A solar cooker is a device that cooks food using the heat from the sun. The most common designs use cardboard and aluminum foil in a box shape. The cookers reflect the sun’s rays into the box, trapping the heat and maximizing heat retention. They are lightweight, portable, and inexpensive to construct. Solar cookers are capable of cooking meat, boiling water, and baking bread.
The basic construction of a solar cooker uses a cardboard box. Aluminum foil is taped or glued to the inside of the box’s flaps. The inside of the box is painted black to increase heat gain. A cooking pot is placed inside the box, and a clear cover, made of glass or plastic, is placed over the cooking area. The box is then placed where it receives direct sunlight.
Temperatures inside a solar cooker can reach 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). This is hot enough to cook food but is a lower temperature than what conventional ovens reach. It takes longer to cook food using solar cookers, and food is usually placed in the cooker several hours before it will be needed. Large pieces of food, such as roasts, can be cut into smaller pieces to help them cook faster.
Solar cookers are used throughout the world. Outdoor enthusiasts use them while camping. Some people, in an effort to lower their carbon footprint, use them as their main means of cooking. The cookers are especially useful in undeveloped countries with limited forestation available for firewood. Humanitarian organizations often supply solar cookers, or the supplies needed to make them, to refugee camps and other areas without the means to cook food.
There are several advantages of using solar cookers over conventional cookers. They do not require electricity and do not use firewood. They are easily moved from location to location. Once the box is heated and the food is cooked, the solar cooker can be moved indoors without the risk of fire. Food can be left unattended while cooking because the heat inside a solar cooker is not hot enough to burn food.
There are situations where solar cookers are not effective. The cookers need sunlight to work, and cloudy or rainy conditions will prevent the cooker from reaching the necessary temperatures. Wind reduces the heat gain of the cookers and can result in longer cooking times. Cold weather will also reduce heat gain, although extra insulation and design adjustments can be made to improve heat retention.