Last updated: October 26, 2012
As populations increase and forests and fossil fuels disappear, the need for an alternative method of cooking around the world is intensifying. Sun Ovens International is committed to providing an alternative.
Sun Ovens International takes a different approach. We have taken a concept that has been around for centuries, and have combined it with more improved materials to make the most effective solar cooking devices in the world. The Sun Oven has been designed to overcome most of the cultural barriers that have restricted the widespread use of the sun for cooking.
The Sun Oven is often compared with box cookers made out of aluminum foil and cardboard (homemade boxes of various sizes and shapes). While the energy conversion principles are the same, the materials utilized in manufacturing Sun Ovens have been carefully researched to include the most efficient materials available. In order to capture the maximum amount of energy, achieve the highest possible temperature, and retain the greatest amount of heat, while minimizing the weight, the materials utilized have been selected based on efficiency and quality. Sun Ovens International is determined to disseminate solar appliances that truly meet people's needs rather than distributing perpetuating cookers that work only under the most ideal conditions.
The initial price of a Sun Oven is higher, but due to its long life, ability to cook on partly cloudy days and allowing food to stay warm for hours, the cost per meal is lower than any other solar cooking device.
News and recent developments
- April 2013: Interesting facts about the Sun Oven - Recently Paul Munsen, the company president, was questioned about where their ovens were being sold. They have been sold in over 130 countries. The Sun Oven is usually considered to be the standard which other solar box cookers are judged by. They are well made of quality components and quite durable. They have a revised version of the Sun Oven called the All American Sun Oven that has a 20% larger cooking area and new wind resistance features. Interestingly, forty-two percent of the Sun Ovens sold worldwide are sold in the state of Utah, USA. Munsen believes seventy percent of the ovens are being kept on shelves with emergency food supplies, the rest are used on a regular basis. The owners appreciate the versatility of the cooker, with the added benefit of helping to lower household kitchen temperatures during hot summer months. When Munsen was recently demonstrating in the Sun Oven in Afghanistan to a group of local women, he was told the cooker could not provide the smoky favor desired in their flatbread, known as naan. Paul's wife suggested adding a few drops of liquid smoke to the batter. A recent delivery of ovens was accompanied by a 55-gallon drum of liquid smoke. The liquid smoke offers some advantages over smoky fires. Munsen says women cooking over fires can inhale as much smoke as they’d get from smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and children are more likely to contract acute lower respiratory and eye infections. Read more...
- March 2011: Sun Ovens, an Illinois, USA company, joins forces with the Rotary Club of Naperville, Illinois to help promote solar cooking for the people of Malawi, Africa. Given the economic and health struggles the country is currently facing, this population will benefit greatly from having access to safer and healthier food. The Global Sun Ovens they brought were perfect in slow cooking the “seven grains” diet given to people living with AIDS. This is a nutritious blend of seven wholesome grains that, when softened, provide patients the best nutrition without being too heavy or harsh on their digestion. Prior to the introduction of solar ovens, people would use a huge amount of fuel like charcoal or firewood to soften these grains. Now, all they have to do is to harness the power of the sun to cook their food. This minimizes their exposure to cooking fumes and the need to gather fuel. More Information...
- March 2011: Sun Ovens International is sponsoring the "Taste and Tell Contest", offering prizes by sharing how you use your Global Sun Oven. You can enter every day from now thru March 31, 2011. Every day new cooking tips and recipes are posted and the Solar Oven Chef is available to answer any questions you may have. Please visit: http://www.sunoven.com/solar-cooking/ to register and win.
- February 2011: Sun Ovens International is pledging to match every Sun Oven purchased dollar-for-dollar and will donate all the proceeds to the disaster-stricken people in Haiti through the Friends of Haiti Organization (FOHO). Cash donations are also accepted and will also be matched. More Information...
- February 2010: With hundreds of thousands of Haitians homeless and living in tent camps, Sun Ovens International is continuing to place as many ovens in camps as possible. In late February, Paul Munsen traveled to Haiti and initiated distribution and training in seven tent camps. A committee was formed in each camp to determine who would receive the Sun Ovens and look for ways to increase utilization. At each location many people who were not able to receive a Sun Oven pleaded for additional ovens. For additional information about Sun Ovens International's work in Haiti, click here. As shown in the photos below, camps are in open fields, schoolyards or anywhere space is available. Previously trained staff from Programme Energie Solaire of the Free Methodist Inland Mission have been employed to conduct training sessions. Paul Munsen loaded his rental car with ovens to take to the camps where he met with a camp committees. Training on the use of WAPIs for water pasteurization was also provided. Children and adults were eager to learn how to cook with the sun.
- January 29, 2010: Help Us Help Haiti Update: Much progress has been made in the efforts to expand the use of Sun Ovens to Haiti. On January 28, 2010, 2 large Villager Sun Ovens, 160 Global Sun Ovens, 200 CooKits and 2,000 Water Pasteurization Indicators (WAPIs) have been shipped. In addition, arrangements are underway for 297 Haitian made Global Sun Ovens from the assembly plant in Lambert Haiti to be distributed to families left homeless by the recent earthquake. A shipment of parts to reopen the assembly plant is scheduled for February 8. A partnership has been initiated with Bright Hope International, an NGO which has been working in Haiti for more than 15 years. The majority of the Sun Ovens will be distributed to families living in a tent city which has sprung up at a garbage dump in Port au Prince. Bright Hope is currently providing food and medicine to 429 families at this location. Some of the ovens will also be used in tent cities in Pignon which is 79 miles north of Port-au-Prince and has doubled in size from 35,000 to 65,000 people in the past two weeks. I will be traveling to Haiti in early February to assist in the distribution and training. Bright Hope plans to send additional shipments to Haiti of food, medicine and Sun Ovens throughout the month of February. With hundreds of thousands of Haitians homeless and living in make shift tent camps the need for Sun Ovens is immense. Most of the tent camps and are using charcoal to cook. The smoke in these camps strains the health of women and children who are all ready malnourished and dehydrated. The cost of each Sun Oven with two pots and WAPIs is $199. Donations of any amount will be greatly appreciated. Donations should be made out to Friends of Haiti Organization, PO Box 222, Holland, OH 43528, USA (Please note the donation is for the Sun Oven project.)
- July 2009: Get solar ovens out and into sun - Mormon Times
- April 2009: Paul Munsen interviewed by Studio Five
- May 2008: Baking the Cycle - San Marco Daily Record
- April 2008: Sun Ovens International is now assembling the Global Sun Oven in a factory in Haiti. A micro finance system is being used to make these ovens available to poor people who need them. An average family spends $2.30 (U.S.) per week to purchase charcoal. A Sun Oven can be used for 70% of their cooking and will save an average of $1.61 a week in charcoal expenditures. Weekly payments are set at $ .97 (60% of the savings); the remaining $ .64 per week creates an incentive to solar cook and takes money that literally was going up in smoke, distributing it through the local economy. Initially, the challenge of implementing this system was that women in Haiti live very much one day at a time and even though they saved a high percentage of their income by using a Sun Oven, they rarely had a long enough view to understand that they were saving money. To overcome this problem, cardboard solar panel cookers were introduced. Women received 3 days of training centered around the construction of a cardboard solar panel cooker, the principals and concepts of solar cooking, and the frailty of the Haitian environment. The training occurs over lunchtime, and the first two days, Haitian foods are cooked in Sun Ovens and served for lunch. On the third day, a solar potluck is held. Each student prepares food in their own cardboard cooker and shares it with fellow trainees. As part of the training, participants receive a log allowing them to document the use of their cardboard cooker and the amount of money they saved by not using charcoal. Participants who use their solar panel cooker on sunny days, for 90 days or longer, can use their log as a down payment on a Sun Oven. The Sun Ovens cook food much faster and can be used to cook the evening meals. After 90 days of documenting the use of the cardboard cooker, women have a much better understanding of the financial benefits of cooking with the sun and are eager to agree to a payment plan to obtain a Sun Oven.
- September 2007: Cooking under the sun - Solar ovens tap a very familiar heat source - The Chicago Tribune
- January 26, 2007: CNN Money features Sun Ovens International
In the U.S.
The fast-paced American lifestyle has cultivated a fast food approach to cooking and eating; even if it means sacrificing nutrition, taste, health, and the environment. Sun Ovens International is endeavoring to make Americans aware of the enriching health lifestyle and environmental benefits of cooking with the sun.
Around the World
In the developing world, the high quality and features of the Sun Ovens have overcome the cultural obstacles, which have caused other solar cooking projects to fail. The most often-cited reason for the failure of solar cooking projects is that most people in the developing world work while the sun is out and eat their main meal of the day after sundown. Food cooked in most solar cooking devices must be consumed immediately or it will become cold. The Sun Oven is very well insulated, which allows food cooked in the afternoon sun to stay warm until it is ready to be consumed later in the evening.
Another reason solar cooking has not been widely accepted is that most solar cookers require more time to cook than cooking over a wood fire. Women in developing countries are reluctant to start cooking many hours earlier than they are accustomed to accommodate a new cooking method. The Sun Oven has been designed to cook in the same amount of time as cooking over a traditional three stone wood fire. NGO's which have worked with Sun Ovens have found they have had an easier time getting people to use them because the ovens work so well and maintain cooking temperatures significantly higher than other types of solar devices.
Unfortunately, to be able to make a solar appliance that women will use for the majority of their cooking involves cost. Sun Ovens International is working to overcome the cost by assembling the ovens in the country they will be used and by allowing women to pay for the ovens over time via small weekly installment payments using money they are currently spending to buy charcoal or other cooking fuels.
Sun Ovens International manufactures two types of solar ovens that are widely respected around the world. Since their introduction in 1986, these ovens have cooked millions of meals, baked countless loaves of bread and saved millions of tons of wood.
Diverse peoples use Sun Ovens around the world for many and varied reasons. Sun Ovens have been adopted by everyone:
- From governments in developing countries looking for solutions to deforestation - to North American families looking for a way to bake without heating up their kitchens.
- From women in the rain forests of Africa who can't find wood to cook with - to deer hunters in North America who love moist venison.
- From Americans concerned with power disruptions and increasing fuel costs - to Pakistani women who cannot afford the high cost of fuel to make their dinner.
- From ice fishermen in Minnesota baking their catch on a frozen lake - to desert dwellers in Kuwait baking lamb.
- From RV enthusiasts looking for fresh moist roasts - to environmentalists trying to preserve the planet for future generations.
- From micro-bakeries in Honduras making bread and pastries - to an orphanage in Uganda feeding hundreds daily.
The one thing they all have in common is that they have all discovered… solar energy is the least polluting and most inexhaustible of all known energy sources and it is free.
SUN OVENS® are the foremost and most effective solar cooking devices available anywhere in the world.
History of the Sun Oven
Sun Ovens were developed in 1986 by Tom Burns, a retired restaurateur from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who was very active with Rotary International. From his experience in operating restaurants he knew a great deal about cooking and from his international travel he became aware of the ever-growing problem of deforestation. Tom took a concept that has been around for centuries and engineered into it more recently developed materials to produce the world’s most effective solar cooking devices. With the help of the Sandia National Laboratories the oven was refined.
From 1986 to 1997 Sun Ovens were made and marketed by Burns Milwaukee, Inc. Thousands of portable models have been shipped to more than 126 countries around the globe. Sun Ovens have helped feed refugees in relocation camps, natives in remote Third World villages, workers at field sites, climbers on the slopes of Mount Everest, and soldiers during the Persian Gulf War.
In 1998 Sun Ovens International, Inc. was formed and the manufacturing was moved from Milwaukee to Elburn, IL (40 miles west of Chicago). Sun Ovens International, Inc. has expanded the use of the ovens by making them more widely available in the U.S. and around the world. Assemble plants to make Sun Ovens have been established in a number of developing countries to reduce the cost of the ovens and shipping to the people that need them the most. While thousands of ovens have been sent around the world, there are still more than 2 billion people who cook with wood and charcoal and as populations increase so will the need for Sun Ovens.
Frequently Asked Questions About SUN OVENS®
What can I cook in a SUN OVEN®? Anything you can cook in a conventional electric or gas oven and most things you can cook on a stovetop can be cooked in a SUN OVEN®. You can bake, boil and steam, so the only foods you cannot cook are fried foods.
Where are the SUN OVENS® manufactured? The SUN OVENS® which are sold in North America are made in Elburn, Illinois. With the exception of the thermometer, all of the component parts used in the SUN OVENS® are made in the USA.
SUN OVENS® that are used outside of North America are often made in the country in which they are used.
What is the cooking temperature range? The SUN OVEN® will reach temperatures of 360 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking temperatures will vary depending on the brightness of the sun and how often the oven is refocused to follow the sun.
Will food prepared in a SUN OVEN® taste the same as food prepared in my conventional oven? The food tastes much better! SUN OVEN® cooking allows many of the natural flavors of food, which get baked out in conventional ovens, to remain. The slow, even rise in temperatures in a SUN OVEN® gives the complex carbohydrates time to break down into simple sugars allowing subtle natural flavors to emerge. Sun baked-foods stay moist (the natural internal juices do not bake out) resulting in a superior, moist taste and much less shrinkage.
How long does it take? Cooking times are close to the same as those in a conventional oven. Because the sun sometimes goes behind clouds, cooking times can vary. At times it may take a little longer. The factors that affect the cooking time are: the quality of the sunlight at the time you are cooking, the types and quantities of the food being cooked, and how often the oven is refocused. A good rule of thumb is to add 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time for each time the oven door is opened.
The amazing thing about using a SUN OVEN® is that it is almost impossible to burn food; and sun-cooked food does not dry out. This enables food to be cooked for a longer time at a lower temperature or in less time at a higher temperature, without affecting the quality of the food.
There are two ways to cook in a SUN OVEN®. If you refocus the oven to follow the sun every 25 to 30 minutes, cooking times and methods will be very similar to cooking with a conventional stove or oven. Or a SUN OVEN® can be used for slow cooking, much like a crock-pot. You can prepare your dinner, put it in the SUN OVEN® and point the oven toward where the sun will be approximately halfway through the time you will be gone. Leave, and come home to a tasty, slow-cooked dinner. If you run late, there is no need to worry; the SUN OVEN® will keep your food warm, moist, and fresh for hours.
Does a SUN OVEN® require special pots and pans? No, but dark, thin-walled pots with lids work best. Dark pots change the light from the sun into heat energy. Shiny aluminum pots and pans cause light to be reflected out thereby reducing the oven's temperature. Glass casserole dishes with lids also work well.
With the exception of bakery goods, everything cooked in a SUN OVEN® should be cooked in a pot with a lid. Lids hold steam in the pot. If a lid is not used, the steam will fog the inside of the glass and reduce the temperature. For baking cakes, breads, cookies and pies, dark cookie sheets and baking tins work best.
Can more than one thing be cooked at the same time? Yes, the SUN OVEN® has been designed to accommodate baking two loaves of bread at a time. Several flat pans can be cross stacked to enable several layers when making granola or cookies. Two small stackable pots can be used on the leveling tray. The leveling tray can be removed to increase the usable area inside the SUN OVEN® and allow larger stackable pots or pans to be used. (It is important to note that if the leveling tray is removed, pots and pans should be placed on a trivet, not on the floor of the oven. To cook evenly, there must be air flow all the way around the pot. A trivet will allow enough air to pass under the pot to ensure an even heat.)
Does food need to be stirred? No, stirring to prevent scorching is not required when cooking in a SUN OVEN® due to the fact that there are no hot spots. The temperature of the food and the pot remain the same and rise evenly. It is almost impossible to burn food in a SUN OVEN®.
Will food brown when cooked in a SUN OVEN®? In full sun, bread baked in a SUN OVEN® will brown. To insure a brown crust every time bread is baked, a light mist of water can be sprayed on the dough just before it is placed in SUN OVEN®. A dark lustrous finish on breads can be achieved by using an egg-or milk-wash on the dough before baking. When poultry is baked in a SUN OVEN® in a covered pot it does not brown. A golden brown surface can be attained on meats and poultry by sprinkling a small amount of sugar over them. Paprika is also useful for creating an appetizing appearance. How difficult is it to focus a SUN OVEN®? Focusing a SUN OVEN® is very easy. All that is required is to watch the shadows created by the oven. When the shadows are even on all sides, the cooker is directly focused. The built-in leveling leg on the back of the oven allows for easy tracking.
How often must a SUN OVEN® be refocused? The need to refocus depends a great deal on what you are cooking, the time of day, and the temperature you wish to maintain. A good rule of thumb is to plan to readjust every 30 minutes to maintain maximum heat. At noon the sun is high in the sky and moves quickly past the maximum focus point, creating the need to refocus more often. Later in the day you will not need to refocus as often. The SUN OVEN® is equipped with a built in Levelator, which keeps food level and avoids spills while being refocused.
Many meals can be cooked without refocusing. SUN OVEN® users often will put their ovens outside, focused for the mid-day sun, with their dinner in it when they leave for work in the morning. As the sun moves overhead, the temperature in the SUN OVEN® chamber slowly rises to a cooking level. As the sun passes, the food is kept warm and when they return from work they have a warm, sun-cooked dinner. (Keep in mind food will not burn in a SUN OVEN® and that the chamber is extremely well insulated, allowing food to stay warm for hours.)
Will I need to be concerned about getting burned when using a SUN OVEN®? The only parts that get hot are the oven chamber, the cooking pan and the glass door. Proper care must be taken to use hot pads when opening the door and removing food. The entire exterior of the oven, including the reflectors, does not get hot and remains safe to touch.
How long will a SUN OVEN® last? The estimated life of a SUN OVEN® is 15 + years. With proper care it should last a lifetime.
Do I need special recipes to cook in a SUN OVEN®? The SUN OVEN® reaches temperatures comparable to that of conventional ovens; therefore no special recipes are required.
What are the dimensions of the SUN OVEN®? The size of the SUN OVEN® is 19 x 19 with an average depth of 11. The total weight is only 21 pounds.
What materials are used in the construction of a SUN OVEN®? The following materials used to make a SUN OVEN®: Reflectors Anodized aluminum (which will never oxidize, rust or corrode) Outer shell ABS plastic Bezel Poplar wood (kiln dried) Inner shell Aluminum (coated with a non-toxic powder coating) Door Tempered glass Between the aluminum inner shell and the plastic outer shell there is a thick batt of food grade fiberglass insulation.
Can I use a SUN OVEN® in the winter? Yes, a SUN OVEN® can be used on a clear winter day. The most important factor in using a SUN OVEN® is the brightness of the sun, not the outside air temperature. Often, a 40-degree, clear, low-humidity day will allow food to cook faster than a 100-degree day with high humidity. The SUN OVEN® has been used very successfully at the base camp of a Mt. Everest expedition where the temperatures are often well below zero. There are, however, more cooking hours available in the summer than in the winter. In the summer, it is not unusual to cook from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, whereas during the early winter, effective cooking is limited to 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Can a SUN OVEN® be used to dry or dehydrate foods? Yes, a SUN OVEN® makes an excellent solar dryer. When the latch (which holds the door shut for cooking) is turned inward and the glass door is set on top of the latch, moist air can escape and the temperature inside the oven will remain low enough to keep the items being dried from starting to cook.
Are SUN OVEN® used in countries outside of the United States? Yes, SUN OVENS INTERNATIONAL, INC. is involved in solar cooking projects in deforested countries on 5 continents. We have been innovative in developing methods of placement, training, and marketing to assist in the positioning of over 34,000 family sized GLOBAL SUN OVENS® in the U.S. and more than 100 developing countries, and 250 large VILLAGER SUN OVENS® in deforested developing countries. We are striving to develop and implement comprehensive solar cooking programs which will radically decrease the developing world's dependence on fuel wood and dung as the primary cooking fuels, while benefiting the environment, raising the standard of living, and improving the health of the poor worldwide. Domestic SUN OVEN® sales help finance these endeavors.
Articles in the media
- May 2011: Sun-baked meals gaining popularity - Utah Daily Herald
- July, 2010: Sun Ovens International Continues To Help Victims Of Haiti Earthquake Through Solar Cooking - PRLog
- April 2004: Earth Day: Solar Cooking Oven Sales Up 400% Due to High Fuel Prices and Concerns for Cleaner Environment - Mitchell Technical Institute
Audio and video
- Board to Buy Solar Oven for Denan
- Using the Dixie Sun for Solar Cooking
- Sun Ovens: An Alternative Cooking Method
- Renewable Energy - Solar Power
- Solar Oven Market Heats Up
- Sun Energy Bakes Scones and Much More
- Burnt Sugar Supports Solar Stoves in Africa
- Sun Heats Up the Oven
- The Joys of Cooking with the Sun
- Biology & Chemistry Clubs Co-host Cook-out
- Arnold Schwarzenegger Tastes Solar Cooking: Fabulous!"
- Bright Idea
- I Try to Use Things as Long as I Possibly Can
- Kermit Was Wrong: It is Easy Being Green
- Learning to Cook Without Electricity
- Paying It Forward
- Cooking Under the Sun
- Living Green -- Before It Was Fashionable
- Not Sun Starved
- Hot Off the Grid
- Red Meat, Green Grill
- Annual Event Goes Over Easy with Competitors
- Cooking With the Sun
- Sun Kissed Cuisine: Cook Solar, Not Fossil
- Catching Rays
- Problem #4: Dirty Air
- Ed Begley Jr. at Sundance Film Festival
- A Green Card
- Rotary Club of Naperville -- Solar Ovens Benefit People in Need
- Cook Outdoors Year Round With a Solar Oven
- Sun Ovens Will Save Lives & Trees in Mali
- Science Hero: Paul Munsen, Solar Oven Man
- Why I Like Solar Cooking
- Bringing Health and Hope to Third World
- Harnessing the Sun to Help Tsunami Victims
- The Solar Cook's Blog by Paul Munsen, President of Sun Ovens International
- SUN OVENS Cooking Essentials Seminars in Texas!!
Tel: +1 (630) 208-7273, or Toll Free: +1 (800) 408-7919
Fax: +1 (630) 208-7386