solar oven on a deck
A solar oven, soaking up rays. Tim MacWelch

One of the most unique birthday presents I’ve ever received arrived a few days early. The giant cardboard box held something I never would have guessed: A brand new solar oven. I have been researching commercially-made units for years, and even tried making my own from cardboard and foil. But none of that prepared me for the experience of using the real thing.

The SUN OVEN unit was on the large side, but that turns out to be a good thing. The first parts you see are the anodized aluminum reflectors, folded up on top of the unit. Turns out, they’re extremely durable and have a 15-year warranty against oxidization, rust, and corrosion. These reflector panels are positioned to bounce light into the cooking box from every direction. After unfolding the reflector panels, you see the glass door and oven box. The glass door is made of a 4mm, low-iron, tempered glass for break-resistance and heat retention. There is a soft grey gasket around the door frame, which creates an air tight seal that traps the hot air for higher cooking temperatures.

The cook box itself is a black box, made of plastic and metal, with a 2-inch-thick batt of a food-grade fiberglass insulation sandwiched in between. This set-up is perfect for absorbing and holding solar heat, while keeping cold air out. There are also two adjustments on the oven. One is a sun-alignment leg, which can be raised or lowered to match the sun’s position. There is also a self-leveling rack inside the oven, which prevents food from tipping over inside the unit.

How does all this work? Just place your food in the oven, close the door, use the creative shadow-alignment gizmo on the door to get the right oven orientation, and let the sunlight do the rest. While this is almost a care-free cooking method, you will need to twist the oven a little bit, every 30 minutes. This keeps the oven in the best position as the sun tracks across the sky. You may also have to raise or lower the zenith-adjusting leg, but only a few times in an entire day.

So far, I have cooked beautiful bread in four hours, cut-with-a-fork roasts and baked apples in about five hours, savory soups and stews in about six hours. Heating up leftovers took about one hour. The generous size of the unit allows me to cook two things at once, like soup and bread, allowing me to cook for 4-6 people at once. And though it’s not quick like a microwave, this appliance doesn’t need any fuel or electricity to work perfectly. Grid down? Bugged out? No problem. Also, there’s no smoke to give away your position. Homesteaders, preppers, and energy conscious average folks can use this oven to cook their meals, probably with several decades of dependable service.

Here are the specs:

-The high quality materials are anodized aluminum, tempered glass, and food grade fiberglass
-The entire oven only weighs 18 pounds
-It has collapsible metal reflectors, for safe and easy transport
-It’s made in the USA
-It even works on cloudy days
-The MSRP is $349 for the base model
-See recipes here

Do you have one of these? Or have you made your own? Tell us how you’d cook without utilities by leaving us a comment.