Did you know a solar oven can do almost everything a traditional oven can do? But it does even more, because it can cook for you on the go, it doesn’t require gas, electricity, or flame, and it does it all without creating carbon emissions. Plus, there’s no toxic fumes and ash mixing with your meal. Solar powered cookers are truly the wave of the future.
Solar cooking is an effective and efficient way of cooking. Solar powered ovens have the same or similar heating capacity as a normal gas or electric grill except all you need is sunlight. There are some ovens so efficient that they can even work on a cloudy day. These units have no plugs or wires, and don’t need to be hooked into any power source. In fact, many of the best solar powered ovens are not just plug-free, they are portable. You can cook fresh, amazing meals at your tailgate or campsite without the need for polluting generators or running extension cords. Many solar ovens work even when the outdoor temperature is quite low, so you can cook year-round.
There are several basic types of cookers. While a conventional oven is built to pretty much the same design regardless of brand or fuel type, there is a much wider array of designs in solar ovens.
- 1 Best Solar Ovens – Top Reviews of 2020
- 2 Basic Guide to Selecting Your Perfect Solar Cooker
- 3 Conclusion
Box Solar Oven
Many solar powered ovens have a “box” type design, a bit like a solar grill, and look a little bit like a traditional oven turned on its side, with a lid on top, rather than a door in front. These are the best solar powered cookers for baking. Box ovens are typically not portable enough to pack in a bag or backpack, but they are usually lightweight enough to carry, and can be a great addition to your car or RV camping kit.
Also sometimes called a panel oven, the panel cooker has several adjustable panels that can be focused on the dish to be cooked. These cookers are shaped a bit like an open flower or a funnel, often with a plastic cover that holds in heat. These are the most versatile, and often the most portable. But some are quite lightweight and may need to be clamped or tied down and closely monitored in high wind situations.
The tubular solar powered cookers typically consist of a long glass or metal tube with vacuum walls, a bit like a long, skinny thermos. They use their large surface area to heat food quickly and easily while staying cool to the touch on the outside. Unfortunately, the small mouth of the cooker can put limitations on the shape and size of items to be cooked, and it is a poor choice for baking.
This type of cooker has a parabolic design reminiscent of a satellite dish. These can reach very high temperatures very quickly, and are the only solar cookers capable of stir-frying or sautéing. While very interesting looking, they are not always easy to maneuver or take on the go.
Here are some of the best solar-powered grills available on the market and everything you should know about them.
Sun Ovens All-American Ultimate Solar Cooker
GoSun Sport Solar Cooker
SolCook All Season Solar Cooker
Best Solar Ovens – Top Reviews of 2020
Our reviews of solar powered ovens put a high premium on portability and ease of use, much like our reviews of the best solar backpacks. Many consumers are not sure how to use a solar oven at first, and so easy setup is important.
And while solar cooking is fun and easy to do at home, most consumers find that they want to use their cookers when they are on the go—camping, RVing, boating, picnicking, or tailgating.
We’ve rounded up some of the best ovens and cookers and given them a thorough review looking at the function and construction of each solar oven or solar cooker. Each of the oven reviews should have plenty of information for you to understand the capabilities, strengths and drawbacks of each model. (For a similar food preparation item, check our our reviews of the best solar hydrators.) And if you want to find out how to make your own solar cooker, check out our DIY solar oven guide.
The Sol Cook All Season is a panel cooker that features a generous 12×17-inch cooking area. It’s lightweight; about 2lbs, and folds up to save space during storage or transportation. The Sol Cook offers one of the more affordable prices, so if you’re looking for a full-size cooking surface on a compact budget, this might be the best solar powered oven for you. The panels have a large range for all-day cooking. The adjustments are easy to do, and a handy pin and block feature on the top panel lets you easily see when the cooker is correctly positioned.
The main drawback of this solar oven seems to be in its lightweight design. It may not hold up as well on windy days, or last through rough and consistent usage. Some customers also found the initial setup a bit on the complicated side.
- Positioning indicator
- May falter in high winds
- Material is less durable than some other models
2. GoSun Sport Solar Cooker
GoSun solar cooking products are among the most popular in the industry and these items have even been featured on the hit entrepreneurial program Shark Tank. This cooker features the novel tubular design combined with a parabolic reflector. The cooking tube is 24 inches long and about 3 inches wide. It’s made with borosilicate glass which includes a vacuum-sealed double wall. This cooks food inside, while keeping the outside cool enough to touch. The double-walled feature cuts down on the chance for accidental burns, which is especially great if you’re planning to have pets and kids with you around the cooking area.
There’s a wooden handle on one end of the cylinder which allows you to pull the cooking tray out easily.The GoSun Sport’s reflector and stand legs fold into a clamshell for portability. The metal exterior protects the glass interior, which keeps it safe during travel, a smart design feature that extends the life of your cooker.
This unit is a great choice for a number of cooking methods from steaming veggies to frying an omelet, albeit an oddly shaped one. However, the tubular design puts some definitive limits on the type of cooking that you can do: pieces of meat or vegetable must be small enough to fit the tube’s shape, and it can’t tackle baked goods or high-liquid foods like stews.
- Thoughtfully designed for travel
- Quickly reaches a high heat
- Exterior glass stays cool to the touch
- Food must be cut into pieces about 2” in diameter
- Cooks smaller portions
- Can’t use your own cookware
3. Sun Ovens All-American Ultimate Solar Cooker
This solar oven is made in the USA (hence the name) and has a generous 14×14-inch cooking surface. When in storage, it has the appearance of a small cooler, and the reflective surface opens quickly and easily when you want to take it out of storage and put it to use. It can reach a top temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature and ample cooking surface make this one of the best solar powered ovens for baking items like bread or cookies.
It is also one of the best ovens for overall versatility in cooking methods, and is perhaps the most like a traditional oven in design and cook times. This makes a perfect additional unit for your outdoor kitchen or grill zone. However, the All-American is the heaviest of the top ovens, weighing just over 20lbs. It’s not as portable as the other models, and would be a poor choice for situations where you would have to carry it long distances to your campsite. It does have a carrying handle, and the setup is very speedy so it could be considered portable for car camping, RV-ing or tailgating, as long as you can transport it to your site in a vehicle.
- High temperatures
- Great for baking
- Large cooking surface
- Not very portable
4. Sunflair Portable Deluxe
The Portable Deluxe is not just a panel oven, it’s a solar chef starter kit. It includes some great accessories, like a thermometer, drying rack, and various bakeware. It takes the guesswork out of deciding what dishes to use with your solar cooking. Even with all these extras, the Portable Deluxe comes in on the lower end of the price range for these quality solar ovens at under $200.
This solar powered oven kit allows you to cook, bake, and dehydrate food from anywhere. It’s also a great buy for those who value portability, as the cooker itself comes in at a weight of under 2lbs, and when folded is about the size of a stadium cushion. Despite its low weight, it has a 15×19-inch cooking surface, and can reach a max temperature of almost 300 degrees Fahrenheit. At that max temperature baking bread or sweets may take longer, but any recipe that might be made in a slow cooker should do well in the Portable Deluxe. This is a good choice for those who value ease and portability, but aren’t set on baking.
- Ultra portable &
- Light Weight
- Large cooking area (15”x 19”)
- May need to be clamped down in wind
- Not great for baking
5. One Earth Designs Classic Solar Cooker
This classic sun cooker from One Earth Designs looks quite different than the other ovens on this list. While the typical cooker is constructed as a type of adjustable box or a tube, this solar oven looks like a satellite dish with a cook space suspended in the center. This unique design means that you can harness enough of the sun’s power to reach a whopping 550 degrees Fahrenheit; comparable to a traditional indoor gas or electric oven. If that’s not impressive enough, how about this: it reaches these high temperature an incredible 5x faster than an outdoor grill! The adjustable cooker panels allows you more control with cooking. Adjust for flavor, crispness, slow-cook style, and more.
This unit stays cool to the touch so you can adjust panels for more cooking control at any time. It’s easy to clean, and it makes quite a visual impact and conversation starter for your backyard barbeque parties. If you have an outdoor kitchen area, this makes an excellent resource. Cook as hot as you normally would with no gas, no charcoal, just free renewable energy from the sun. Get two and set that at either end of your cooking zone to handle impressive side dishes.
- Unbeatable cooking quality and control
- Unique design
- Made from 100% recycled materials, highly durable
- At 40lbs and an odd shape, this is not an easily-ported item
- On the expensive side
- Pot rack is not adjustable
Basic Guide to Selecting Your Perfect Solar Cooker
Now that you’ve got a solid idea of some of the most popular ovens and cookers available, let’s take a look at some critical features you should consider before buying. You’ll want to keep these in mind, lest you wind up going home with a totally unrelated product. (I’m looking at you solar escape hats!) Solar cooking can end up saving you big money, but for the best savings, do your research first and make sure you’re getting a sun cooker you can use in all the ways you need, where you need to. (They’ve come a long way since this cooker made by Charles Greeley Abbott in 1940.) Remember to check these specifications:
Size and Weight
The size and weight of your oven will determine if it makes a good choice for situations like hiking, camping, or bug-out emergency bags. Though most are small and light enough to transport in some way, carrying some of these up a hill or over miles of hiking is not really an option. Decide first if you’re looking for an oven to take on the go, or one that will remain more or less in the same space, like a backyard.
When you think of using your cooker, what foods do you imagine making? Do you want to make slow-cooker dishes with the power of free sun? Or are you looking to bake cookies? The cooking capabilities, as well as the temperature, can vary from model to model. It would be disappointing to setup your new cooker only to discover it’s not really made for cooking your favorite dish. Make sure the cooker you get will be versatile enough for your needs. This usually has much to do with how hot the unit can get. Some cookers reach only about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, so they aren’t as convenient for roasting or baking.
The majority of solar cooking kits come with the bare essentials, the reflective cooking technology and the cooking space. However, some manufacturers go a step beyond and include accessories such as cooking pans, collapsible reflectors, utensils, and a built-in thermometer. Keep in mind that these accessories might increase the cost of the product. Luckily, you won’t need any open flame, so you won’t need to get a solar firestarter. Although you may want to consider getting a solar coffee maker while you’re at it.
It’s also a good idea to consider how much food your solar powered oven can make at once. For example, some units like the tubular GoSun will cook efficiently, but it will only provide enough food for 2-4 people. Consider how many people you’ll typically be cooking for and then determine if the cookers you’re eyeing have the capacity you need.
Climate and Weather Conditions
Sun cookers are an efficient and free way to cook food, but it sort of goes without saying, you need some sun. These cookers are not as efficient, or sometimes don’t work at all when the day is overcast. If you live in a location, or plan to visit a location with your cooker, that is typically overcast, this should be a primary concern for you.
Solar cooking makes a fun and unique meal for your backyard or your outdoor adventures. This method of cooking gives you the freedom to cook almost anywhere without the need for charcoal, gas, or fire. This means it’s better for the environment, safer and healthier for you, and much less expensive. It also means you don’t need to take all those bulky grilling items with you on your camping trip or day at the lake. It’s safer for kids and pets and it remains cool to the touch. If you can’t find anything in your area that meets the criteria we mentioned above, the good people at Penn State have a guide on how to make your own solar cooker.
If you’ve been thinking about experimenting with solar products, or with a new way to cook, solar powered ovens are the way to go. Learning to use one can be delicious fun, but it could also mean the difference between eating and starving in any kind of outdoor emergency situation. A solar cooker should really be a part of your emergency gear at least. Hopefully, this list and guide has helped you to determine exactly what kind of solar oven you’ll be adding to your camping tools or outdoor party. Bon appetit! (While you’re here, why not take a look at some of the other reviews on our site, like these solar attic fans!)