If you are going camping anytime soon, you might want to consider getting a solar cooker. You might be used to creating a fire every single time you need to cook, but that can quickly get old. Solar cookers, as long as the sun is out, will allow you to cook all of your favorite camping foods without the need for a fire or other external fuel sources. These cookers can get as hot as 500°F, at least the really good ones can when there is a strong sun out.
Buyer’s Guide – How to Choose Your Best Solar Cooker
Before you go out and buy any solar cooker, there are some things that you need to know in order to choose the one that is best for you. Let’s talk about the various things that you need to keep in mind before making a final purchase.
Things to Consider Before Making a Purchase
Let’s talk about the most important considerations you need to keep in mind before buying a portable solar cooker.
How Much Heat Can It Deliver?
You might think that a little box with a bunch of reflective materials cannot generate all that much heat. However, that is really not true. Between the reflective panels and the materials used in the cooking box hold the heat, solar cookers can actually get pretty hot, but this does of course depend on the specific one you get.
Some models will only be able to produce 200° to 300° of heat, which is enough to heat food, but not really to cook it. However, there are some higher-quality models that can reach up to 550° or even close to 600°, which is more than enough to cook any kind of food, even from frozen.
Can I Control the Temperature?
To be fair, many cheaper solar cookers do not allow you to control the temperature, but there are more expensive ones which do. In all reality, cooking does require precise temperature controls, so this is pretty important to keep in mind. However, if you are just cooking hotdogs and heating beans, being able to control the temperature might not be so important.
Getting a solar cooker or solar oven that has removable and adjustable reflective materials, plus some adjustable venting capabilities, will allow greater control over the temperature. Do keep in mind that these things are never all that precise with temperature, so you are not going to be making your famous soufflé with a solar cooker.
Size, Weight, and Durability
Something that you need to look out for before you make a purchase is how durable the item in question is. Being made of durable materials like aluminum and stainless steel is always a bonus. Who knows, you might bang this cooker around during your travels and you might even drop it, so having a durable solar cooker is important.
Furthermore, you are going to be out in nature and cooking with hot temperatures, so having a cooker that can withstand extreme temperatures, plus one that is corrosion resistant is pretty important as well. On that same note, do keep in mind that larger and more durable solar cookers will usually be a bit heavy and sometimes bulky too.
Of course, the ideal mix here is a combination of a lightweight, compact, and durable design. Being small and compact is useful because when you go camping, you already have more than enough gear on you, so hauling around a large solar cooker is not exactly ideal.
Top 5 Common Types of Solar Cookers
There are 5 main types of solar cookers that you can go with. These include the simple panel, advanced panel cooker, the box solar oven, the parabolic dish cooker, and the solar grill. Solar panel cookers tend to be the least expensive, but they also do not work that well due to the fact that they only direct heat towards the pot or pan, but do not have any method of retaining that heat.
In terms of camping, you are better off going with a box solar oven, as they reflect heat and light just like a panel cooker, but they also have an insulated box to retain heat. Parabolic solar cookers tend to be quite expensive, large, and bulky, but they do often have the ability to get up to really high temperatures.
Let’s take a look at these various solar cookers and how they might be beneficial for you.
1. Simple Panel Solar Cookers
Moreover, this particular model comes with adjustable reflective paneling, so depending on what kind of pots you are using, the intensity of the sun, and the direction the sun is coming from, you can adjust the paneling to work best for you. This type tends to have a pretty decent cooking capacity, with the SolCook Solar Cooker having a 12 x 17 inch area for pots and pans.
It’s not huge, but it’s more than enough to make a decent-size breakfast or small dinner. With that said, if there are many people, it is not going to be big enough to cook enough food for everybody.
Moreover, models like this one tend not to do the best on windy days either. Also, they are very simple and don’t hold heat in all that well, so they will take a long time to get up to cooking temperature and to complete cooking.
2. Advanced Panel Solar Cookers
While these may not look much more impressive than simple panel solar cookers, advanced panel solar cookers like the Sunflair Mini Portable Solar Oven come with certain advantages. For one, whereas the simple model above folded down into a little box, this kind of solar cooker tends to be made with relatively soft walls. This has the added benefit of folding down into a much smaller package, and also being much lighter, therefore making the advanced models much more portable than the simple ones.
Furthermore, when opened up, this particular advanced solar cooker does not have quite as much room for pots and pans as the model above, but it has the benefit of having a plastic cover. This plastic cover can be closed when cooking, and it helps to insulate the cooking area, thus keeping heat on the inside.
This advanced panel cooker is much faster to cook with and to get up to temperature than a simple panel solar cooker. It might not have as much room, but it works much faster. That said, the thin walls or panels are not the most durable, but these, and the plastic cover do offer great protection from the wind.
3. Box Solar Oven
They usually don’t come with carrying cases, so hiking with them is more or less out of the question. Now, with that being said, if you need something with a fairly large cooking surface that can handle large pots and pans, then something like this is the way to go.
Moreover, the panels of this type of solar cooker features are designed in such a way that they efficiently block the wind. Even better than that, the panels are usually fairly large and can generate a lot of heat in a fairly limited amount of time. The “oven” part at the bottom is also designed to hold a lot of heat, something else which increases overall cooking efficiency.
4. Parabolic Dish Solar Cookers
On the other hand, something like the SolSource Sport Solar Cooker is much more durable than the previous types of solar cookers we looked at. It is made with high-quality materials, which is true both for the frame and reflective materials. If you are not rough with it, it should last for quite a long time.
One benefit of this kind of solar cooker is that they are much better at directing the heat right at pots and pans. They work much faster and more efficiently than either of the other types we have looked at so far. However, the SolSource, for example, can only hand a single 8 inch pot, which is not very much.
5. Solar Grills
What is also impressive is that they feature curved reflective panels which direct the heat at a center tube. The center tube is made out of metal, and also features reflective materials.
Just so you know, the food is placed inside of this cooking tube, which has the shape of a skewer. This kind works great if you have some meat and veggies, but beware that they can only fit a very limited amount of food, and nothing large like ribs, steaks, or even chicken breasts. It’s pretty much just a skewer cooker.
Before you decide on one type of solar cooker over another, there are a few main purchasing considerations to keep in mind:
Features to Look Out For
Let’s quickly talk about the features of a solar cooker or solar oven that you should pay attention to.
All solar cookers have some type of reflective panel which they use to reflect heat energy at the cooking pots or cooking area. The bigger and higher quality these panels are, the better the cooking process will go and the more heat the item in question will be able to produce. Having collapsible reflectors is the best way to go because it will be more compact and easier to transport.
An Insulated Box
Some solar cookers will come with an insulated box, which is mostly the case with solar ovens. These boxes are made of materials that can absorb and retain heat for higher temperatures and faster cooking. If you do not want to sit around all day waiting for your food to cook, this is the way to go.
Perhaps one of the most important things to look for when buying a solar cooker is if it has a temperature gauge. Sure, being able to achieve high temperatures for cooking is nice, but you also need to be able to tell what the temperature is. Cooking is pretty sensitive, so this feature is quite important.
Best Solar Cooker Review
To provide you with some options and to help you find the best solar cooker that your money can buy, let us review 5 different solar cookers right here and right now. Who knows, we might find one that is ideal for you.
1. Solavore Sport Solar Oven
If you need a convenient little solar oven for basic cooking needs, the Solavore Sport Solar Oven is a really good option to keep in mind.
This oven is small, lightweight, and compact, making it a good choice if you already have lots of gear with you and need a small solar stove that is ideal for transportation. It weighs only 9 pounds, which is relatively light, not the lightest, but far from being the heaviest solar cooker around. It comes in at 27 x 17 x 10 inches, which is also not too bad, as it is fairly compact. In terms of convenience, this is one of the better choices out there right now.
2. Solavore Sport Solar Oven with TR-86 Reflector
This Complete Solavore Sport Solar Oven is an upgraded version of the one we just looked at. Both of these solar ovens come from the same manufacturer, and they more or less look the same, but this one comes with a detachable TR-86 high performance solar reflector.
It is more expensive than the regular Solavore Sport Solar Oven, but it does have a higher achievable temperature and it helps cut down on cooking time as well.
3. Sunflair Mini Portable Solar Oven
Are you looking for a small and inexpensive solar cooker for your camping needs?
This Sunflair Mini Portable Solar Oven is a decent choice to go with. It is so far the most inexpensive option on this list today. If you have already spent a lot of money on camping gear and don’t have too much more to spend, this cooker is better than not having a solar cooker at all.
It might not be the biggest or very fastest option out there, but for basic camping cooking purposes, it certainly gets the job done.
4. Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe
This solar oven from Sunflair is an upgraded version of the previous Sunflair Solar Cooker we just looked at. It has many of the same features and works in much the same way, but it has a few extra things that come with it.
This Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe can reach temperatures of 285°, just like the previous model. It is good enough to heat up water and other foods, but it will take a few minutes, not to speak of cooking something from frozen. It works well enough for basic camp cooking needs, but just do not expect it to work very fast.
5. All American Sun Oven
If you need an all-around solar cooker to go with, the All American Sun Oven is definitely a good option to keep in mind. It is lightweight, easy to set up, durable, and it actually gets pretty hot as well.
This particular solar oven comes in at 7 pounds and 10 x 10 x 10 inches. In other words, it is fairly compact and lightweight. It is not the lightest of all solar ovens out there, but it is not too heavy nonetheless. Its compact size does make it fairly easy to fit in with your camping gear.
Not every solar oven and cooker are built the same, you can find a dozen of them from Solar Cookers International. When it comes down to it, all of the above options are good to go with. It really depends on what you need. You want to keep the cost in mind, especially if you are on a budget, but you also want a durable solar cooker, so don’t go with something excessively cheap.
If you need something lightweight and super portable, we would recommend both of the options by Sunflair.
If you need a solar cooker with lots of cooking power, the final option, the All American, is a good choice to keep in mind. If you want a well-rounded cooking experience with a good mix of all of the important features, you might want to take a closer look at the first two options we have reviewed here today.
Don’t forget, your cooking time can take much longer than usual as your cooker’s temperature will depend on ambient temperature, amount of sunlight, and the angle of the sun. We suggest you shall take a relaxing shower with one of these solar showers while you’re waiting for the food to be ready.
That’s it for now! You can find more solar products reviews and hot tips from here. If you’ve found this review useful, please share this article with your buddies and let us know in the comments below or leave a comment on our social pages.