Box solar ovens (What you need to know)

Solar ovens work by trapping the sun’s energy that enters the glass cover which is then converted to heat by the oven’s black interior.

They usually have reflector panels to increase the amount of reflected light for faster cooking.

It is this heat that builds up over time as more sunlight continues to shine through the glass that cooks the food.

In this article, I will share with you the 7 important facts that will help you decide whether the box solar oven is for you and how to get the most out of your solar oven.

Before you invest in a solar oven, you need to know its advantages and limitations so that you make an informed decision.

Benefits of a box solar oven

  • The solar oven uses freely available sunshine to cook
  • The food does not burn
  • Some people prefer the flavours of slowly cooked meals
  • Clean up of the pans is easy

Disadvantages of a solar oven

  • The food takes a long time to cook
  • Some foods do not get ready in a solar oven
  • You can only cook during the day (when there is sun)
  • Available sizes may not be able to cook food for a large family

Where solar ovens work best (+ weather)

You need the sun for the solar oven to work.

Locations in America, Europe during the summer and winter too (provided there is sunshine) and most areas in Africa, South America, and Asia provided there is sunshine.

Even then, ensure that the oven is positioned to receive direct sunshine throughout the day.

Solar ovens cook fastest on a bright sunny day. Should you attempt to cook on a cloudy, overcast day, you will have slower cooking times and your meal may not get cooked completely!

How hot box solar ovens get

The interior of a solar box oven can get as hot as 120 °C /250 °F depending on the type of oven.

Safety tip: Wear cooking gloves or wrap the cooking pot handles with a cloth when handling the pans to prevent burns.

How to get the most out of your box solar oven

# 1. Always place in direct sunlight

Get as much sunlight into the oven. Avoid shadows at all costs for faster cooking.

If the oven has reflector flaps, open and angle them to reflect as much sunlight into the solar oven interior to increase the heating effect.

The glass cover needs to be firmly secured to prevent trapped heat from escaping.

# 2. Cookware that works best with box solar oven

Use covered black pans and pots for the foods to cook faster.

Do not use shiny aluminum pans. They reflect the heat and the food cooks slowly.

Foods that cook well with box solar ovens

  • Rice, pasta, peas, beans, fresh vegetables, meats, eggs cook well in a solar oven.
  • Avoid foods that need several hours to cook such as dry beans, dry peans as they will likely not get ready

How to cook using a box solar oven

To cook with a solar oven, put all the food ingredients – spices, seasoning, main food at once in the cooking pot.

This includes your spices, seasoning, and all the food, like you would do when baking a cake.

Add just enough water to cook the food – there is very little evaporation because of the slow cooker.

Beware though that with a solar oven, there is no browning of the food because of the lower cooking temperatures.

So for example, meats retain the reddish color (not brown) even though it is well done and tender.

Can box solar ovens boil water?

Yes. Solar ovens can boil water but be prepared that it takes a while to boil (depending on the amount) compared to when you use an electric kettle or gas.

Estimated cooking times with a box solar oven

The box solar oven is a slow cooker unlike your gas or electric cooker.

With a solar oven, always plan for several hours at least for your meal to cook unlike a gas or electric cooker which cooks much faster.

  • White fluffy rice about 40 min
  • Fresh beans about 2 hours
  • Fresh peas about 2 hours
  • Boiled eggs about 20 min
  • Fish 30-40 min
  • Meat stew 3-4 hours
  • Chicken stew 3-4 hours

*Times are estimated. They depend on the amount of sunshine and oven design and size of food

Note: The vacuum tube cookers with parabolic reflectors cook much faster – foods can cook in as little as 45 min!

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