My All American Sun Oven cooking on the deck

All American Sun Oven Solar Cooker 10+ Years Later

I enjoy experimenting with harnessing energy from the sun. I have built several solar cooker ovens over the years, and I also purchased one, the All American Sun Oven.

I’m updating this post because I just realized that this solar cooker is more than 10 years old! I don’t remember exactly what year I bought the SUN OVEN. But I believe it was sometime during 2008. That makes it about 13 years old. And you know what? It still functions like new, despite the nicks and scratches over time. I did varnish the wood trim a few times to help preserve that part.

I’ve had the SUN OVEN for many years. First bought it while living in a part of California where the sun shines all summer long. Because of that, we were able to use the All American Sun Oven quite often!

Now, many years later, we live in New Hampshire. Not as sunny all the time. But we still get to use it.

Some of you might be wondering how often you can actually use a solar oven when it’s not always sunny… Well, certainly not as much. It obviously depends on the weather and clouds.

Even on partly cloudy days, you really need a day when there’s more sun than clouds. However, maybe surprising, but this All American Sun Oven is very efficient and will warm up / heat up nicely when there’s just enough sun…

Incredibly, the SUN OVEN can heat up to temperatures as high as 350 to 400 Degrees Fahrenheit! (Yes, you read that right!)

  • Bake Foods
  • Boil Foods
  • Steam Foods
  • Boil Water
  • Slow Cook
  • Safe
  • Portable — Folds up, About 20 lbs.
  • Well Constructed

Why I Bought The All American Sun Oven

So, why did I buy it? Good question! It is expensive (even back when I purchased it). I justified the purchase for preparedness sake, coupled with enough days during the year to actually use it. Cooking without electricity (and/or fossil fuels) was appealing. Kind of a self-sufficiency thing…

During years past, I have built several solar cookers too. It was fun to do. Then I bought this one. At the time, it was branded as “SUN OVEN”. Though today it’s called the All American Sun Oven.

I felt that the SUN OVEN will be good for use at home anytime on sunny days (weather permitting). It would also be good for camping (especially where open fires may not be allowed). And, it will provide a means of cooking during a power outage (particularly useful during a longer term grid-down!). A side benefit during summer would be cooking outside (less heat inside the house).

The SUN OVEN has been a reliable and HOT cooker during the many years I’ve had it. My homemade solar cooker does not get as hot, but high temperature doesn’t really matter when it comes to slow cooking most foods.

Made in the USA.

The Ultimate Solar Appliance
(view on amzn)

Sun Ovens International

SUN OVEN Cooking Temperature

Yes, the SUN OVEN can achieve high cooking temperatures under ideal conditions. By the way, it has a built in Thermometer.

However, I believe that a lot of people have it in their head that food must be cooked at 350 degrees in the oven, because it’s the most referenced temperature in recipe books for oven cooked foods.

But guess what… so long as the internal temperature of most foods is heated to 165 degrees, then it becomes safe to eat.

For example, a solar cooker that maintains 225 degrees for a long enough time, will easily cook the food up to 165 degrees. Of course, the higher the temperature of the solar cooker, the faster your food will reach 165 degrees.

When I lived in sunny California, my homemade solar cooker had a hard time getting hot enough during the winter months when the sun was lower in the sky, and obviously colder outside. Whereas the All American Sun Oven does much, much better because it’s more efficient at capturing the sun’s rays and keeping the heat inside (insulation).

 
Hot Tip
————————–
For those of you starting out with solar cooker cooking, I want to tell you one of the secrets to getting even more deliciousness out of many meals, especially baked potatoes. OK, here it is… add some water to the pan, and keep the pan covered. Simple! Of course, spice it up to your delight.
————————–

Great for baking potatoes. Again, add water into the pan, and cover it. Oh boy, does that taste good!

Cooking potatoes with my All American Sun Oven

Use as a Slow Cooker / Crock-Pot

Since solar cookers generally cook slower than a conventional oven, a long slow cook at say about 275, combined with a bit of added water in the pot for the food to draw in, will turn out scrumptious!

The food won’t burn (it generally doesn’t get hot enough to burn) and won’t overcook. The SUN OVEN is well insulated and cooks very evenly on its tray.

Side note: The tray is a “spill-proof levelator”. Regardless of angle (it also has a built in adjustable leg for setting the angle towards the sun), the tray inside remains level. Nice feature!!

“Don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s almost impossible to burn food in a SUN OVEN. Food doesn’t dry out, so it’s very difficult to screw anything up. When in doubt, cook longer.” said the manufacturer.

What about cooking on a cloudy day?

Well, my experience is that no solar oven will work well during heavy overcast, or very cloudy days. And most won’t even work reliably during partly cloudy days (depending). However, unlike other solar ovens which require full sunlight, the SUN OVEN works incredibly well, even on partly cloudy days.

It’s thick glass and well-designed seal gasket keeps the heat in (as well as the insulation).

A Few More Examples Using Our SUN OVEN

We also used our All American Sun Oven to slow cook beans throughout the day.

[ Read: How To Cook Dried Beans With A Solar Oven ]

Cooking beans in my All American Sun Oven

Bake your own homemade bread too!

[ Read: What Happened One Time That I Made Solar Oven Bread ]

Baking bread in my All American Sun Oven

Cooking Sweet Potatoes in the Solar Cooker:

Sweet Potatoes in my All American Sun Oven

For long cooked meals, to maintain a high enough temperature may require that you rotate the solar cooker a few times during the cooking process to keep facing the sun.

During the summer months when the sun is high in the sky, rotating the solar cooker repeatedly to face the sun is generally not required (unless you’re really trying to optimize temperatures).

During the Spring, Fall, and Winter when the sun is lower in the sky, you will probably need to keep up with it.

One problem during months when the sun is low in the sky is that more obstacles will get in the way and shade an area. So, unless you have a fairly wide open space, surrounding trees will become an issue.

I updated this post, given that it’s summer time, and I have my All American Sun Oven out on the deck, ready for some solar cooking!

[ Read: Cooking Without Electricity – Solar Oven Cooker ]

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38 Comments

  1. – We’ve used a home-made one a few times; the biggest problem around here is not the presence or lack of sun, it’s the ever-present wind! ( Our area is described as the Saudi Arabia of wind power) there’s just too much flapping in the breeze going on.
    – Papa S.

    1. Papa Smurf – Same here. My wife and I have looked at Solar Ovens, but we think that the amount of wind that we get out here on the prairie on a seemingly continuous basis would wreck havoc with one, or severely limit its use. There’s a reason that you can see commercial wind generators popping up around the area so much (enough of them to see them on the local weather radar).

      As far as heat in the kitchen goes, we turned our home kitchen into sort of a summer kitchen several years ago. We heat it in the winter, but we don’t cool it in the summer, and we use it for preparing almost all of our meals year-around. During the summer, whatever the temperature is outside, it’s 2-5 degrees cooler in our kitchen.

      CD in Oklahoma

      1. CD in OK Bricks friend Bricks and tube construction adhesive or like one friend I know he built a lockable turnstile bird waterier looking thing that I helped concrete into the ground.

        I a lot of 3rd world places I visited they buried a concrete block with a cable bike lock sticking out of the earth more to keep it from walking but….

        Where there is a will there is a way :-)

        1. NH Michael – Thanks. Yea, but if I used bricks and adhesive, I’d probably have to get someone to help carry it out and set it up for me. If I concreted it in the ground, then I’d have something else in the way to mow around. Some of us can just be so picky, huh? LOL! :)

          CD in Oklahoma

          1. Use bricks to block the wind, and adhesive to lock down the person turning it for you.

          2. Lauren – Good ideas, but really, it might be just about as easy to set the pot on the dash of the pickup with all of the windows up during summers here. Don’t even need to move the truck. “Automobile Hood-fried Eggs” has been a featured delicacy on the local news channels at times when the temp stays in the triple digits for a few days.

            CD in Oklahoma

          3. I’ve actually used the car for a dehydrator–never tried to use it as an oven. Temp inside on a 70 degree day gets up to 120 or beyond. I’ll have to try that this summer. :)

          4. An elderly couple I know who lives in a apartment complex uses a Red Wagon to carry the solar oven around to the best solar exposure. They also put their folding chairs and a small cooler as to enjoy the cooking date outing.

            CD you might add some bricks to keep the solar oven/red wagon from blowing away :-)

  2. LOVE my SunOven. It does require planning ahead (have it set up by 10 at the latest if you plan to eat at noon, it takes longer to reach oven temps than a traditional oven) and you have to turn it toward the sun about every half hour to maintain the temperature.

    Even on cloudy days it maintains around 200 degrees. It will reach and maintain 350 degrees, which means make sure you have hotpads available! It WILL burn things at that temperature, regardless of the advertising.

    I probably won’t be able to use mine as much this year–last year something died in the garden and I used that space. It needs a clear space all the way around for manipulation.

    I suggested to SunOven that they create a solar “still” for purifying water, but they said they haven’t been able to find a way to bring the water up to temperature without clouding the glass, which brings the temps down. The solution is to put the water in a sealed container inside. In my head a 1 inch hole is drilled in the upper side of the glass, a sealed container inside with a hose going out the (sealed) hole. Once the water reaches the outside air it condenses and drips into a collection pan. Somebody want to try it?

  3. I have had my SunOven for years, and primarily use it to make bread. I can usually bake 2 loaves at a time. On a cloudless day in Wisconsin, the SunOven usually holds a 325 – 350 degree temperature, which easily bakes the bread in about 2 hours. As Lauren mentioned, it does take some planning ahead, so that you take full advantage of your hours of sun. The SunOven is one of my best purchases for a grid-down or SHTF situation, and I keep plenty of flour in storage to last for months of bread making.

    1. Fresh bread in August without heating up the house! I did a lot of cooking with mine last year.

      1. Yes, Lauren! That’s one of the best things…not heating up the house in Summer! :) I also have been successful in baking bread in the Winter in the SunOven, on a clear and bright day, but took a bit longer to bake.

    2. ChristopherThings,
      That is one of the main things I want to start doing with mine that way I don’t have to heat the house in the middle of summer to make bread.

      1. MrsUSMCBG, I put in a standard metal bread loaf pan. Pans and cooking containers dark in color work best in a SunOven or other solar ovens. I use a VERY simple recipe, which still makes GREAT tasting bread:
        1 package yeast
        2 cups water
        4 1/2 cups white flour
        2 tablespoons white sugar
        1 teaspoon salt
        MIx it up to sticky dough. Let rise until doubled, place in bread pan, let rise another 1/2 hour. SunOven it for 2 hours or until golden brown. (Wipe inside SunOven glass to keep free of moisture as needed during the baking period.) Need that sun to work! :D

        1. Whoops…I’m really not anonymous, MrsUSMCBG… Just forgot to type my name. ;)

      2. Have read articles on using these things, one i read the guy puts a dutch oven in it, increases his thermal mass so the temps stay more consistent.

  4. With my altitude and with a lot of sun, mine works really well. I need to use it more as the food has always been delicious.

  5. We actually dont get enough sun, generally, and lately its been worse, but usually it starts clouding over by around 11:00 or therebout, lately its been cloudy all the time, good practice for me moving to Hermits neighborhood.

    1. Hey Nailbanger
      We don’t get many clear sunny days from Oct to May – I have not looked up the numbers for Idaho, but this has been my experience. Just a lot of sunny dispositions here. :)

      1. Hermit
        Im tellin ya, im thinking this is a primer for me moving up there to Id, its raining again today, in the fog, had volcanic haze this morning, wild weather, we went from drout 4 years ago to now we dont get more than a day or two with no rain and none of the days are sunny all day even if they are clear. I think i can do it! Build me a mini house and a nice big shop and ill be happy! 😎👍🏻

  6. A very simple way to use solar energy for keeping food warm is to use foil-faced styrofoam and line a cardboard box with it which can also be used for a cooler.

  7. Picked up a small solar oven at a Goodwill thrift store and new in the box. Haven’t had chance to try it yet. Packing for my “European vacation” with some trepidation. I’ve never been to Europe and am looking forward to it. I’m not looking forward to refugee encounters. Please don’t let the SHITF until I get back in two weeks. I’m always more nervous when I’m further from my preps than I can walk.

  8. Thanks, Ken, A very timely post. I received a solar oven a couple years ago and have never used it. I am hoping to change that this year although competing with the wind may be a challenge. I would really like to be able to use it during the summer when it is to hot to cook inside. I would like to be pretty proficient with it then if or when the day comes that that is my way to cook I will know what I am doing haha.

  9. Works well enough in bright sunshine as it does not have the reflectors to increase the solar energy collection area. Low mass item this solar oven and most other box style units can use some thermal mass like dark colored rocks or bricks to carry over solar cooking when a cloud blocks the oven.

  10. Ok
    A little.off.key here, but some of this talk of homemade bread, makes one hungry.
    So what I’m looking for is a bread recipe that consist of long term storage ingredients.
    –Yeast up to six months
    –Baking powder up to 12 months.
    Not long enough for me.
    Any ideas and recipes? Maybe for a.Saturday convo.?
    I’m not a butcher, a BAKER, nor.a candle.stick.maker. Just love bread.

    1. Dry yeast will store in the freezer indefinitely. Learn to do sourdough, then freeze a piece of the sourdough for a starter when you need it. During hard times make a loaf every other day and keep a piece of the dough for the next batch. If it gets to that point, use the last of your yeast as a starter for your sourdough. There is also the possibility of capturing wild yeast, which can be as simple as putting a piece of dried fruit in a cup of water with a little sugar. When it smells “yeasty,” it’s ready.

      If you decide to go the wild yeast route, make sure you get used to how it works now, because it won’t act the same as you expect from domestic yeast.

      1. Lauren
        Thanks for the reply and info.
        But I’m thinking beyond, what if there is no freezer for the yeast or sourdough?
        Heck I can’t bake bread now. Present time. Let alone SHTF.time
        Second time baking bread.tonight. first time I tried… major fail. Dogs buried it
        I’m on my second rising, with this batch. Will see how the ‘simple’ recipe turns out. Was cold rainy and windy tonight. Thought I’d broaden my horizons……lol
        GF was impressed. She’s coaching me also.
        Definitely ain’t my mother. Good baker and cooker she was.

        1. You handle the livestock, am I right? So consider yeast livestock. It’s alive, after all.

          I’m writing up an article on capturing wild yeast (actually a re-write from my blog), but for now take a piece of fruit, dried or fresh, and put it in a jar with some water. I used dried. Put a lid on it. In a few days it should start to smell like yeast. Then take a bit of that water and put it in some flour so it’s like a soft bread dough. It should start to rise within 24 hours. Possibly sooner, or later. When it doubles, you have a yeast starter. Your new favorite pet.

          Yeast is everywhere–we’re just used to domesticated yeast rather than wild yeast. Our ancestors didn’t have domesticated yeast–they used what they did have. Usually a piece of the previous loaf was kept in a jar or bowl and used to make the next loaf. No refrigeration. If their starter died they either got one from someone else or made another one.

          1. Lauren, you are AMAZING with plant life, and yeast too!
            So, is there a subtle way we can know what your blog is? :)
            Thank you for sharing on this blog, you inspire us all!

  11. To Joe C.

    Practice makes for perfection so practice with your bread making on days off and practice with both yeast and baking powder. Once you learn all the tricks involved, making bread is like riding a bicycle in that muscle memory will carry the day.

    I do like the Joy of Cooking butt I also like many of the old cook books that came out specialize on breads only. ( I found some from Sunset Magazine of all places.).

    With yeast breads, I try to keep the yeast warm and happy. Once I add the yeast to the other ingredients in order to form the dough ball, the water, flour and all other ingredients are warm to the touch but not hot. If the water is too hot ( enough to burn your hands,) odds are it will kill your yeast and you will end up with bricks instead of loaves. Likewise if it is too cold, the yeast will take much longer to rise. I let my yeast breads rise 2x before I turn on the heat on the risen loaf of bread. ( let rise, punch down, repeat cycle 2x)

    I like a mix of 50/50 of whole wheat flour to white flour for my bread and I also add an egg to the recipe that gives it a heartiness that so many people like. Using 100% of whole wheat can be a bit heavy for most people’s taste and 100% of white flour will shoot up a diabetic’s glycemic index too fast.

    Lastly, if you are just getting started in bread making, You may want to work with the standard ingredients before you expand into using whole grains or exotic grains. I always start new bakers and old family recipes with Gold Medal Flour. It has been around and unchanged since I began baking as a child.

    Good luck in your learning curve.

    1. Lauren & Cali
      Thanks for the additional info. Your info goes on the hard drive. Pen/paper
      Last nights bread was edible. Lol
      A little heavier than I like, but…not too bad.
      And the kitchen clean up……wellll

  12. Also, Lauren
    After reading only your first sentence, I paused and laughed.

    Lauren 05/12/2018 8:23 AM
    You handle the livestock, am I right?

    Yes I know……wash your hands first….
    😁

  13. Too bad theres no way to get a big magnifying lens to focus the light energy,
    A 4’ diameter lens on a rack that you can move,
    So the bread didnt work, but i imagine you could pull off biscuits, just keep them small i suppose.
    A friend over here got one of these, up here where we live we get too many clouds, but down in the coastal areas they work pretty good, he makes stuff like soups and stews a lot, his favorite is finishing out baked beans

    1. A month or so ago I finished a ‘solar collector’. It was a left-over ‘satellite dish’. Three ft in diameter. Sanded it down close to the aluminum. The paint used doesn’t provide a decent surface for the mirroring. Cleaned it nicely. Spray painted it gloss black. Why? Because the next effort uses 1/2 mirrored plastic strips and black paint increases the reflectivity of the plastic strips. Cut some adhesive backed mirrored plastic into 2″ or so strips. Started applying the strips in the center across the dish. Why, you say, cut into strips? Ever try to get a flat sheet of anything on a curved (parabolic) surface with no wrinkles? After getting the surface completely covered I took it outside and set it on the ground, generally facing the sun and stuck a piece of cardboard in the focal point. About 20 seconds later the cardboard is on fire. Next stupid trick was to put a cup of water in a small pot and hold it in the focal point. (Don’t do this unless you have welding gloves.) The water was boiling at around two minutes. (Only a cup. That’s why it was boiling so fast.) My hand was medium rare. Next on the agenda is to make a ‘pot holder’.

      Look around, there’s a lot of ‘satellite dishes’ not being used. Make sure to get a round one. Search the internet for adhesive backed mirrored plastic. Generally $25 will get you enough. Then make a frame. Don’t hold the pot in the focal point.

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