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Make Your Own Solar Cooker

September 26, 2011 by  

Make Your Own Solar Cooker

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.

Homemade Solar OvenThis 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.

Homemade Solar OvenI 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.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Homemade Solar OvenThis 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.

–Peggy Layton

Peggy Layton

a home economist and licensed nutritionist, holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition from Brigham Young University. Peggy lives in Manti, Utah with her husband Scott. Together they have raised seven children. Peggy owns and operates two businesses: One called "The Therapy Center", where she is a licensed massage therapist and hypnotherapist, and the other an online cookbook and preparedness products business. She is nationally known for publishing a series of seven books on the subject of food storage and also lectures and teaches seminars about preparedness and using food storage products. Peggy practices what she preaches, has no debt, grows a huge garden, lives off the land, raises chickens, bottles and dehydrates food and has time left over to operate her businesses. To check out Peggy's cookbooks and self sufficiency products go to her website www.peggylayton.com. To get a free sample of three different storable meals that have a 15-year shelf life go here.

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  • Gerry

    Peggy,
    This is the easiest way I have found so far to cook food via solar power. Once again you have shown us how to survive more efficiently and smarter.
    Thank You……….

  • D Dude

    Thank you ever so much for spelling this out for us. I can not purchase anything such as
    books, subscriptions, memberships for their is just not enough money. Can not update PC or replace it & so forth. Working hard to keep cost of food down so mostly vegetarian & absolutely no beef and look for worth while sales. I have 3-samples of efood packages to try but can’t
    say it is a good value, but perhaps we all should consider it a necessity to try & stock up. Isn’t mylar a type of plastic? I thought all plastics slowly disintegrate & hope that this one does not have
    any terrible chemical used to produce it leeching out. I was hoping it was prepared, dehydrated/dried, wholesome nutritious food, but I guess we are fortunate that someone is
    making available long shelf-life food for survival even if some can not afford it for those that can;
    it will lessen the problem should disaster strike & food becomes a scarcity. I enjoy reading
    your daily posts and take the time to share some of them by forwarding.

    • LarryH

      Not to worry, plastic can only leach into food if there is water transferring material. Since the pot is covered, even if water condenses on the Mylar, (which would lower efficiency) it still can’t get into the food.

      • http://PharmerPhilDelivers.com PharmerPhil

        The Mylar is a silvery reflective plastic used to focus the sun’s energy on the cookpot, through the large plastic bag enclosing the pot. Plasticizers outgassing from the enclosure bag could migrate into the food, but I believe this is less dangerous than the alarmists would have us believe, and using a covered pot inside the bag will reduce any possible danger even further.
        Happy Cooking!
        PharmerPhilDelivers.com

  • Andra Welte

    I used a solar cooker when I was a Girl Scout leader at summer camp. The girls were amazed. We used a four-sided box with the bottom & top cut off. We used aluminium foil as the reflective surface. But we had a chimney starter with charcoal.

  • Kate8

    Great info! Thank you so much. This is something I can do.

  • Old Henry

    Thanks for another good, informative article Peggy.

    I am going to pass the info on to a friend who works with Cub Scouts / Boy Scouts. Sounds like a neat project.

    How well does the Solar Cooker work during witner in colder climes?

    • LarryH

      Solar cookers are slower in winter, as there is less sun available and lower ambient temperatures, but the food is still insulated, so it shouldn’t be a big problem.

  • Catherine

    Had not thought of Brow N Bags
    You can also cover an old satilite dish with foil.

    • http://PharmerPhilDelivers.com PharmerPhil

      Ooh, we have a huge old (6′dia) satellite dish-
      I’m going to try your suggestion, Catherine.
      It might even kick up the therms high enough to work in winter, Old Henry.

  • Christin

    Wow, who would of thought?!
    This seems too good to be true… how is it that we never heard of this before the last year or so… mirrors or aluminum even or mylar reflective materials, black pot, glass bowls, a plastic bag and the sun.

    May not be such a good idea for our drought ridden area right now as it could cause a fire… But I would like to try this with my boys and see what we can cook for fun without telling them it could be for survival.

    Thanks ever so much, Peggy, for this valuable information.

  • William Bolton

    This is great, but how are the government guys going to figure out a way to bill you for solar time? They aren’t going to like this one. It unplugs you! Figure out enough different ones and they won’t even know you’re there! Oh my, a hidden populace!!!!

  • http://www.peggylayton.com Peggy Layton

    Thanks for all the great feedback.I don’t dare read the comments until a few days after my articles are published. I just panic thinking someone will rip them apart. All the comments today were great and I appreciate all feedback even if I am hesitant to read it. I have been writing for Personal Liberty now for almost a year. I am having to research much more now and I am looking for things to write about that are inexpensive and will help us learn new skills so we can improvise and make due if we need to if the grid goes down. If anyone has any ideas, please post them or e-mail me directly at splayton@sisna.com. I love my readers, Thanks so much. Peggy Layton

  • FreedomFighter

    http://www.thereadystore.com/emergency-preparedness-basics/stainless-steel-kelly-kettle-base-camp-large-stove-bundle-unit

    If you can afford it get this Kelly Stove, it is incredable.

    Laus Deo
    Semper Fi

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