How to Build a Solar Cooker

Save money and cook outdoors with this DIY home project.

| March/April 1974

Special Note: Copyright 1959 by D.S. Halacy Jr., and originally published by the Macmillan Company as a chapter of the book, Fun With The Sun. Reprinted with permission of the author.  

A stove made of paper sounds about as practical as a pitcher carved from ice, but this reflector cooker - constructed almost entirely of cardboard - will broil steaks, grill hot dogs, fry bacon and eggs and make hotcakes and coffee. It will also heat water for doing the dishes. All that's necessary to make it work is clear weather, because this stove cooks with sunshine! 

Stop to think about it for a minute and you'll remember that every time we cook - be it with gas, electricity or charcoal - we indirectly use the sun's energy, which has been stored up and reconverted to heat. Basically, then, our solar stove's fuel is nothing really new. Even the use of direct sun heat for cooking goes back many years. Sun-dried foods have long been eaten, and crude solar stoves were built a century ago. Besides, who hasn't heard of cooking an egg on the sidewalk on a really hot day? 

In recent years, however, many advances have been made in the design of solar cookers. Today there are commercial models on the market that are fine for campers or for patio use. One umbrella-like design folds up for easy carrying and storage, and also provides an answer for the skeptic who wants to know what you do when it rains! Such a cooker is just the thing for trips. If you're dubious about how well the sun can cook a meal, or if you don't have the cash to buy a ready-made stove, get busy and build the one described here. At most, it will cost five dollars. If you use discarded cartons and other salvage material, the outlay will be only a fraction of that. 

Making a Solar Cooker

3/16-inch thick cardboard (as required)
2 sheets of poster board 
1 roll of aluminum foil 
1 18-by-24 inch piece of plywood 
64 inches of 3/4-inch aluminum tubing
1 3/4-inch mounting flange
1 hand grill
1 small telescoping curtain rod
4 feet of 1-inch broomstick or dowel rod
1 foot of clothesline
Glue (as required)
Masking tape (as required)
1 set of 3/16-by-1-inch bolt with wing nut

The reflector framework is cut from fiberboard, approximately 3/16 inch thick, the kind large cartons are made from. Some poster board and aluminum foil will complete the cooker itself. A grill (for hot dogs, hamburgers, or pans) is made from plywood, some tubing and an inexpensive hand grill that costs about 50 cents. 

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