SURVIVAL KITCHEN

A Good Solar Oven For Supplemental Cooking

a-good-solar-oven

What’s a good solar oven? The one that you have! You might have already discovered that there are all sorts of solar oven cookers out there, including methods to do it yourself – to make your own.

There’s nothing like utilizing the free energy from the sun! There comes a satisfying feeling of self-sufficiency whenever you can harness natural energy sources outside of the grid. And a solar oven cooker is one of those things…


 
I don’t care what climate you live in, there will be a part of the year when you can utilize a solar oven to do the cooking. Not only is it rewarding and ‘free’ to use (other than buying or building one), it is a great alternative source for cooking preparedness.

A solar oven is a slow cooker. Simple as that. Whatever you might cook in a ‘crock-pot’ will cook just fine in a solar oven. You can even bake your own bread in one.

 

How hot does a solar oven get?

Most any solar oven will easily get up to around 200-degrees-F during a sunny warm day. Many solar ovens will also have no problem getting above 212-degrees (the boiling point) and upwards towards 250-degrees, depending. A well designed solar oven (and some professionally made solar ovens) will get up to 350-degrees-F (or thereabouts) just like a real oven…

Note: Comparatively, a typical crock-pot will cook in the range right around boiling, low 200’s.

Note: As long as the cooker is at 165-degrees or above, the cooking is ‘safe’ – even to cook meats. Although when cooking meats, caution is advised if the temperature drops below 165-degrees for awhile due to cloud cover, etc… (due-diligence with the weather forecast ;) )

Here at the MSB household we have been using solar ovens for many years when the weather permits. It’s fun to stay in practice by using it once in a while during the weekends when the weather is right.

 

How do you cook with a solar oven?

It’s so easy. All you do is add whatever it is that you’re cooking to a covered pot or pan (one that fits inside the solar oven while allowing the glass cover to close). I have found that adding a bit of water in the pan with the food will really help for baking potatoes or other vegetables. Or you can just throw together some sort of ‘stew’ or casserole.

Note: It’s best to use a black pot with a black cover in order to more effectively absorb the sun’s rays which convert to heat.

Unless you have a solar oven that’s putting out heat in the 300-degree range, you can mostly set it and forget it (because it’s a slow-cooker and won’t burn the food). However, for optimum cooking you will have to turn the solar oven after several hours to keep alignment with the sun.

Note: During the summer months when the sun is very high in the sky, there is less of a need to turn the solar oven except for early or late hours during the day.

 

How long does it take to cook food in a solar oven?

The general answer is at least several hours (2 -4). The time it takes to cook in a solar oven is no different from how you would cook inside while using a crock-pot slow-cooker. With that said, if you do have a high-efficiency solar oven (e.g. the ‘All American Sun Oven’) then your cooking temperatures will likely be higher which will shorten your cooking time quite a bit (you could actually overcook food if you’re not careful).

With that said, generally speaking with a typical solar oven you could put out your pot of stew after lunch and it will be ready for your 5PM dinner.

Note: If you’re cooking pot is not covered, excess moisture will escape and prematurely dry out your food and/or excessively fog up the inside of the solar oven glass.

 
Your experiences with a solar oven?
Let’s hear from you…

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39 Comments

  1. I don’t know. I bought mine last fall and aside from sterilizing it, it hasn’t been out of the box. One reason that I didn’t go for the do-it-yourself version is portability. In my case it has to be easily movable (urban, clear view of the neighbors, small space) and while a permanent fixture might be convenient (so no one could walk off with it) I don’t have room for it.

  2. Since I was a little girl, we used “reflector ovens” for outdoor cooking. I have baked bread, cookies, brownies and cakes in these for well over 55 years! Easy to build, portable and inexpensive.

    Girl Scouts of America published an outdoor cooking book complete with reflector oven plans waaaay back in 1960. They stole their plans from pioneering women on the wagon train trail!

    One huge advantage to a reflector oven is that you can build a green log fireback for it and thus can cook even when the sun doesn’t shine! YAY! Check out reflector ovens…I highly recommend them.

  3. If one had a good heavy (cast iron) pot, and heated it all up to boiling on a stove (or such), then popped it in the solar cooker, might work even better…

    1. @ Anon
      Preheating the cook-pot is probably a good idea, but that’s “cheating” :-) :-)
      Sort of like using a generator to charge the “Solar Power” batteries hehehehe
      NRP

      1. Grin…all’s fair in cooking and prepping…G

        Maybe so, maybe so, but it may make a big difference. (don’t know as I have neither solar cooker nor large heavy pot)…

        I agree a major reason for a solar cooker is to conserve energy and a way to cook when normal cooking is unavailable, etc. But, there may be times when a minute or two on a gas cook-top is worth the time/heat expenditure (etc).

        1. @ Anon
          You’ll get no argument from me….

          I do like your saying… “…all’s fair in cooking and prepping…” did that not used to be in “Love and War”? Funny how things change when we get a little older and wiser; OR in my case a LOT older and a little less wise.

          NRP

          PS; thinking this (solar over) would be a GREAT backup to the backup and a bunch of fun camping…

  4. Although we don’t have a solar cooker, I did download and print a couple of blueprints for building one. We have also accumulated the parts needed for the cooker including the pot. What I have been doing is experimenting with various recipes for the crock pot so I will have plenty of things to make when the time is needed. I think about the only thing I haven’t tried cooking in the crock pot is a loaf of bread. I might give that a shot this weekend. This way I will know what to expect when using a solar cooker.

    1. Hi,
      So far I have only read about blue prints for do-it-yourself solar ovens that you need to buy. I would love to know about a way to download some free ones, espcially those that have been used by someone to build one….and that they have actually tested. Thanks!

  5. @pioneer woman

    Thanks for the comment on reflector ovens. Sounds like a fruitful idea which I’ll check out.

  6. I bought one after I saw it being used at a self reliance fair. I also made and have used a hot box too. They work great for soups, chili, stews. Save a bunch on fuel with a hot box. I recommend people have both.

    1. @ Bill Jenkins Horse

      I’ve been experimenting with my home made hotbox too. Plan on trying soup in it tomorrow actually.

      I need to try building a reflector oven and rocket stove as well. Can’t have too many backups for cooking. Would love to just buy a Sun oven but pricing in Canada is really high, especially if you have to pay for shipping, duty and dollar conversion.

      kk

      1. KK, I use an enamel ware cast iron pot in the one I built. I make sure I have it boiling then put it in and cover it. It cooks really well and holds the heat for a real long time. It’s a great tool to have…

  7. I have not used one, probably need to put one on the “list”, good idea to have more than one alternate cooking methods.

    Thinking at the cost of the “store bought” ones (All American Sun Oven @ near $300) it might be a good idea looking into building one, there are a lot of designs out there….

    Just thinking out loud again… Gosh knows I need more projects… Thanks Ken HAHAHA
    NRP

    1. Years ago I built one while using an old mirror, an old toy chest with its lid (glued the mirror to it to reflect inside), some plywood (built a box to fit within the floor chest – box in a box with insulation stuffed in-between and underneath), some black paint, some insulation that I had left over from another project, a piece of clear glass to set on top to hold the heat in… and it all worked out pretty well with max temps reaching the mid-200’s. It fit two decent size pots. Lots of yummy dinners came out of that thing ;)

  8. We built one last summer with the kids for a science project (one of the benefits of homeschool) and it was a blast. Something awesome about having a baked apple from a box out in the backyard. This year we plan on upgrading it to get some more heat out of it.

    1. I’ve built a few over the years and it is fun indeed… the ‘engineer’ in me strives for a better mouse-trap each time ;)

  9. If I lived where I would get more use out of one it would be on my list. I have a thing for gadgets! As it is here in the overcast PacNW it isn’t worth the money on my limited budget. I stick with the home version of the “wonder oven”.

    1. During the years when I lived in California and traveled on occasion up your way for business, I swear it was always raining or dreary… Probably not too many days good for a solar oven ;)

      1. I’ve been toying with the idea of moving over to the sunny side of the state. Less people and lower taxes. It makes me tired to think of making that big a move though.

  10. If you don’t want to spend $300.00 plus for a solar cooker, you can buy a glass vacuum tube that does the same. The limitation would be baking bread. The price is awesome if you want to cook say soup. If interested go to Ebay and search for this. Cost about $43.00 I bought one as a backup to a Sun solar oven.

    “Large Rand Solar Oven/Stove Evacuated 4″ Glass Vacuum Tube Cooker Grill BBQ”
    $43.95
    Buy It Now

    354 sold

    1. Minnie Min

      just had a look..

      another thought popped into my head, in looking at it..

      if one had large glass container, or large glass whatever, with big wide mouth, one could put a smaller glass container inside it. Put lids on both, and I bet they would really heat up.

      -could paint the outside one black
      -maybe put insulation in between the two
      -maybe it all would actually get “too” hot?

  11. Just wondering if anyone has tried cooking any of the freeze dried dinners that you just add water and simmer. How long did they take to cook and did they turn out ok?

    1. Guess I should have been more specific above. I’m talking about cook time in a solar oven. Normally they take 20 to 30 minutes simmering on a stovetop.

  12. In my highly educated opinion…(6th grade graduate!!)?
    Most of us actually drive a solar cooker of sorts.?
    If you place an opened can of food on your the dashboard of your vehicle facing the sun, it can heat up your your lunch! You may not be able to bake a loaf of bread, but you should be able to heat up most store bought canned goods in a SHTF situation.

    I cannot verify that the actual temp. can reach 165 degree (maybe Ken can test this with a thermometer) but I can say that when I left a burrito from taco bell on my dash from the nite before, I had it for lunch the next day with no ILL effects! I actually had to let it cool down a bit.?
    The cheese was definitely melted!

    1. Hey Prepper Guy

      This is so obvious, it is embarrassing..grin..Yes, indeed.

      In fact, if one had a heavy pot, with heavy lid, I suspect you could bake that loaf of bread, and much more.

      Of course, in a SHTF situation, one might be trying to hide one’s car, to keep it safe from looters. but……………………………………………………………………………….

      1. I should think it would be more important to hide the food IN the car than the car itself…although the two aren’t mutually exclusive under those circumstances.

    2. I use mine as a dehydrator every summer. Prunes, raisins, peaches, herbs. Whatever. Next summer I’ll use my solar oven as well and have even more capacity!

    3. My goal has been keeping the temperature low enough to dehydrate without baking. On a 70 degree day in full sun it easily got over 120. I didn’t check the upper limits because I wasn’t trying to cook.

  13. I’ve been reading the discussion and thinking that even as
    important as cooking in a solar oven is it would be in disinfecting
    water and other liquids that it would shine in a SHTF scenario.

    By disinfecting I mean reducing biological pathogens to a level which
    will not make you seriously ill or kill you. Seems like it would be a
    lot faster than the sodis method of leaving in the sun for up to 6 hours provided your clear PET bottles are within the suggested parameters of width.

    Merely bringing to a boil should make water safe to drink. Cool and
    aerate by pouring from one vessel to another. No fuel no problem. No
    smell to alert looters and other riffraff. And it shouldn’t take 6 hours
    to boil water. Good for other liquids as well but probably better to
    keep a closer eye on.

    One of the most important items for your kitchen now or when the SHTF is
    a food thermometer. Accurate ones come in all price points. Get two. Don’t
    guess about food safety. This is important especially when you are cooking
    in a slow cooler or solar oven. I went through a period of collecting slow
    cookers but only those made in America during the 80’s and 90’s. They
    were consistently 200 degrees on low and 300 degrees on high and the
    heating element was on the bottom and the sides. Slow even cooking, no
    dangerous cool spots.

    The China made ones are not on spot and vary too much and I’m not
    smart enough to guess. We simply won’t have the medical resources
    in dire times as we have now. Get that kitchen thermometer and prevent
    a host of problems from even happening. We’ll have enough other problems
    to worry about.

  14. I can’t say enough good things about solar ovens. I was fortunate to be able to purchase the All-American Sun Oven, and have not yet been disappointed. I use the solar oven to bake “simple” white bread recipes, in order to practice ahead in case of a power down, SHTF situation. I can bake (2) loaves at the same time, and on a cloudless day the oven can reach a temperature of 350 degrees fahrenhiet. Baking time usually runs between 2 – 3 hours for a large loaf of bread. Using the built in sun tracker, the oven only has to be manually moved about every 20 – 30 minutes to maintain its optimal position for the reflectors, and its heat level. No matter what brand you would choose, I feel a solar oven is an important part of being prepared.

  15. I like solar ovens…BUT there is another cooking source that preppers should adopt….automobile engine cooking, yes (try not laugh) the engine is a wonderfull way to heat and cook with and over the years on road trips I have cooked or kept items hot by placing them in alum foil or just sealed cans of whatever and placing in a warm/to hot area on the top of the engine. The engine will generate about 200 hundred plus degrees on the top and close to 1000 degrees at the exhaust. The primary rule is to place items in a secure area not close to moving parts, etc on the front of the engine. Yes people laugh, but some get it as the lightbulb turns on………

    1. …sorry…I had to laugh at the picture of what would happen if the packet came unsecured and, say, hit the fan. SPLAT!

      1. chipmunk and Anonymous

        when I was young, I heard of many folks travelling would put food in tinfoil under the hood to heat up/get hot. It always seemed to work well, and I never heard of it “flying off”. Of course, maybe those stories didn’t get told. And, it was older engines (sigh, much older). Maybe modern engines do not have a stable/safe place to set things? Modern engines are much more scrunched up together.

  16. For boiling water and heating/cooking try to pick up a fresnel lense from a big tv. They work extremely well (I got one) but they are not to be trifle with.You can melt metal with them.Common sense must be used with one of them for sure. It’s all about the focal point with a fresnel lense.I must admit it is fun to mess with it.Check out YouTube videos. Just another (fun) tool to have…

  17. CR

    looked up on google images
    “windshield shade solar funnel cooker”

    and saw lots of good ones.

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