Best Solar Ovens

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

21 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
349 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best solar ovens

Last Updated September 2020

If you’ve ever tried the experiment where you crack an egg on a hot summer sidewalk, then you know: the sun can cook. Solar ovens take this concept to the next level with a box, dish, or tube-shaped structure that you can use to cook meat, bake bread, and more. These ovens are great for those living off grid, campers, survivalists, environmentalists, and those who just enjoy alternative methods of cooking.

Shopping for a solar oven is not the same as shopping for a conventional oven. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the concepts and features associated with these unique cookers before diving in. In this guide, we examine the various types of solar ovens as well as their capacities and temperature limits. We also explore the racks, pots, thermometers, and other accessories that may ship with a solar oven and what you should expect to pay for your new appliance.

Just starting out? Consider a compact and affordable oven that includes extensive documentation and recipes. As your skills and interest increase, you can always upgrade.

Key considerations

Solar oven types

Three solar oven types exist: solar panel cookers, solar box cookers, and parabolic cookers. Each takes a different approach to cooking with the power of sunlight. Consider each type carefully so you’re sure to get the one that best meets your needs.

Solar panel cooker: One of the more common designs, a solar panel cooker uses panels to reflect sunlight toward a cooking chamber, which is usually in the form of a tube. To use, simply fill the tube and position the oven so the panels catch the sun. Solar panel cookers are portable and easy to use, but the amount of food you can cook is limited, as is the type. For example, you can’t cook with liquid-based foods in a solar panel cooker.

Solar box cooker: These cookers consist of a box that you cook in, a series of reflectors that direct sunlight to the box, and usually some form of clear front on the box to trap heat. Solar box cookers work in a similar way to the oven in your kitchen, allowing you to bake bread, roast meat, and cook foods like soup and rice. While not as efficient as a solar panel cooker, you can usually cook a lot more food at once. Some box cookers fold down for easy travel — great for camping and road trips.

Parabolic cooker: Think of a parabolic cooker as the satellite dish of solar ovens. This dish-shaped cooker concentrates sunlight onto a central spot, where it heats the bottom or sides of a pot like a conventional stove. Parabolic cookers can get hot fast, which is great for cooking but not so great if you have young children or pets around. These ovens are fairly bulky and not very portable, but you can cook a variety of foods in them.

Capacity

Some solar panel cookers can handle enough meat for two or three people. Some solar box cookers are large enough to cook an entire chicken. It’s helpful to know, before buying, how much food a solar oven can accommodate at one time. That way, you can “size up” if you need to.

A solar oven with a larger capacity is more likely to be able to handle standard-size baking pans and other pots you currently have in your kitchen.

Weight

The lighter a solar oven is, the more portable it will be. If the oven is too lightweight, however, you will be at the mercy of every wind gust. To give you an idea, mini box cookers can weigh 2 or 3 pounds. Large parabolic cookers can weigh as much as 35 pounds.

Temperature capabilities

The hotter a solar oven gets, the faster it will cook food. In areas where sunlight is spotty, this can pose a problem. Top temperatures for solar ovens can range from a low of 285°F to a high of 550°F or more, depending on the oven.

Ease of use

Solar ovens are a lot like slow cookers in that you don’t need to fuss with food while it’s cooking. However, you will need to monitor and possibly tweak the stove. A solar oven needs to be pointed at the sun to reach its top temperature, and as the sun “moves” through the sky, the oven will need its angle adjusted to maintain peak performance.

Some solar ovens only reach maximum temperatures for certain hours during the day. Others can be used in summer but not winter. Ease of use varies from oven to oven. Any quality solar oven should come with comprehensive instructions that help you understand how to use it successfully.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some solar ovens can also be used in the winter, although cooking times tend to be longer.

Features

Construction materials

Plastic is a common component in solar ovens, although some rely heavily on nylon, glass, reflective materials, and metal. Plastic is lightweight with portability in its favor. Regardless of the material a solar oven is made of, the best ones are durable appliances.

Racks

Solar ovens typically ship with one or more racks that hold the food being cooked. Racks range from simple trivets to baking racks to stackable dehydrating racks that can be used to dry and preserve foods.

Pots

While some solar ovens do not include pots or pans with purchase, the majority do include some form of cookware designed to fit the stove. This can range from loaf pans to a durable pot with a lid. If your new box cooker or other solar oven does not include pots, you will be on your own in terms of rummaging through your kitchen or spending extra money to purchase something.

Storage bag

Solar ovens that are capable of folding down for transport or storage often include a bag in which they can be stored. These range from simple cloth bags to clamshell cases and are great for keeping all elements of the oven together and protecting it when not in use.

One downside of a solar oven: you are at the mercy of the weather. Even a few clouds can ruin a meal plan, so it’s helpful to have a Plan B.

Solar oven prices

Inexpensive: Solar ovens that cost $100 or less are often simple appliances with a small capacity. Many are compact box cookers capable of moderately high temperatures. These ovens are best for those who want to try their hand at solar cooking or have minimal cooking needs.

Mid-range: Solar ovens in the mid-price range, from $150 to $250, tend to have a better build than basic ovens. Solar panel cookers, parabolic cookers, and some medium-size box cookers fall in this category. Food capacity is still pretty low, but these solar ovens typically cook hotter and are more reliable.

Expensive: For $250 to around $400, you will find larger box cookers that may come with extras such a pot, a thermometer, or other accessories. These ovens are capable of higher temperatures and can often be used to cook several dishes at once. While not conventional ovens, the solar ovens you find here are often the next best thing.

EXPERT TIP

Never use aluminum foil over foods when cooking in a solar oven, as the foil will redirect the sunlight and prevent the food from cooking properly.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • When your solar oven first arrives, do a quick pre-cleaning of all surfaces. This will help remove any lingering manufacturing odors that could affect food taste.
  • If you have small children, avoid purchasing a solar oven with sharp edges or large sections that become very hot. A parabolic oven is a prime example of an oven that gets extremely hot and could pose a safety hazard to little ones.
  • Use your oven’s “sunsight,” if one is included, to determine the best sun angle for cooking. Those new to solar cooking find this feature particularly helpful.
  • Consider picking up a food thermometer to go with your solar oven. Because of a solar oven’s inconsistent cooking time, it can be hard to judge when something like meat is done. With a food thermometer, you can test the internal temperature of your entree to remove all doubt.
  • Skip the stirring spoon. Because of the even-heat cooking nature of a solar oven, you generally don’t need to worry about stirring foods as they cook.
Some solar ovens come with one or two extras, such as a collection of solar oven recipes or an oven thermometer to help you keep track of how hot you’re cooking.

FAQ

Q. My solar oven came with a Water Pasteurization Indicator. What is that?
A.
A Water Pasteurization Indicator, or WAPI, is a simple device used by survivalists, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts to determine when water is safe to drink. A WAPI typically comes in the form of a vial filled with wax that is added to water as it heats up. When the wax melts and flows to the bottom of the vial, the water is safe to drink.


Q. How long does it take to cook food in a solar oven?
A.
The length of time it takes to cook food depends on a variety of factors. How hot does the oven get? What are you cooking? How much sunlight is available? It generally takes longer to cook food in a solar oven than it does a conventional oven. For example, bread can take up to three hours to bake, while meat typically takes four to six hours to reach a safe temperature.


Q. Do solar ovens require special cooking pans, or can I just use something from my kitchen?
A.
With box cookers and parabolic cookers, you can pretty much use any type of pot or pan as long as it fits inside the oven. No particular type of pan or material is preferable, although dark pans with thinner walls tend to work better than light-colored pans with thicker walls.

One benefit of buying a solar oven that ships with pots or pans: they will be designed specifically to fit the oven they ship with.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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