Solar cookers use the energy of direct sunlight to cook food and come in a number of designs that range from simple to complex. These ovens can be purchased or made and rely on a reflective surface — typically shaped as panels, boxes or parabolas — that heats the food. A well-designed and properly used solar cooker can be used even on a cold, sunny day in the winter.
Instructions for homemade solar cookers can be found online. The plans utilize various strategies of capturing and reflecting as many of the sun’s rays as possible, while absorbing and trapping heat in a cooking vessel. Materials vary, but typically include easily accessible items like boxes, aluminum foil, Styrofoam, glass sheets, windshield sun shades, black cooking vessels, cooling racks or clear oven roasting bags.
Once you build your solar cooker, follow instructions for use. Some cookers need to be repositioned regularly to capture the sun’s rays. Also, just because they rely on sunlight doesn’t mean they are harmless; don’t forget to use hot pads to protect your hands from burns and wear sunglasses while doing your cooking.
The best thing about moving your cooking off the sidewalk — besides the fact that your food won’t make you sick — is that your menu isn’t so limited. With different cooking techniques and times, solar cookers can be used to boil water, cook rice, slow-cook meat, bake breads, cookies and more.