Solar Hot Dog Cooker

Add a little fun and excitement to those outdoor picnics by using a solar hot dog cooker, which will cook your food to perfection.

| March/April 1978

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    Procedure: Drive nail into middle of 28-inch to 30-inch-long 2-by-8, 1/4-inch in from one edge. Then — using the nail as a pivot — swing and slide a framing square so that its corner moves precisely along the 2-by-8's opposite edge. Stop the square frequently as you move it along and, with a pencil, draw a series of overlapping lines along the square's other leg as shown. These overlapping lines will describe a perfect (for this solar hot dog cooker) parabolic curve.
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    The squared bead in front allows you to rotate skewer one-quarter turn so that your hot dogs will be cooked to perfection.
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    Make your very own solar hot dog cooker which can save you both time and money.

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Here's just the thing to add a little extra fun and excitement to all those outdoor excursions, picnics, and cookouts that your family will be enjoying during the coming months. It's a solar hot dog cooker built of wood, a few pieces of hardware, and either reflective mylar or something called Flex-Sheet-Mirror. The whole shebang can be put together for less than $30 ... much less if you're good at scrounging. (Note: Click on the Image Gallery link above for more illustrations and details about building this solar hot dog cooker.)

Materials to Build a Solar Hot Dog Cooker

2 each: 2-by-8-by-28-inch to 30-inch lumber
1 each: 1/8-by-26-by-32-inch paneling
2 each: 3/4-by-1-by-20-inch pine
1 each: 1/8-inch or 3/16-inch diameter stainless steel welding rod
4 each: 3 large, 1 small wooden beads to fit rod
1 each: 1/4-by-2-inch wooden dowel
2 each: 1/4-by-3-inch carriage bolts with nuts and flat washers
1 each: glue and paint as needed
2 each: 18-by-24-inch Flex-Sheet-Mirror*

*Flex-Sheet-Mirror costs about $3.50 a square foot in 1978. You'll need six square feet, or $21 worth. Or you can do the same job for less money by substituting two sheets of 12-by-36-inch 2-mil reflective mylar. The mylar was priced at $3.75 a sheet in 1978. The mylar will do the job ... it just won't last as long as the mirrors. 

Building the Solar Hot Dog Cooker

MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Travis Brock whipped up the broiler you see here as a Christmas gift for a friend. "The principle of the cooker's operation is very simple," says Travis. "When aimed at the sun, the unit catches all the solar radiation which strikes its curved face and focuses it into a concentrated line of heat that falls on the broiler's skewer."

Travis further points out that the only real trick to making the hot dog or shish kebab cooker work properly lies in designing the collector's curved back so that it, in fact, does focus the sun's rays into one narrow and intense band of heat. "But that's not as difficult as you may think," Brock explains. "You can either calculate the curve mathematically with a formula, or — and this is even easier yet — you can lay the parabolic out in a jiffy with a nail and a framing square as shown in the accompanying sketch."

Use a band saw, saber saw, or coping saw, and either a rasp or sandpaper to cut your curve out and smooth it down once you have it drawn. Then use what's left of the first 2-by-8 as a pattern to mark and cut a second. These two curved pieces of wood will be your cooker's sides.

3/2/2007 8:14:40 AM

you have great information on how to do things for a science project but you haven't answered my queation on how to go about making a solar power hot dog cooker but i'll try again with another science fair project


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