What Is Solar Cooking – and How Does It Work?

Suppose you are home without electrical power. Or out in the woods camping or hiking. Either way, you may not be able to cook food or heat water. Unless, of course, you’re prepared.

Take a quick glance at that round yellow thing in the sky. Hard to believe that 1.3 million Earths could fit inside it. The sun is 93 million miles away, but it’s going to help you accomplish this task.

Not all by itself. The sun may be 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its core, but its rays cool considerably during their eight-minute, 20-second journey to Earth. They might feel warm on your skin, but they’re not hot enough to cook food or boil water.

Fortunately, those electromagnetic rays contain a great deal of energy. They cause the molecules in whatever they strike to vibrate. That’s what generates heat, and solar cookers are capable of harnessing that heat.

Sun-powered ovens

There are a number of different types of solar cookers. They include solar ovens/box cookers, panel cookers, evacuated tubes and parabolic solar cookers.

The solar oven or box cooker is usually about three to five feet across. It’s basically a sun-powered oven. It heats up and seals in the heat. The open-topped box is black on the inside with glass or transparent plastic on the top.

It usually has several reflectors featuring flat, metallic or mirrored surfaces outside the box. They collect and direct sunlight onto the glass.

A pot of food sits on the black bottom of the box. Sunlight enters the box through the glass top. When light waves strike the bottom, the box heats up and the food cooks.

Variety of choices

Panel cookers incorporate different elements of box cookers and parabolic solar cookers. They use parabolic reflectors above a box-type oven.

Evacuated tube solar cookers use a double-wall glass tube for the cooking chamber. The space between the glass is created as a vacuum.

Many people prefer parabolic solar cookers due to their ability to achieve higher temperatures and their portability.

A parabolic solar cooker uses curved, reflective surfaces to focus sunlight into a small area. The evacuated tempered glass tube traps every bit of heat-producing light that hits it.

No smoke and no noise

Temperatures inside a parabolic solar cooker can get very hot. But it’s cool to the touch on the outside. So, you can safely handle it with your bare hands when it’s at full temperature.

The sides fold out to reveal the two parabolic mirrors. These “wings” grab every bit of sun and focus it on the glass tube.

A parabolic solar cooker does not need batteries or electricity. Because it boils water, it protects you from parasites such as giardia.

It doesn’t need any flames or fuel, so you don’t have to be concerned with gathering wood or sticks. And it doesn’t produce smoke or make noise, so it allows you to keep your location covert.

What to cook with it

What can you cook with a parabolic solar cooker? Hard-boiled eggs and hot dogs come to mind immediately.

But you could also cook an omelet, vegetarian couscous, oatmeal and a wide variety of soups.

As well as mashed potato flakes, instant rice, stovetop stuffing, ramen noodles and bulgar wheat.

Not to mention pastas that cook in less than four minutes, such as artisan pastas, and instant grits. 

When to use it

When are the best times to use a parabolic solar cooker? They’re great for camping, boating and hiking.

As well as picnics, your job site or tailgating. Or just sitting on the sidelines while your kids or grandchildren play.

Cooking food such as hotdogs, eggs and freeze-dried meals is one way to use a parabolic solar cooker. But there are many others. Including…

  • Heating water for hygiene needs
  • Keeping liquid hot for hours for coffee, tea, cocoa, gelatin or baby formula
  • Melting snow for drinking or other usages
  • Pasteurizing water
  • Killing giardia, cryptosporidium and other waterborne bacteria

Sun Kettle is the perfect choice

Our choice for a parabolic solar cooker at 4Patriots is the Sun Kettle Personal Water Heater.

It’s like having a mini microwave the size of a thermos. Constructed from tough ABS plastic and shatter-resistant tempered glass, it’s built like a tank.

It’s ultra compact when you’re on the go. And the ventilated cap means you’ll never have to worry about pressure levels and dangerous over-boils.

Plus, the Sun Kettle is very easy to use. Just fill the Sun Kettle with water, leaving about two inches for steam.

Then open the its reflective panels and face them into the sunlight. When steam escapes from the top vent, enjoy hot water now, or close the doors to keep the water hot for later.

See more on this weird solar thermos here


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