Conservation Corner

Usefulness of solar cooking

Pauline Lee

If you are using a solar cooker, you can cook anywhere outdoors when the sun is out – in a camp, on the beach, on a boat, outside of an RV, or in the yard. While your food is cooking, you don’t need to stir and tend it; it will not dry out or burn but it will have good flavors after being cooked in its own juice. In the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods when other fuels for cooking are unavailable, solar cookers will still work. Solar cooking doesn’t produce any environmental pollutants that harm our health as do fossil fuels. You do not pay for sun light but you have to pay for other fuels.

Solar cooking depends on concentrating sunlight by several orders of magnitude using a mirrored surface onto a small cooking area. There are three main categories of solar cookers, roughly equivalent to using a crockpot (the CooKit), oven (box cookers) and a stove top (parabolic cookers reaching 500°F). The light energy can be converted maximally to heat energy when the dark colored pots and pans used in solar cookers absorb the light and transmit it as heat to cook food. In case of a cold and windy day, the transformed heat can be retained best by using a lid on top of the pan or by trapping the hot air using a high-temperature plastic bag. For cloudy days, cooking just takes longer.

The cooking time in solar cooking varies with time of the day and the season of the year as sun light intensity changes. Thus, an experienced solar cook learns to prepare and organize for the maximum use of the sun’s energy. For example, the cooker and water can be preheated; food with high moisture content needs less added water to cook; and vegetables requiring more time to cook, e.g. potatoes, should be cooked first and more tender vegetables added later. When solar cooking temperatures reach 150°F, harmful microbes are killed. But food will cook at temperatures of 180°F or above. Recent advanced solar cookers using vacuum tubes can heat up to 750°F, thereby reducing cooking time to stove top equivalents. These vacuum tubes are easier to use than parabolic cookers.

Different kinds of solar cookers and other resources related to solar cooking can be found at and The various sized models are suitable to cook for a few people or for even 40-60 people. The more expensive models can heat up faster to bake, boil, steam and fry your food. You will appreciate the flavorful food prepared from solar cookers because the heating is more even. At the same time you will be healthier because solar cooking preserves more nutrients in the food by its ability to cook slower at a lower temperature without polluting the environment. Best of all, solar cooking is economical and sustainable. Why not try it?