Solar Cookers

© Tim Hester

by B.E.Seidl

Did you know that you can cook and bake almost any kind of meal using only the light of the sun? Solar cooking is a cheap, time efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly way to provide thousands of poor people all over the world with warm meals.
In many regions, such as the refugee camps in eastern Chad, Sudan, the flooded lowlands of Bangladesh, Bolivia, Mexico, western China or Afghanistan, people traditionally use open fires in order to cook their food. This often leads to deforestation and also causes approximately 4 million premature deaths from illnesses attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels. Women and children are among the most affected. An estimated 3 billion people still cook and heat their food with solid fuel such as wood, animal dung and crop waste, producing high levels of air pollution. For many of them, solar cooking would be a cheap solution to reduce the alarming amount of health-damaging pollutants caused by open fires. Several NGOs, businesses, manufacturers, educational institutions and government agencies in over 120 countries have joined the so-called Solar Cookers International Network. The network’s purpose is to spread solar cooking.

“Solar cooking can improve a woman’s health, her children’s health, her household budget, her field’s ability to grow crops, her personal safety, and her educational opportunities.”

The cookers, which reach temperatures up to 120 °C/250°F, allow families to cook up to two meals a day using only the heat of the sun. The three most common designs are box cookers (several hundred thousand are being used in India alone), curved concentrator cookers (several hundred thousand exist mainly in China), and panel cookers (which combine elements of box and curved concentrator cookers).
Even the simplest solar cookers serve for cooking rice, meat and vegetables as well as boiling and pasteurizing water. The slow and gentle way of cooking makes it possible to cook foods evenly. Even without constant stirring, solar cooked food wont burn or stick to the pot. This is particularly important in regions where the access to water is limited. Solar cookers also save time as they cook food on their own and the cooks can dedicate themselves to other tasks in the meantime.
How do solar cookers work? In order to build a simple solar cooker, you need a pot -ideally a thin metal pot with a dark, tight fitting lid to hold in heat and moisture, a transparent heat trap – either a heat-resistant plastic bag or a glass bowl, or a box with a glass or plastic window, and one or more shiny surfaces to reflect extra sunlight onto the pot.










learn more:


The CooKit, a simple, portable solar cooker is made of cardboard and aluminum foil.



More complex constructions such as the box cooker allow larger amounts of food to be cooked and baked and maintain the heat for a couple of hours as well. Women in poorer regions such as in refugee camps in Chad, who are mainly using the CooKit model, designed special baskets to keep the food warm over night.
Although solar cooking is only an option in outdoor places that are sunny for several hours and protected from strong winds, it is a safe, healthy and convenient option, above all in dry, fuel-scarce regions.
Unfortunately, solar cookers are spreading slowly as they are still not granted enough attention by potential donors. If you are interested in learning more about solar cookers, or in donating for this cause, please read more here:


Some solar cooking recipes:


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