You’ve probably heard you cook an egg on your dashboard with the sun. While this may be true, your car isn’t the most efficient solar oven. And you certainly can’t take it on a hike with you.
So we’ve found the five best solar ovens and dehydrators whether you’re hiking or cooking on the homestead.
We’ve even found a solar cooker that works at night! Keep reading to learn more.
At a Glance
Here’s a handy chart to help you see the five best solar cookers out there.
Turn Up the Heat With These 5 Best Solar Ovens
Still undecided on which solar oven is best? Whether you are an avid hiker or an off-grid homesteader, there is a solar cooker out there for you. We’ve found the top five best ovens based on ease of use, convenience, and how much food you can dish up.
Keep reading to learn more about our top picks for solar cookers.
Haines 2.0 SunUp Solar Cooker and Dutch Oven Kit – Top Pick
Material: Mylar/Polyester foam
- Weight: 29 ounces
- Max Temperature: 250F
- How fast it boils water 40 minutes
- Capacity 4.5 quarts
Whether you are looking to cook on your homestead or out in the deep woods, the Haines 2.0 SunUp Solar Cooker is our top pick for solar ovens. You can cook all your crockpot recipes and even bake bread in the 4.5 quart dutch oven that is included in this kit.
Wake up in the morning and select your favorite slow cooker recipe. Then you can prep your food as normal and add it to the pot. Cooking with the solar oven really isn’t any different from what you already do. It’s just the oven that’s different, and even that isn’t complicated.
First, prepare your cooker. The parabolic cooker assembles quickly. Next, you will need to set it for the angle of the sun. Once you’ve found the best angle, place your pot in the center. The reflective sides will bounce the heat from the sun onto your pot. Soon, your food will be boiling away. Easy peasy, right?
Now, the included pot comes with a clear lid. This lid allows you to monitor your food as it is cooking. But that’s not all it does. It also helps trap the heat inside the pot. And the pan’s black sides help absorb more heat. This is why the dutch oven that comes with the kit works so well.
The reflector itself is lightweight and packs down pretty small, but the pot is a bit unwieldy if you plan on hiking. But really, you can use any pot that fits inside the reflector. So when you pack your backpack, leave the dutch oven at home and pack a small collapsable silicone pot instead.
We think the overall versatility and ease of use, combined with a good price, make this your best buy for a solar oven.
JWN Green Portable Solar Oven Bag Cooker – Budget Pick
Material composite mirror cotton
- Weight 1.2 lbs
- Max Temperature 250F
- How fast it boils water NA
- Capacity NA
If you are looking for a solar oven at an affordable price, the JWN Green Portable Solar Oven is our budget pick. The JWN doesn’t have any bells and whistles or come with any accessories, but it gets the job done.
To set it up, you simply remove the reflector from the carrying bag and unfold it. You unzip the plastic cover to place your pan with food in it. It is always best to use a black pan to absorb the most heat (1). Once your pan is in the cooker, you want to close it up to trap in the heat.
Now be gentle with the zipper. Some people complain that it jams and breaks easily. And it is important that you keep the cooker closed to get the most out of it. In a pinch, you could try binder clips to keep it closed, but it’s best just to be careful.
The shape and style of this solar cooker are similar to others, like the Sunflair that we will discuss in a bit. However, the Sunflair includes a lot of accessories, like a solar oven thermometer, and comes in at a much higher price point. The JWN is able to keep a low price point by only selling the cooker.
So, if you already have pots and racks and are just looking for a cooker, the JWN is a great budget choice.
GOSUN Fusion Solar Oven – Hybrid Electric Grill – Best Hybrid
Material Stainless steel cooking tube/Glass vacuum tube
- Weight 14 lbs
- Max Temperature 550F
- How fast it boils water 1 hour
- Capacity 145 oz
The Cadillac of solar ovens, the GOSUN Fusion Solar Oven, is the best hybrid solar oven we reviewed. While coming in at a higher price point than the other solar ovens on the market, we think the features are worth it.
The biggest difference the Fusion Solar Oven has is the ability to cook at night. Now, I know what you are thinking. How can a solar oven work at night? And the answer is by connecting to a 12-volt power source. This 12-volt source can be a cigarette lighter in your car, boat, or RV. But that isn’t your only option.
You can also buy the GOSUN power bank and connect it to your Fusion. Charge the power bank from a solar panel during the day while you are out hiking. Then you can return to camp and cook with the power of the sun even after dark. Not only will the power bank cook your food, but you can also use it to charge your phone.
While the ability to cook at night is what really makes the Fusion stand out, this solar cooker has other great features worth mentioning. Despite its compact size, the Fusion allows you to cook a lot of food. You can comfortably cook up a meal for up to five people.
Now unlike other solar cookers, which use a pot, the Fusion has a stainless steel cooking tube placed inside a glass vacuum tube. Even if the method is a little different, the result is still the same. You can roast vegetables, bake quick breads, and even cook meat. Heck, GOSUN even sells a meat thermometer you can connect to your phone that will let you know when your meal is ready.
So, if you want to take your solar cooking to the next level, check out the GOSUN Fusion.
Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe
Material closed cell insulation
- Weight 1lb 2 oz.
- Max Temperature 285F
- How fast it boils water 15 minutes
- Capacity NA
If you liked the look of the JWN but wanted more, check out the Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe. Similar in style and shape to the JWN, the Sunflair weighs in at just over one pound. But this set is more than just a cooker.
The deluxe set comes with everything you need to get started cooking with the sun, which is perfect if you are just setting up your homestead. It has two baking trays, two dehydrating or baking racks, an enamelware pot, and two silicone pots. That’s a complete solar cookware set!
But that’s not all.
It also has a handy thermometer so that you can monitor the temperature of the solar oven. Though since you are cooking with the gentle heat of the sun, you don’t have to worry about burning or drying out your meal.
And while it may seem like a lot of gear, it comes with a handy carrying case to pack it all in.
Whether you are looking to slow cook a meal, dehydrate some fruit, or whip a quick bread, the Sunflair Delux comes with everything you need and more.
GOSUN Go Solar Oven Portable Stove
Material Stainless steel cooking tube/Glass vacuum tube
- Weight 2 lbs
- Max Temperature 550 F
- How fast it boils water 20-45 minutes
- Capacity 13.5 oz
Similar in design to the GOSUN Fusion, the GOSUN Go Solar oven is a more streamlined portable option. This super lightweight solar oven is perfect for just one person.
Weighing in at two pounds, the GOSUN Go won’t bog down your backpack while you’re on your camping trips. Even better, the GOSUN Go is fully self-contained. You simply place your prepared food in the stainless steel cooking tray stored inside the glass vacuum tube. So now you can shed those pots and pans and lighten your load.
Don’t forget to pack a good knife, though. You’ll find your food cooks faster if you cut it into smaller pieces. Depending on what you are making, your meal can be ready in as little as 20 minutes.
You can use the GOSUN Go for hot drinks as well. Simply remove the cooking tray and pour the water directly into the flask.
Make sure you have the Go set in the vertical position to boil water.
Once your water is hot, the insulated flask will keep it warm all day. Now, you’re ready for a glass of tea or a cup of soup whenever you want.
For a single person looking for a lightweight solar oven, the GOSUN Go is a great choice.
Solar Oven and Dehydrator Buying Guide
There are several factors to consider when deciding which is the best solar oven for you. The first factor to think about is where you will be using it. What you want from a solar oven on a hiking trip is different than using one on the off-grid homestead.
Once you decide where you will be using your solar oven, it quickly becomes easy to see how material, weight, and the number of people it can feed become important buying factors.
So let’s look more closely at what makes the best solar oven for your lifestyle.
Types of Solar Ovens
Before we dive too deep into solar oven specifications, let’s talk about the main types of solar cookers out there.
Box Cookers: A box cooker is a pretty straightforward solar cooker. It consists of an insulated box with a transparent top. Reflectors are used to capture sunlight and direct it into the box. The transparent lid traps the heat inside the box to cook your food.
Parabolic Cooker: Parabolic cookers use curved surfaces to focus the light from the sun onto your pot to cook your food. These types of cookers are more efficient, cook faster, and reach higher temperatures than other types of cookers (2).
Panel Cookers: A panel cooker is very similar to a parabolic cooker. The main difference is the lack of curves. A panel cooker uses a variety of flat reflectors to concentrate the heat onto your pot. This type of cooker is the easiest to construct but the least efficient.
Check out this video to see more about the different types of ovens:
While these three types are the most common, the GOSUN solar cookers are, in fact, a unique new way to use the sun to cook food. While both the GOSUN Go and the GOSUN Fusion still use reflectors, they use a vacuum tube to trap the heat, which makes them a new type of solar cooker.
Different types of solar ovens are going to have different components. And while people manufacture solar ovens out of many different materials, they all have one thing in common- a reflective surface. These reflectors help concentrate the sunlight and direct it towards the pot (4). They can come in a variety of materials, from glass mirrors to mylar.
In addition to reflectors box style cookers also have a transparent top to trap in the heat. These can come in either plastic or glass. Other cookers use insulation to trap in the heat.
One factor to consider when thinking about materials is durability. Some materials just last longer and hold up better. Another factor is weight. Using glass and metal in the GOSUN Fusion makes it more durable, but it also makes it heavier.
Which brings us to our next point, weight.
You may be wondering, does it really matter how much my solar oven weighs? Well, it matters a lot more if you are looking to hike the Appalachian Trail than it does if you live on a homestead. But either way, it matters.
So here’s why. Just about anywhere you live, chances are you are going to have to move your solar oven. As the sun moves throughout the year, so will the ideal placement of your oven. But the sun isn’t the only thing that changes.
A lightweight solar oven is easy to move as the shade on your property moves throughout the year.
Trees grow over time as well. This happened to me with my solar dehydrator. I placed it in full sun in the garden, but my trees grew, and so did the shade. So we had to move it somewhere else. And let me tell you, it is heavy.
And weight is even more important when you are hiking, and every ounce counts. In this case, something super light and compact, like the JWN Portable Solar oven, would be a great choice. You can pair it with lightweight, collapsible cookware and have hot lunch at camp.
Not all types of solar ovens can reach the same temperature. Stanford University tells us parabolic solar ovens are going to get the hottest (2).
“The major advantage of parabolic style cookers is that they tend to be much more efficient, and are able to reach much higher temperatures (400 degrees Fahrenheit) and cook food faster than other types.”
Getting your stove hot is essential if you are hoping to bake bread or cookies. However, lower temperatures are just fine for slow cooking meats. Water boils at 212 degrees.
How fast it cooks
Again, depending on how you plan to use your solar oven will affect how quickly you need it to cook your food. If you are cooking a meal on your off-grid homestead, then it may not matter how long it takes for your food to cook.
You can prep dinner in the morning and leave it to cook all day without worrying about it burning. Then when dinner comes around, just remove the pot from the cooker, and you’re ready to go. Think of it as cooking with a slow cooker and just as safe (3).
“The slow cooker cooks foods slowly at a low temperature, generally between 170 and 280 degrees F, over several hours. The combination of direct heat from the pot, lengthy cooking and steam, destroys bacteria making the slow cooker a safe process for cooking foods.”
The exact same principles apply to cooking with the sun as with cooking in a conventional oven or slow cooker.
Now sometimes you don’t want to slow cook. Maybe you are looking for a hot meal while hiking. Then you would want something that can heat up your meal quickly. Depending on what you are cooking, the GOSUN Go can be ready in as little as 20 minutes. That’s perfect for those days that you still have miles to go.
Number it Feeds
When buying your solar cooker, the last thing to consider is how many people you will be cooking for. Now, it’s unlikely you can use any of these ovens to serve up a feast, but there is still a large variety in their capacity.
One of the nice things about the Haines 2.0 SunUP Solar Cooker is the large 4.5 quart stockpot that is included. This will let you cook up a large meal for a family or multiple meals for the solitary folk. If you don’t want to cook that much, you can always use a smaller pot.
However, if you buy a super portable oven like the GOSUN Go, you can’t ever cook a large meal to share. You will be forever stuck at a table for 1.
One main disadvantage of solar ovens is that they require sunlight to cook your food. This means they do not work at night or on cloudy days.
However, the GOSUN Fusion is an exception. Its hybrid design allows you to connect to a 12 volt power source. That means if you charge a battery during the day, you can use the stored power from the sun to cook even in the dark.
Solar ovens can get quite hot, reaching temperatures as high as 550 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the maximum temperature can vary depending on a number of factors. Design, insulation, and intensity can all affect your final temperature.
Parabolic reflectors generally reach higher temperatures than other types of solar ovens.
Solar ovens can last years or days, depending on the materials and design. You can build a simple solar oven with materials in your home, but chances are it won’t last very long.
If you are looking for a long lasting solar oven, make sure you give careful consideration to the materials that are used in construction.
- Recommendations for Cooking. Retrieved from: https://www.tiloo.ch/en/recommendations-cooking
- Solar Cooker Technology. Retrieved from: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2012/ph240/nii1/
- Slow Cookers and Food Safety. Retrieved from: https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/slow-cookers
- Solar Cookers. Retrieved from:https://energyresearch.ucf.edu/education/k-12/resources/solar-cookers/
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.