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Solar Ovens

Free PDF ebook download at the bottom of this page: “How to Make a Solar Oven”

Solar ovens, also called solar cookers, use the sun to cook food. Just like a slow cooker/crock pot, you can cook anything in a solar oven that you can cook in a regular oven… it just takes a little longer. One of the greatest things about solar ovens is that once built they are absolutely free to use because they cook using free sunshine.

There are three basic types of solar cookers:

  1. The box oven
  2. The panel cooker
  3. The parabolic cooker

Some of these cookers can take on different styles and forms…

solar cookers

Four styles of solar ovens

HINT: None of the four solar ovens in the pictures above are a parabolic cooker. However, here is the breakdown…

A direct-gain solar box oven is the easiest to make, and can be made out of cardboard or wood or other materials. The box is insulated to hold the heat inside the “oven.” These typically look like an insulated box with a piece of glass or Plexiglas on top (see top left photo above), but pizza box and Pringles can cookers are also direct solar gain box style cookers, although sometimes reflector panels are added, which brings me to…


The solar panel cooker does not use a box for the oven, but instead has reflective panels that shine the light (and therefore heat) onto the cooking pot itself, which can be a jar or pot in the open air, or you can put the pot put inside of an oven cooking bag, or coffee can painted black, or similar to increase the temperature and reduce cooking time. Bernard solar panel cookers (bottom right image in the photo above) are an example of this type of cooker; they are extremely simple to make.

solar cooker

Steve Cook at UTEP with Bernard solar panel cooker

The parabolic solar cooker (also called paraboloid when using a “compound” multi-faceted surface rather than a true or smooth parabola) uses a satellite dish-shaped or funnel or tube shape to focus sunlight onto a cooking device or pot, or the food itself. The focused sunlight can be very intense and so these get very hot, but if they are not turned OFTEN the sunlight soon loses its focus on the food and it can start cooling down immediately, so these require nearly-constant attention to cook with them. These types of cookers are also very complex and time consuming to make, and are typically the most expensive too.

solar focuser

Parabolic solar cooker

A fourth type, which is also common practice, is a hybrid box-panel solar cooker, which puts the food in the box oven, but also uses panel reflectors to shine extra light into the oven, which helps heat it up faster and hotter. This type is usually fairly efficient and still easy to make.

solar oven

Solar box-panel hybrid oven

hybrid solar oven

Chuck Reel and his panel-reflector solar box oven


Materials needed

You can make a solar oven out of simple and inexpensive or even recycled materials such as cardboard, newspaper for insulation, aluminum foil, school glue, and aluminum tape. In my book (DIY: How to Make a Solar Oven–see below) there are plans/instructions, and pictures that explain how to make a solar oven, step by step. I also go fairly deep into which materials are best to use and which ones you should avoid, for safety purposes and also based on whether you want something lightweight and portable, or something more permanent.

Permanent solar cookers can be made out of heavier or longer lasting materials such as metal sheets, wood, or even repurposed toaster ovens or drawers. Some permanent cookers even use concrete or papercrete as part of their construction.

As for portable units, the “drawer” style cooker on the left in the picture below is not insulated very well, but it is made of wood, using a mirror for a reflector panel on the lid, and when closed and latched it has a handle for ease in packing up and taking it just about anywhere.

solar cooker box

Box solar ovens – photo courtesy Chuck Reel

There are also some neat tricks you can use to make a solar cooker time using a dowel, as well as a swivel device for ease in turning your cooker as you cook, since the sun moves through the sky. I even include a few delicious recipes and give step-by-step instructions for kids on how to make a cardboard solar oven, a pizza box oven, and a Pringles can hot dog cooker–I have seen solar ovens like these win at the school science fair!

You can download the version 1 of my PDF book free here:


solar oven

How to Make a Solar Oven

For those interested in the newest version (96 pages) it can be purchased or gotten free, too, depending on your preferences. See below…

This book can be purchased on Amazon for $12 (if you wish to support my efforts in offering free books to the public, or you can donate directly to support these endeavors). Also, the Kindle version is FREE if you are an Amazon Prime member.

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) solar ovens utilize “passive solar” principles, meaning they do not have any moving parts, use no electricity or fuel to ‘run’, and are simple and easy to use. You simply cannot get more easy than that!


To learn more about passive solar projects check out my page on solar water distillers to purify water using only the sun, and passive solar home design to save up to 60% of your heating bill simply because your house is designed to let the sun in during winter and keep it out during summer.

I will have more and more articles and books available as time goes on.

A comment from “Pat” in Fiji:

Thank you so much for being so generous and having the free book
available online.   I am a senior citizen in Fiji where the severe Cyclone Winston
hit on 20Feb 2016. So I am looking to making these simple stoves
so that the affected families who lost their homes and everything will
be able to have an inexpensive means of cooking.
We have a lot of sunshine here in Fiji so this will be a very good
project !!”

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