Today, I’ve go something really exciting to share…
A Complete Guide To Finding & Using A Solar Oven
Because there’s nothing like using the Sun to cook a delicious meal.
- It’ll make you more self-reliant to emergencies!
- And save you money.
But which is best? And do they really work?
Today, I’ll answer those questions (plus so much more)…
TOPICS IN THIS GUIDE… ↓(click to jump)
- Best Solar Ovens Today
- What Is A Solar Oven?
- How Do They Work?
- Best Solar Oven Features
- How To Build One From Scratch
- Are They A Good Investment?
Nowadays, solar ovens are all the rage…
They’re embraced by both:
- The “environmental sustainability”
- And the “self-reliance” crowd.
And while that’s a good thing.
There’s a massive amount of “marketing” out there.
Making it difficult to know which is “Best”…
So after much research, here are the best ones on the market today:
The All-American Sun Oven is the original and has been around for a long time.
They make one of the best solid-frame boxed solar ovens on the market. If you buy one, you won't be disappointed.
I have a neighbor who owns one, and he absolutely LOVES IT.
He uses it all the time and makes some amazing slow-cooked meals.
I've been putting off this purchase for years due to the upfront costs, but it's still on my wish list, and one day I'll be a proud owner of one of these devices.
User Review 1:
I preheated the oven in the sun for 45 minutes then baked two delicious loaves of bread. The temperature got up past 350 and the bread cooked in 35 minutes. I misted the top of the loaves with water before putting them in the oven which helped them brown. We are so excited to have the SunOven and look forward to using it often.
User Review 2:
Update: OK, I jumped too fast. I spent time going back over all the information this morning trying to figure out why this solar oven isn't heating as it should. I didn't realize that BOTH sun sights must be correctly adjusted, not just one. The manual didn't make that point very clear, and I read over it multiple times. BOTH sights must be sighted in. I had to raise the oven to the max using the rear adjustable leg to get both sights adjusted correctly. It was in the low 60s late this morning but with full sun. With the sights adjusted correctly the oven reached 350 degrees in a short time. I can live with that.
- Solid construction quality
- Can attain high heats
- Multi-adjustment options to dial in
- Made in the USA
- Cost vs. other options
- The main box doesn't fold down, so it takes up a fair amount of space
↓ The All-American Sun Oven
The SOL Solar Cooker is a newer option to recently hit the market.
It's both highly portable and can also generate some serious heat. My only concern with this unit is its long-term durability.
I can picture how crushed this thing would get crammed into an overstuffed car trunk.
Other than that, it's lightweight, gets hot fast, and sells at a fair price.
User Review 1:
Like many, I was astonished at how well this lightweight contraption cooks food. (in February, no less!) It cooks food in the morning, in the evening, in the winter, and at more reasonable times of sunlight too.
User Review 2:
After playing the puzzle game to get it assembled which I understand the complaints about. It was not that easy at all. But once it was together and all the proper places were bent appropriately, which is very important!!!! This thing is amazing actually. It took 1 and 1/2 hours to cook a pork tenderloin.
- Can reach optimal max oven temps
- Surprisingly lightweight and portable
- A more attractive price vs. other options
- Long-term durability concerns
- Confusing Assembly
- The bright yellow color may not be to everyone's liking
↓ All Season Solar Cooker
Want a portable electric oven that's solar-ready as well?
If so, then this SunFocus might be the solar oven you've been dreaming about.
I mean, cooking with solar rays is nice and all on sunny days, but what about rainy days?
Well, with a traditional solar-only oven, your SOL. But not with this hybrid.
Use electricity when it's available, but use it with the sun when it's not.
I have had 2 solar ovens both with back up electric heat if you lose sun power. This one is the BEST YOU CAN BUY...I give this oven 5 stars. It is worth every dollar.
- Only hybrid option (both electric and solar)
- Very few reviews, so I have less confidence overall
- It doesn't break down much, so less portable
- Heavy (30 lbs.) compared to other options
- Most expensive option on this list
↓ SunFocus Hybrid Oven
The MrMaxMap Solar Oven has a unique shape to help it cook foods FAST.
For example, it claims it only takes 30 minutes to cook a meal in full sun at a max temperature of 550 Degrees F.
That's impressive for a unit as portable and compact as this.
It comes in just a little over 11 lbs in total. So it's not too cumbersome to haul around.
...it's a pretty good unit for a solar cooker that uses zero electricity or fuel of any kind. We keep solar cookers on hand for the aftermath of hurricanes, which can leave one without power for extended periods of time, and we use the solar cookers periodically to keep our solar cooking skills fresh. Besides, it's kinda fun to serve the family a meal cooked by nothing but sunshine while you went about your business doing other things.
- Can reach super high oven temps (550 Degrees F)
- Acceptable price point vs. other options
- The size of meals you can make is limited
- Harder to clean than other options
↓ Don’t Buy A Solar Oven Til You See This!
If portability and minimalistic are your top priorities, then this Mini SunFlair Solar Oven is your best bet.
I mean, then the entire oven weighs just over 1 lb!
This kit includes:
- 1 solar oven thermometer
- 1 trivet
- One collapsible silicone pot
- and a handy stuff bag
Just note, this is one of the lower temperatures solar ovens, as it can only reach temperatures of up to 285 F. Of course, temperature varies depending on season and location.
So I think this little Mini Oven is IDEAL for backpacking.
But for car camping or at-home cooking, I'd much prefer the other options.
Today at 1:55 pm I threw two eggs (in the shell, no water) in the silicone pot good sun. and set it in the driveway facing the sun. Ambient temperature about 32 degrees, no wind. A little less than 2 hours later, after 2 minor adjustments to face the sun and tilt it forward for the low sun, I decided to check the eggs, with little hope that they were cooked. To my surprise, they were perfectly hard boiled. Not bad for late afternoon in mid-winter. Happy with my purchase, and looking forward to more fun. I'll probably buy the full sized version soon.
- Most portable and lightweight option (by far)
- Very reasonably priced vs. other options
- Comes with extras (thermometer, trivet, pot, and bag)
- A max temperature lower than other options (~285 F)
- Slower cook times (due to lower temps)
- It seems pricy for how tiny it is
- Meal sizes are limited due to the size of the solar oven
↓ Sunflair Mini Oven Test
The Hains 2.2 is a simple but effective solar oven with high user ratings.
It's quite impressive how minimalistic this design is, yet it produces some serious heat.
And here's the best part, the small Dutch oven is a part of the kit!
Regarding portability, we're talking 7 lbs total (including a small Dutch oven).
My only gripe is that you are limited in the size of meals you can make in the small Dutch oven provided.
And swapping a larger Dutch oven could result in drastically different cook times.
User Review 1:
I’m super happy. This oven works exactly as advertised. I bought it for emergency preparedness and to be able to cook in summer without adding heat to our non-conditioned house.
User Review 2:
I've also cooked spaghetti using dry spaghetti - again a hot, sunny day with a two hour cook time (spaghetti was perfectly al dente). My third dish was a Cantonese dinner with strips of pork that I did not even brown. I threw it all together (except for the rice) and set it out. This one I started around noon, and had some clouds, so I just left it out until I could see and smell that it was finished. I have no qualms about recommending this solar cooker. It works, it's fun, and the food is delicious.
- It comes with a Dutch oven with an ideal size for setup
- Reasonable price compared to more expensive options
- No manufacturer stated max temp
- Meal sizes are limited due to the size of small Dutch oven
- It takes up some serious space when fully deployed
↓ Hainer 2.0 Solar Cooker TestClick here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.
The sun releases vast amounts of energy.
This energy comes in the form of electromagnetic radiation.
This includes visible light as well as infrared and ultraviolet.
In fact, more than half of the solar energy that reaches Earth comes from infrared radiation.
And we feel the infrared waves on our skin.
We all eventually get uncomfortable lounging in the Sun.
In the blazing summer, you can literally “cook” your skin.
It’s called a sunburn!
But what happens when you concentrate the sun rays?
THAT’s what Solar Powered Ovens do.
They concentrate infrared radiation into an enclosed, insulated space. Then trap this heat to cook.
And the darker the cooking area, the more pronounced the effect.
So flat black painted cooking pans help with cooking efficiency.Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.
Portability | Weight
Unlike your kitchen oven, a solar ovens are portable.
- You take them outside on sunny days.
- And bring them back inside when done.
So even if you never take it camping, you’ll still haul it around.
So, of course, the lighter, the better.
Size | Dimensions
What size meals do you want to cook?
- Small one person meals?
- Large family spreads?
Double-check the size of your cookware.
You’ll want it to fit with ease.
Power | Efficiency
Power is where differences are most profound.
For it to work as intended, it must capture and focusing solar rays efficiently.
And easily maintain cooking temperatures.
So read the specs (and customer reviews).
Make sure it will match your expectations.
This feature is tricky.
- Some have wood frames
- Others are made from reflective lined cloth
With wood, your oven will be rigid.
With cloth, it’ll be flexible. But you don’t want it to rip or tear.
So it’s challenging to compare builds apples to apples.
So choose the “type” you want first.
THEN compare the specs.
The first time I saw the price of a solar oven, I was floored.
How could a “simple box” cost hundreds of dollars.
The price seemed “too high,” but the reviews were fantastic.
while the cheap alternatives had very mixed reviews.
So like most things, you get what you pay for…
Going cheap, may be a waste of money.
Fresnel lenses are good at directing light.
In fact, they were used for hundreds of years in lighthouses to focus light on ships at sea.
You can find plenty of Fresnel lenses online, both in glass and plastic.
Large Fresnel lenses are excellent at focusing solar energy.
Now, they’re sensitive to the angle of sunlight.
This means a Fresnel lens will be efficient.
But they also need a lot of tending to.
I built one with a 24” lens.
It’s compact, lightweight, and durable.
And it’s powerful enough to boil a pot of water quickly.
But due to the small focus point, it isn’t easy to use to slow cook meals.
For more information, check out this video:
↓ DIY Fresnel Lens Solar Cooker
It’s also a capable firestarter.
Reflector solar cookers can be built with flexible solar shields.
Like the reflectors people put on their windshield to keep their cars cool.
For under $20, you can get all the materials to build your own.
These designs are lightweight and compact.
Plus, they’re the only type you could fit in a bug out bag.
↓ How To Use A Car Sun Shade To Cook Food
Commercial models use durable materials and improved cooking surfaces.
Paired with heat-resistant cookware, these are an excellent solution for solar cooking!
↓ Sunflair Oven Review
A box cooker can be as simple as a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil.
I’ve seen pizza boxes and plastic wrap converted to solar cookers.
It won’t fry an egg but can hit slow cooker temps.
If you want something more efficient, check out the Sun Oven.
The solid wood box is well insulated, with a dark-painted interior.
It absorbs the maximum amount of heat and has a clear top to trap it inside.
The reflector panel mirrors focus more energy into the box.
Allowing it to hit 200-300 degrees with ease.
The plans look straightforward and easy to follow.
↓ DIY Homemade Solar Oven
If you’re not into DIY, go with a Sun Oven.
This helps to concentrate all available energy.
They can reach a temperature range that rival your standard oven.
So they’re capable of baking loaves of bread and meats.
↓ All American Sun Oven Review
A parabolic mirror reflects light off a curved surface and back to a focus point.
Their shape is like a satellite dish..
Like a Fresnel lens, a parabolic mirror focuses its energy on a tiny spot.
This can make cooking larger items difficult.
However, it’s less sensitive to sun angle, making it a hands-off design.
Parabolic mirrors come in all kinds of materials and sizes.
You can even build your own with just a few items!
As always, size matters.
A larger mirror will collect more energy and cook faster.
Some segmented parabolic mirrors provide a reflective surface several feet in diameter.
These mirrors are hard to DIY.
Why? Because the precise shape is crucial to focusing energy on the cooking pot.
Unless, of course, your neighbor tosses out their old 5-foot-wide satellite dish!
If so, snag it and get to work.
↓ DIY Parabolic Solar Cooker
Parabolic Trough Cooker
A parabolic trough uses the same curved reflective surface as a circular parabolic mirror.
But, it stretches that surface along one axis into a long channel.
Instead of a single focal point, this creates a long line of focused energy.
If you align the trough with the sun’s path, the light can focus for hours without maintenance.
Like other parabolic mirrors, these are a more challenging DIY build.
Instead, look at purchasing the GoSun Portable Solar Cooker.
This provides a near-perfect layer of insulation.
Keeping the heat in and cold out.
Perfect for keeping the kitchen cool during the summer.
↓ Insane Solar Cooking With The GoSun
So Which Is The Best?
“Best” is a subjective word since each type has its pros and cons.
It depends on what YOU’RE looking for…
- Some are easier to build (like the reflective oven or box oven)
- While the parabolic trough cooker is not very DIY-friendly
Are you planning to travel with it?
If so, the solar dish parabolic cooker is a poor option…
Here’s a comparison video to help you decide:
↓ Solar Cooker Comparison For Off-Grid LivingClick here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.
Clearly, these ovens have some limitations.
As with any solar system, they depend on bright, direct sunlight.
This limits your cooking to daylight hours.
Solar cooking is often slower than other methods.
This means you have to be in camp for longer.
And plan your day around the timing of cooking tasks.
Due to the size of the cooking vessel, it may be challenge to cook for a large group.
A clean, fuel-less cooking system has many benefits if you can work with these limitations.
It’s silent, generates no smoke, and can run as long as you have sunlight.
A lightweight solar oven can cook and weighs less than traditional ones.
Plus, it doesn’t need any fossil fuels.
It’s not my primary system.
But it’s a very wise backup…just in case.
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