How is Solar Cooking Different?
As a general rule, if your recipe calls for cooking in a dutch oven or a crock pot, then it’s an excellent candidate for solar cooking. Solar ovens range in abilities and styles, so not every solar cooker is up to every dish, so think about what you want to cook before you buy.
What’s more, solar cookers are a less dry heat than conventional ovens, so you often need less liquid, and meats are less likely to dry out.
Baking with a solar oven can be a little tricky, but we’ve seen amazing brownies, and lovely brown bread, so don’t be afraid to try it out.
What are the Different Types of Solar Ovens?
There are several basic types of solar 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. Box Solar Oven
Many solar ovens have a “box” type design and look a little bit like a traditional oven turned on its side, with a lid on the top, rather than a door in front. These are the best solar cookers for baking. Box solar 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.
2. Panel Cooker
Also sometimes called a panel oven, the panel cooker has several adjustable panels that can be focused on the dish to be cooked. These solar 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.
3. Tubular Cooker
The tubular solar 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.
4. Parabolic Cooker
This type of solar 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 easy to maneuver, require constant attention and adjustment.
Which Solar Cooker is Best for Me?
Our reviews of solar ovens put a high premium on portability and ease of use. 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 solar cookers when they are on the go—camping, RVing, boating, picnicking, or tailgating.
We’ve rounded up some of the best solar cookers and given them a thorough review looking at the function and construction of each solar oven or solar cooker. Each of the solar oven reviews should have plenty of information for you to understand the capabilities, strengths and drawbacks of each model.
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.
Additionally, even with all these extras, the Portable Deluxe comes in on the lower end of the price range for these quality solar ovens, under $200.
This might be the best solar oven for those just getting into the solar cooking game. The solar 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 solar cooker itself comes in at a weight of under two pounds, and when folded is about the size of a stadium cushion.
Despite its low weight, it has a 15” x 19” cook surface, and can reach a max temperature of 285 degrees Fahrenheit.
At that max temperature baking bread or sweets may be difficult, 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 & compact
- Light Weight
- Large cooking area (15”x 19”)
- Comes with many accessories and bakeware
- May need to be clamped down in wind
- Not great for baking
Making a Final Decision
Each of these solar ovens are great for specific purposes. To determine the best choice for your individual situation ask yourself:
How much do I want to spend on a solar oven?
Price varies from under $100 to several hundred dollars. Consider your budget.
What do I want to cook?
If you love baking bread, some solar ovens are better than others. Some cannot make enough food for a large group or party. Some require pieces of food to be cut small.
How important is portability and storage to me?
Will you be using your solar oven on camping trips or tailgating? Will you have to carry it in a pack or by hand? Or perhaps you prefer to cook from your backyard, and portability and storage is not an important consideration.
What are the weather conditions where I am?
If you are living somewhere where temperatures can be low, choose a solar oven that features insulation. If it is often cloudy, look for a solar oven that has wide panels that can catch every bit of sun.
Once you consider your personal needs along with the features and drawbacks of each of the quality solar cookers above, then your decision will become clear. In no time you’ll be happily enjoying the amazing power of sun-cooked dishes. We wish you happy, healthy, and environmentally friendly cooking!