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Solar Cooking:This week's featured article/2007-05-27

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The three most common types of solar cookers are heat-trap boxes, curved concentrators (parabolics) and panel cookers. Hundreds — if not thousands — of variations on these basic types exist. Additionally, several large-scale solar cooking systems have been developed to meet the needs of institutions worldwide.

Most solar cookers work on basic principles: sunlight is converted to heat energy that is retained for cooking.

  • Sunlight is the "fuel." A solar cooker needs an outdoor spot that is sunny for several hours and protected from strong wind, and where food will be safe. Solar cookers don't work at night or on cloudy days.
  • Dark surfaces get very hot in sunlight, whereas light surfaces don't. Food cooks best in dark, shallow, thin metal pots with dark, tight-fitting lids to hold in heat and moisture.
  • A transparent heat trap around the dark pot lets in sunlight, but keeps in the heat. This is a clear, heat-resistant plastic bag or large inverted glass bowl (in panel cookers) or an insulated box with a glass or plastic window (in box cookers). Curved concentrator cookers typically don't require a heat trap.
  • One or more shiny surfaces reflect extra sunlight onto the pot, increasing its heat potential.

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