Have you ever wondered if you could cook without having to burn fossil fuels, propane, or wood? Well, if you have, and you’re truly interested in improving your environmental footprint with how you cook, then you’ll want to check out solar ovens.
These solar powered stoves use solar energy to thoroughly cook food – with or without pans – and do so in a reasonably quick manner.
They’re also extremely versatile for how you might use them, whether in your backyard or the Rocky Mountains on a backpacking expedition. You’ll find a wide range of options in the best solar cooker designs with small capacities and light weights to larger, capacities in not-so-portable options.
But whatever your needs, solar outdoor ovens could well be the solution to your big question here.
Best Solar Oven Quick-Find Table
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What To Look For In A Solar Oven
As with any popular device, there are numerous brands and models to come out since the solar oven was first introduced. The most important things to look for in your oven is size, included features, how fast it can cook and any included warranty.
In order to fairly review the ovens, it’s important to focus on several metrics.
It is important to find an oven that will meet your needs, have all the necessary features but also be priced reasonably. While price is important, it is not the only factor to consider.
It is important to know the heating capabilities of the oven you are considering. Each one will heat differently, some faster than others while some will work better at different altitudes.
As you shop, keep in mind how much space you will need for cooking. There are various sizes of ovens, everything from baking a loaf of bread to a whole chicken.
Durability and Quality of Manufacture
Any new appliance is an investment, it’s important to buy an oven that will work when you need it.
Ease of Use
You need to know how easy it is to set up and cook your food. Not every oven is as easy to measure the temperature as others.
Some ovens will cook faster than others, and depending on the model, the results can be drastically different.
Depending on the model you purchase, it may come with a variety of utensils, pans and pots.
Size and Portability
The bigger your oven is, the harder it will be to move but also the more food you can cook. What you need the oven for will dictate the size of an oven you need. It’s important to consider if you need your device for daily use, for camping or only in need or an emergency.
You should also consider how difficult it can be to move and set up, especially if your oven is intended for camping.
Solar ovens more or less have the same capacity as electric and gas stoves, Due to how the solar oven works, it is easy to adjust for cooking times, in order to have your food just as you want. Additionally, with the right oven you can boil, grill, bake and fry just like a normal stove.
Depending on the model you buy, some companies will include special features. This includes collapsible refractors, build in thermometers, carrying handles, dishes, and cooking pans.
Warranty Type and Length
The average warranty you should expect is a one-year manufacturer warranty. Different plans are offered by various manufacturers and retailers.
Shop around until you find the make, model and warranty that fits what you need and your budget.
Not every oven will come with a carrying case so make sure the product you purchase has what you need.
The Best Solar Oven Reviews
Each solar oven we review below offers qualities we’d look for in a sun stove ourselves, with some more suitable for camping while others might be better suited to emergency preparedness kits or beach use. With each review, we looked into:
- Max temperature
- What real-life users have said
- How easy they are to setup and use
- What’s included
- Whether or not they come with a carrying case
- Any special features
- Cooking speed
- Quality of manufacture
Now, let’s dive into our solar oven reviews and help you discover the best option for your situation.
This not-quite mini solar oven is a great option for individuals needing a small solar oven that’s not too small for use just about anywhere. The Haines 2.0 SunUp Solar Cooker is especially great for anyone creating an emergency preparedness kit or hitting the waves in a small boat.
- Best for: Emergency preparedness, boating
- Capacity: modest (4-quarts)
- Max. Temp: 325 degrees Fahrenheit
- Includes: carrying case, cooking sleeve, 4-quart pot, thermometer, circular windscreen
What We Loved
First off, we love that this high-quality, easy-to-use solar oven is affordable and performs really well. It disassembles, is lightweight and very versatile, as well, making it the perfect option for keeping packed in that emergency kit or for taking someplace like the beach or for use on a boat or camping trip.
It’s incredibly easy to use for cooking and has a handy four-quart pot that comes with for even easier use.
Plus, it reaches a fairly high temperature for a solar oven, meaning you can bake or cook a lot of things that you can’t in other ovens. The 325-degrees is hot enough to cook a ton of different things, for both slow cooker style recipes and “standard” cooking recipes.
We love that it comes with that 4-quart pot, as well as thermometer, cooking sleeve, and that circular windscreen. The carrying case and 2.6-pound weight make it incredibly portable, too, so it’s a winner all around.
Plus, this one will heat water up to 40% faster than most other cookers available.
What We Didn’t Love
There are only two potential drawbacks for this, if you plan cook rice, at least. First is that is has a fairly small cooking capacity. It comes with a four-quart pot, so you can do at least that much, but if you’ve got a larger group or a heftier recipe, you’re not going to be able to do it all here.
The second is that fans of rice cooking while find this takes quite a bit longer than others for that purpose. But apart from that, it’s actually faster than most solar ovens for most types of cooking, especially for such a small oven.
Overall, we’ve selected this top-rated sun stove as our first choice because it’s affordable, highly portable and lightweight, easy to use, cooks things faster than many other cookers, has a decent capacity, and works in a number of beneficial situations. Just know that it probably won’t cook rice very quickly and that it’s not a large oven like the DIY option we gave basic steps for.
If you’re looking for that all-in-one kit for a smaller capacity solar oven, then look no further than the All American Sun Oven & Dehydrating and Preparedness Kit. This little solar oven is hardy, gets up to 400-degrees for true baking capabilities, and comes with a lot of useful gear for your rugged outdoor adventures.
- Best for: Rugged camping with vehicle or backyard use in hot weather
- Capacity: On the smaller side (14 x 14 with 7-inch height restriction)
- Max. Temp: 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Includes: dehydrating kit, baking rack set, 2 easy stack pots with lids, 2 loaf pans, one multi-fuel water pasteurizing indicator, cookbook
What We Loved
First off, we love how sturdy this sun oven is. Seriously, it’s heavy-duty and can take a real beating. It’s perfect for families or groups that tend to be a little rough on their gear or are heading into rugged terrain where they’ll be cooking.
We also love how the design on this beauty traps in the heat in ways that other solar ovens just can’t manage. This means your food is protected and the temperature can raise higher and cook more evenly.
We also love the sheer number of goodies that comes with this kit. Pans, baking racks, a dehydrating kit and even a cookbook. The perfect setup for someone who’s moderately new to using solar ovens.
What We Didn’t Love
So, we found two things on this that we’re not in love with. First, it’s absolutely sturdy, but that means it’s a bit heavy, so not the most portable and easy to manage option.
It’s also got a limited capacity thanks to the design style. When you open it up, you’ll see what we’re talking about – there are walls that define the cooking space. But if those aren’t a deterrent, this is honestly the most complete kit you’ll find.
This solar oven is a modestly price option that is extremely sturdy, easy to set up and has a great temperature range for most solar oven cooking needs. It comes from a well-trusted manufacturer, has high ratings from real-life users, and overall is pretty great.
It’s only got two potential downsides. First, it’s a bit heavy so not as easy to maneuver as other models. And secondly, this isn’t going to be for larger crowds. It’s design has created a kind of limited capacity for what and how it can cook.
Our vote for the best fun, easy to use, extremely portable solar ovens is the GoSun Ultra-Portable Solar Cooker. This unique, fun option is great for anyone working with a really small packing capacity, and needing something that will work on the fly just about anywhere, while staying cool to the touch.
- Best for: hiking, backpacking, other small load situations
- Max. Temp: 550-degrees Fahrenheit
- Includes: EVA frame, parabolic reflectors, stainless steel cooking tray, silicone cooking pans, stabilizer stand, cleaning brush, mini cookbook
What We Loved
We love pretty much everything about this portable solar oven for sale on Amazon. It’s seriously one of the most effective, fasting-cooking options out there. The only reason it isn’t our top pick is because of the capacity – it’s a decent size, but not quite big enough for “standard” circumstances.
We love how hot this all season solar cooker gets when it has direct sunlight: 550-degrees! It effectively captures those UV rays to heat up and hold in the heat while it cooks your food in as little as 20-minutes.
We also love this size for outdoor folks. It’s perfect for hiking or backpacking, thanks to its small stature and 2-pound weight. It’s still big enough to cook a decent bit of food at once, too.
We also love that it works in any season, while being easy to setup, use, cleanup, and store. Plus, it stays cool to the touch, so it’s safe for use around kids and pets, too.
Finally, we love the accessories that come with it, including silicone pans, a stabilizer stand, cleaning brush, and even a cookbook.
What We Didn’t Love
The only thing we might have issue with on this one is the size. It’s definitely a smaller capacity solar oven than many options, so it’s a bit more limited in some ways.
Overall, if you need a small, extremely portable solar cooker, this is your best bet. It’s durable, easy to use, easy to clean, packs up small, and only weighs 2-pounds. Plus, it’s going to get your meals cooked way faster than a lot of options, thanks to its efficient build. The only real downside is the size – it’s not absolutely tiny, but it’s far from being a large solar oven. So, if you’re looking to cook for a bunch of people, you’ll need to look into one of the larger options.
If you’re looking for your best mini solar oven, look at the Sunflair Mini Solar Oven. These little solar cooker ovens are loaded with extras and use their space efficiently for the most cooking capacity possible on such a small surface.
- Best for: slow outdoor cooking projects
- Capacity: small
- Max. Temp: 285-degrees Fahrenheit
- Includes: thermometer, trivet, collapsible silicone pot, stuff bag, cookbook
What We Loved
Okay, first off, we just love the many extras they come with, including that all-important thermometer, the collapsible pot, the trivet for post-cooking use, and the convenient carry bag – plus, that cookbook.
We also love that despite its size, this little cooker has some real cooking capacity. I mean, it’s not a large solar oven, clearly, but for the size, it packs a lot of useable space in.
The cookbook that comes with this one is also a great resource for anyone starting out in solar oven use. It gives clear directions, has some tasty and easy to follow recipes, and just gives a good overview for how to use solar ovens in general.
We also love how quickly this heats up. It’s great for getting that slow-cook going while you’re doing other things at the camp site or while hanging out in the backyard.
The quality of materials for this is also impressive, so we know they last for quite a long time, as long as they’re mostly cared for properly.
Plus, we love how well-protected it is when it’s tucked up into itself and stored in the carrying bag. It protects the inner parts with its outer parts, meaning you’re pretty much guaranteed safe transport.
What We Didn’t Love
So, the main two potential issues with this one are:
- Expensive. Not ridiculous, but definitely not the most budget-friendly small solar cooker option.
- They’re really only good for low-cooking temperature needs or slow-cooking.
Overall, this is a great little, extremely portable mini solar oven. It heats quickly, but it doesn’t get super hot, so it’s the perfect slow-cooker for just about any outdoor setting. It packs up neatly and keeps itself safe, while being easy to setup (no assembly needed – just out of the bag and boom – it’s ready!). And since it’s made of great, durable materials and comes with a lot of extras, the higher price isn’t really as big of a deal as it would be with someone lesser quality.
Other Solar Ovens Worth Considering
In our research and review process, we found some other solar ovens worth mentioning.
- The GoSun Sport – a great, easy to use, highly portable option from a great brand
- The ultra-light J-Solar portable solar oven – no set up, super easy to carry
- The Ete Etmate compact, high-temp solar oven – another tube-shaped solar oven that reaches high temps
- LiFuJunDong 1800W Concentrating Solar Cooker Solar Cooker – reaches 700+ degrees!
What Exactly Do We Mean By Solar Oven and How Does a Solar Oven Work?
So, the first question that comes to mind with this topic is just, what is a solar oven? The term is kind of vague, but we’ve figured out it means using solar power to cook. But what does that look like?
Solar ovens are specially made devices which are able to cook by using renewable energy. This vestibule device is great for a multitude of things including small space living, emergency preparedness, camping and a variety of survival situations.
While there are several times of solar ovens, what they all have in common is use of a simple method of gathering energy via solar panels in order to cook. These panels are shiny and reflective and direct the sunlight into a black box that is insulated. This box absorbs all the energy and the heat itself becomes trapped by a sealed glass housing.
Part of the way that solar ovens work is that they need to be continuously rotated so that they are lined up properly with the light source.
There are three types of solar cookers.
Solar Panel Cookers
These are a cooker that utilizes solar panels to reflect direct sunlight onto a pot in the center of the device. These work best when placed in direct and full sunlight. The advantages of this type is that they are usually inexpensive and are able to reach a good cooking temperature in a short amount of time.
Solar Box Cookers
This type of cooker is an insulated box at its center that is covered with a transparent plastic or glass cover. The box is completely surrounded by reflectors that help focus light onto the box. This focused light heats the box. The temperatures in the box can reach around 400F and cooked in the same manner as a slow cooker.
Parabolic Solar Cookers
Parabolic solar cookers, sometimes also called curved convection solar cookers, act by concentrating the sun onto the bottom of sides of a pot in ways similar to a stove. The high temperatures can be used to fry foods or even pop popcorn. These are also notable for their high speeds which can make them dangerous for use by the inexperienced and children.
Why Use a Solar Oven?
There are a number of situations in which a solar oven might be the best option for you. Here are several of those circumstances.
One of the best uses for a solar oven is by taking it out with you into the wilderness where conventional cooking is not possible. By bringing a solar oven, it removes the need for the use of cooking methods that require fuel sources. This is a great way to have both delicious food and use a renewable resource that doesn’t tap into the earth’s limited resources,
If you are planning on going deep into the woods with backpacking and hiking, a solar oven is perfect for your needs. This style of camping requires making use of every square inch of your backpack, so you can save space by packing a oven which doesn’t require a separate energy source.No matter how far you go into the wilderness, the top of mountains or deep into the woods, you can have hot and nutritious meals.
Living Off the Grid
There are many reasons why someone may decide they are tired of living in a consumer based society and a solar oven can be a great means of living the way you want. Instead of living a life that contributes to nature’s destruction, you can harness the power of sunlight to cook. You save money on a power bill and help save nature, what isn’t to love?
2020 has been a wild year from the pandemic and the increasing destruction of natural events. Having a solar oven means that no matter how bad a disaster is, you can still provide hot meals for you, your family and neighbors. Just make sure to keep it safe along with your other emergency gear and it’ll be ready for when you need it.
Do you love the taste of slow cooked BBQ? A solar cooker can be a great alternative to the traditional means of cooking. With the right recipes you can create meat just as savory as what you can find on the traditional grill.
What Can You Cook with a Solar Oven?
One great feature of solar ovens is how flexible they are. Nearly any food that you could prepare in a traditional oven can also be made in a solar cooker.
It is easy to locate recipes online to adapt to the solar oven. There are a variety of foods that can easily be cooked, soups, stews, bread, meat, potatoes and more.
There are various methods of cooking that you can do with the solar oven, including browning and crisping various types of food.
Are They Worth It Versus Other Cooking Options?
Using solar energy to cook food is the safest and a simple way to cook food without having to use consumable fuels. This versatility allows for options for the many millions who struggle to afford fuel for cooking.
One great way that the solar oven is changing the world for the better it cane be used in purifying water. This method can be used by hikers, wilderness survival experts or those who do not have regular access to clean water.
The solar oven can revolutionize entire communities due to how it helps prevent needless death. The World Health Organization has given a report that in 23 countries, over 10% of the deaths are due to lack of drinking water or due to household air pollution due to use of fuels.
Or Should You Just DIY A Solar Oven?
Of course, like most things out there, you’ve always got the option of learning how to make a solar oven. Depending on your skill level, you can build something super portable and long-lasting, or something that will be a bit easier and work as a home only option.
For those curious, here’s a quick idea of how to make a basic solar oven DIY. Beware that buying one is probably going to be a lot easier, but, hey. If you like to build things – here you go.
First off, know what you need – basically three things. A well-insulated, dark box, some way to seal the glass onto the box top, and a really reflective, large surface. These are the components of a solar box oven.
Step 1: Gather your supplies and find a single-pane piece of glass large enough to seal into the top of your dark, heat proof box.
Step 2: Make sure the box matches the glass. There needs to be enough room to seal the glass to the box. Not smaller, not bigger.
Step 3: Build or find two boxes. The outer box will be 16-inches tall while the inner box will be 13.5 inches tall. The smaller box must fit comfortably inside the larger one with about a 1-inch gap on all sides.
Step 4: Cut and insert your 1-inch foam board on each side of the box (between inner and outer boxes). This insulated your solar cooker.
Step 5: Place the inner box into the out box. This should be snug now with the foam in there.
Step 6: Find some paint that can handle high temperatures without peeling or burning to paint the box inside and outside. Barbecue or grill paint will do the trick. Do not paint the foam.
Step 7: Add weather strip seal around the top edges of the box. When the glass is placed on top, it should seal tightly into the top of the box.
Step 8: Put the box outside in direct sunlight to let the chemicals from the paint, etc., fume off. Make sure it dries completely and no longer smells of fresh paint before you do anything else with it.
Step 9: Cut some plywood to create your reflector panels. The panels need to be the same length as the outer dimensions of the oven and 12-inches wide.
Step 10: Find some small hinges to attach the panels to the top of the outer box. They need to be installed to fold down, out, away from the box.
Step 11: Verify that you can still remove the glass off the oven with the reflector panels on it. You don’t want to remove them every time you cook!
Step 12: Apply shiny paint or material to the reflector panels. Any reflective material will do, even aluminum foil, aluminum sheets, or a mirror. Some metallic paints work as well.
Step 13: Attach eye hooks to the reflector sides so that you can adjust the reflectors as needed using a sting. Attach the string for control.
Final Step: Use a brick or concrete block to prop up the back edge of your solar oven, set directly in the sun. Adjust the reflectors to shine into the box.
Done. You’ve got yourself a solar oven.
Pros and Cons of Solar Ovens
Let’s take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of using solar ovens.
Advantages of Solar Ovens
- While there is a learning curve, once you know what you are doing it is easy to cook using solar ovens.
- This is a great way to reduce your energy and electricity bills.
- This is the perfect device that can double for both off-grid living and emergency situations.• This is a perfect device for those concerned about the environment.
- This is a unique way to prepare food.
Disadvantages of Solar Ovens
- Like with any new appliance, it takes time to learn how to properly prepare food using it.
- Often you get what you pay for with the best ovens costing more money.
- The weather will have a direct impact on your ability to cook.
- Due to using solar energy, these ovens are not always as convenient as other methods of cooking.
How Hot Do Solar Ovens Get?
Depending on the weather, solar ovens can reach high temperatures ranging from 250-350. However there can be a variance in max temperatures, all based on the model of the oven as well as factors such as the weather. No matter the design, solar ovens can get hot enough to thoroughly cook food.
How Long Does it Take to Cook in a Solar Oven?
The cook times of food depend on a number of details. These include the model of cooker, the size of the oven, the amount of food, and the weather the food is being cooked in. For example, whole potatoes can take an entire day to cook whereas a diced potato may only require 1-2 hours.
Other foods, such as meats such as steaks, chicken or sausage can take 3-4 hours to thoroughly cook, however, foods like leafy greens will cook quickly in less than an hour. If you are baking, optimal situations will let you bake a loaf of bread anywhere from 1-3 hours.
Do You Need Special Pots and Pans for a Solar Cooker?
Another great advantage of using solar ovens, specialized pots and pans are not needed. If you don’t feel like cleaning extra dishes, tinfoil can be used for cooking. However, if you are new to solar cooking, it will be easiest to use manufacturer created pots and pans for the oven. These will be custom made for fitting in the oven and make it easier for cooking the food completely and evenly.
Can You Cook in a Solar Oven During the Winter?
It is possible to use a solar oven during the winter as long as there is enough sunlight. The key to cooking during every season and type of weather is making sure the device is in direct sunlight and can capture light. While winter may cause the food to cook slower, solar ovens can still be effective. Regardless of the season and weather, it’s important to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the food.
Can You Use a Solar Oven to Dehydrate Foods?
It is possible to dehydrate foods using solar cookers. Dehydrating foods require a slow, low and steady heat that can be found using solar cookers. One of the ways to ensure the food dehydrates properly is keeping the cover of the oven slightly ajar so that moisture can escape.
If this information has made you interested in solar ovens, we have included reviews of individual ovens so that you can find the oven that is perfect for you and your needs. Regardless of if you choose to build your own oven or purchase one, solar cooking is a great hobby that opens up a new way to cook.
Tips and Tricks for Using Your Solar Oven
Here are some tips and tricks for improving the performance of your solar oven cooking.
- For maximizing the cook times, make sure to rotate the solar oven so that it has optimum sunlight.
- But, while cooking in bright and direct sunlight, you don’t always have to rotate the box. Considering the total time and heat before putting effort into constantly rotating the box.
- Dark pans will help speed of heating because the color will absorb.
- For best results while frying, use a pan without a lid and allow the pan to touch the interior glass.
- For optimum heating, make sure the lid of your pan matches the size of the reflector.
- For recipes that use hard vegetables (for example, vegetable soup), put in the hard ones first in to soften them before other ingredients are added.
- Skip the foil! Putting aluminum foil over the food will cause the light and energy to be redirected from the cooking pot.
- In general, solar cookers will not burn food, so don’t be afraid to start cooking early.
- The heat in a solar oven gets high enough to kill wild seeds and insect bugs, so the oven can be used to sterilize ceramic pots for gardening.