Have you ever heard of a solar oven? Although you may think they’re a new phenomenon to combat air pollution and fossil fuel use, they’ve actually been around since the 1700s. Solar cooking allows van lifers and tent campers, as well as off-grid enthusiasts, to enjoy outdoor cooking without making a fire. Let’s learn more about solar cooking and the best solar ovens you can buy today!
What Is Solar Cooking?
Desert states like Arizona or New Mexico often ban campfires because of the high risk of wildfires due to dry air and wind. If you’re camping off-grid in areas like these, cooking your food when you can’t start a fire requires a different setup.
Solar cooking uses direct sunlight to heat food in a small cooking space. These ovens can work anywhere there’s sunlight without additional fuel sources. When you’re in a remote area, focusing the sun’s rays on a solar oven is an excellent way to protect the environment and stay safe while camping.
What Are the Benefits of Solar Cooking?
There are environmental benefits to solar cooking. Because solar energy is a renewable resource, it’s less harmful than burning wood or fossil fuels. When you use this kind of oven, you’re not producing air pollution. You’re also not contributing to deforestation since you aren’t burning wood.
But there are also economic benefits to using a solar oven. Even though high-end solar ovens can be expensive, there are DIY options to help keep the cost low. You can use everyday items like aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and pizza boxes to make your oven. Plus, since you’re not buying cooking fuel, there are no long-term costs.
Finally, solar cooking is safe in the wilderness or primitive campsites without electricity. There’s no threat of a wildfire. If you’re ever without power for an extended period, a solar oven is an excellent option. Finally, the act of cooking with the sun can be downright fun! It is an excellent activity to do with kids and teach them about the incredible energy in sunlight.
Pro Tip: We found the 5 Best RV Solar Panel Kits for Your Camper.
How Do Solar Ovens Work?
Solar ovens need sunlight to perform. These ovens direct the sun’s UV light rays and heat energy using reflective materials like mirrors, polished metal, or aluminum foil. The angles of these materials reflect the rays to trap the heat best, although the individual designs may vary.
To cook food most effectively, most solar ovens retain heat, so they separate the outside air from the air inside the oven. This can be done with glass or other transparent material that allows light in and retains heat. However, some recent models have designed around this to allow for cooking in more different containers and allow for stirring and monitoring.
How Hot Does a Solar Oven Get?
Your household oven may reach temperatures of 450 degrees or more. You won’t get that kind of heat with a solar oven. Generally, they can reach up to about 325 degrees. Depending on the design of the oven, you can control the heat by opening or closing the solar collection panels or using a heat plate between the pot and the cooking surface.
How to Choose the Best Solar Oven
Before you decide which solar oven is right for you, you’ll need to know what you’re planning to cook. You can create a DIY solar cooker to roast marshmallows, but it probably won’t do well with a piece of meat. You’ll want to choose a solar oven that suits the type of meals you’ll prepare.
There are three types of solar ovens: box ovens, panel ovens, and parabolic ovens. They all function differently, so you’ll need to think about how you plan on using them to make a good decision. If you want to prepare a lot of food at once, a box solar oven is ideal. Should you want a solar cooker that’s lightweight and easy to transport, a panel oven works well. If you want an oven that will reach high temperatures quickly, your best bet is to get a parabolic range.
You’ll want a thermometer to monitor the actually-achieved temperature. If there’s not one in the oven, that’s an accessory you should purchase. You also want to consider how often you’ll be moving it. The weight and ease of assembly are crucial when tent camping every other weekend. However, a semi-permanent off-grid camp may do well with a larger, heavier unit.
Best Solar Ovens for Camping
Depending on the type of food you’ll cook, and the amount of traveling you’ll be doing, one of these solar ovens might be best for your camping needs. There are suggestions for tent campers, backpackers, and large-group campers.
Best Overall: Haines 2.0 SunUp Solar Cooker and Dutch Oven Kit
This kit is the perfect duo. You can stew, boil, bake, or fry. This oven can boil water in about 40 minutes. It weighs less than two pounds, making it easy to transport. In addition, the petal-shaped reflectors are very efficient as they can heat all sides of the pot and follow the sun for consistent temperatures.
- Top Ranked Solar Cooker
- Cook Delicious Meals Using the Power Of the Sun
- For Home Use, Camping or Keep On Hand for Power Outages and...
Best For Tent Campers: GOSUN Solar Oven Portable Stove
If you’re looking for an efficient solar oven, this GOSUN option heats to 550 degrees in full sunlight. You can cook a meal in less than 20 minutes, which is ideal when you’ve been hiking or paddling all day long. You can also enjoy coffee or tea in the morning as the sun rises. Finally, this kit includes a stainless-steel cooking tray, silicone cooking pan, stabilizer stand, and cleaning brush. With a weight of two pounds, you can easily transport this between campsites.
- ☀️ULTRA PORTABLE - The GoSun Go is the most portable model in...
- ☀️FAST AND RELIABLE - Cooks a meal in as little as 20...
- ☀️JUST ADD SUN - If you have a sunny day, you will have a hot...
Best For Backpackers: Sunflair Mini Portable Solar Oven
Even more lightweight than the Haines 2.0 and GOSUN solar ovens is this Sunflair solar oven. It weighs just over one pound! However, it only reaches about 285 degrees, so searing a steak may not be an option. But if you’re backpacking, you only need an oven that can boil water and reheat food. This oven folds down easily to fit inside a backpack and includes a thermometer, trivet, collapsible silicone pot, and bag.
- #1 Portable Solar Oven from Alaska to Afghanistan! Cook from...
- Includes: 1 solar oven thermometer, 1 trivet, 1 collapsible...
- Cook where open flames are not allowed. Possible to cook in some...
Best For Large Capacity Cooking: SOL COOK All Season Solar Cooker
If you’re heading out on a group camping adventure, this SOL COOK solar oven is an excellent option. Its cooking floor is 17 inches by 12 inches—large enough to roast a turkey! Virtually any size pot will fit inside. It’s also a panel-style oven so that you can fold it for convenient transport. However, it weighs a bit more than the other options at four pounds.
- This will be your "go to" solar cooker. Use any size cookware, up...
- Best for solar cooking. The ASSC Camper, by SolCook is large and...
- Rugged and lightweight. The cooker is constructed using food...
Best Solar Oven With Accessories: Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe
Another oven by Sunflair is this deluxe kit that includes everything you need for your camping adventure. You get one solar oven thermometer, two heat-conducting/baking trays, two baking/dehydrating racks, one enamelware pot, two silicone pots, and a carrying bag. Like the Sunflair mini, this oven weighs just over one pound. Boil water, roast chicken, or heat a frozen dinner with this kit.
- #1 Portable Solar Oven from Alaska to Afghanistan! Cook from...
- The most versatile solar oven on the market. Bake cookies or...
- Everything included to start cooking: 1 solar oven thermometer, 2...
Tips for Cooking With a Solar Oven
There is a slight learning curve when using a solar oven, as there are a few major disadvantages for cooking this way. First, you can’t put food in it and leave it alone for an hour to cook. You have to reposition the range about every 30 minutes. The Earth rotates and the sun moves across the sky, so you must continue to move the oven to collect the most rays.
You also don’t want an explosion because you use the wrong cookware. Some solar ovens come with pans to fit perfectly in the range. It’s ideal to use these, especially for new users. If you want additional cookware, choose pressure-sealed pans to prevent overheating.
Finally, cooking times will vary. One weekend, it might take an hour to cook something, and the following weekend, it might take 90 minutes to cook the same meal. Sun exposure changes with cloud cover and location, so always use a thermometer to know when the oven has thoroughly cooked your food.
Pro Tip: Let your inner chef shine by cooking with one of these 7 Best Campfire Cooking Kits for Amazing Outdoor Meals.
Do You Need Special Pans for Solar Cooking?
Aluminum foil is an excellent option when solar cooking. Although you can use any cooking pan in your solar oven, it’s best to use the manufacturer-recommended pans. These will fit well in your oven. But in general, choose dark-colored and thin pots and pans. They’ll absorb and retain the heat more efficiently.
Be Environmentally Conscious While Enjoying the Outdoors With Solar Cooking
Lightweight and easy to use, these ovens are excellent options for campers looking to leave a smaller footprint. Whether you want to heat a frozen dinner or boil water for a cup of tea, they’re versatile and compact. In addition, solar cooking is safe, environmentally friendly, and sustainable.
So if you enjoy camping off-grid and want a different option other than making a campfire, try one of these solar ovens on your next camping trip.
Which solar oven suits your cooking style best? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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Tuesday 18th of April 2023
Note that *most* solar cookers are safe in areas with fire bans. However, the parabolic cooker pictured can easily start fires if unattended and the reflector is not covered! The exception that is commercially available and very worthwhile for RV life can be found at SunPlicity.FR