it, simply remove the tape and store the solar oven flat. Keep an extra role of tape to use the next time you cook with the sun.
Food Storage And Self-Sufficiency Products Available
If you are interested in the commmercial SUN OVEN® and accessories featured in my recent article Cook With The Sun Using The SUN OVEN® or any of the seven books I have written (such as Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook, Cookin’ with Home Storage or Root Cellaring), 250-gallon water storage tanks, food-storage containers, ION water treatment, dehydrated food storage sealed in gallon-sized cans with a shelf life of 15 or more years, wheat grinders, sewage treatment or 72-hour packs or emergency medical supplies, click here.
Prepackaged Food Storage Meals With A 15-Year Shelf Life
I have been storing packaged meals called eFoods. They are ideal for long-term food storage because they are packaged in Mylar® pouches that serve four people. Everything is in the pouch except water. Just add water and cook the food for 15 minutes, and it’s done. The meals are delicious, and the company will let you try samples of the meals before you buy. Just pay $9.95 for shipping, and you get three meals that serve four people. I find them very delicious and easy to make. That is what you need in a crisis situation. I don’t just save them for a rainy day. I make the eFoods for meals when I am in a hurry, in the mountains, camping, hiking or feeding a crowd. I have decided that premade meals are the best food storage you can buy. They are fast, easy and convenient. You don’t waste food that way. This company has a program through which you can get one box of food per month. They call it “auto-shipment,” and it’s great! All you need is 10 minutes to set it up, and your food storage will be on auto-ship. Each month, you get a box of food delivered to your home. Go to the website, click on Take the Freedom Tour, sign up for the free food and enjoy. Check it out here.