Top Solar Cookers Compared (Infographic)

June 02, 2016

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Solar Oven Cooker Comparison Infographic

Solar Cookers, Ovens and Stoves: Comparing The Options

Solar cooking has been getting a lot of good press in the last months, and for good reason! Solar cooking is a great idea for anyone looking to reduce their fuel use, keep their kitchen cool or find a more convenient alternative to a conventional stove.

Luckily, if you're searching for a solar cooker, you now have more options than ever. From an oven that can bake a Turkey, to a stove that can cook a meal under clouds and snow, solar cooking technology has come a long way since your grade pizza box oven!

Comparing stoves is like picking a car; each model excels for certain uses and but may fall short in others. If fact, it's common for solar chefs to combine technology to meet the needs of their situation and environment. In order to demystify the options, we have created a comparison looking the most popular solar cookers on the market. Due to the nature of the comparison, we have compared cooker types rather than models, with exception to the GoSun solar cooking devices which have no parallels.  

Consider a few key questions before exploring your options:

  • Do you have good continuous sunlight where you intend to cook?
  • Are you willing to change cooking habits to adapt to a new technology?
  • Do you plan on using the stove daily or just on occasion?
  • Will you use your cooker at home or for on-the-go adventure?

Important aspects examined in the infographic below include: Speed, Capacity, Cold and Wind Performance, Low Light Performance, Attention Needed to Cook, Durability, Portability / Weight, Cook Style Versatility and Cost.

 

The Results

Best Solar Cookers Stoves Ovens Compared

Download our free PDF to find which one is right for you! 

To further clarify, we have expanded on each cooker type:  

 

Simple Panel Cooker:

Solar Cooker Panel Style

The panel cooker is an unparalleled winner in cost effectiveness allowing tens of thousands to be deployed in refuge camps around the world. With more than 90 documented designs, each model varies a bit in the details, but contains two primary elements: a heat absorbing pot and a reflective non metallic panel (thus its namesake).

Perhaps the most well know basic panel cooker, the CooKit by Solar Cookers International, uses a foil lined cardboard for the reflective panel and can cook a full meal for 6 in a matter of hours. This model is a classic and has been utilized by people in need all over the world. 

Notable Models: Copenhagen Solar Cooker, CooKit

Cost: <$50

Capacity: 5-6 Meals 

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Cost

-Ease of Construction

-Portability

-Low Max Temperature (≈120°C/ 248°F)

-Unable to Fry Food

-Varying Durability

 

Basic Box Cooker 

Solar Box Cooker Oven Review

A Basic Box Cooker is constructed of an insulated box capped by a single pane of glass, with a single reflector positioned above to expand its solar footprint. A black absorbing pot is placed inside the box and is locked in by the pivoting glass top, trapping the sun’s heat while allowing light to pass. 

This design generally obtains higher temperatures than a Basic Panel Cooker by virtue of its added insulation protecting the pot more effectively from wind and cold. There are many basic box-style cookers that can be made at home with simple materials. (For DIY plans take a look at the Solar Cooking Wiki here.) 

Notable Models: Easy Lid Cooker, Minimum Solar Box Cooker

Cost: ≈ $<40

Capacity: 4-8 Meals

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Capacity

-Ability To Bake

-Low Maintenance While Cooking

 -Can’t Fry

-Poor Low Angle Light Performance

-Portability

 

Advanced Panel Cooker:

Panel Cooker Hot Pot Line Drawing

For the sake of comparison, we have divided panel cookers into two general categories. Structurally similar to a Simple Panel Cooker above, Advanced Panel Cookers like the Hot Pot by Solar Household Energy, use an external greenhouse layer to create dead air space around the cooking vessel. This layer adds significantly to the pot's insulation value by providing a thermal buffer between the pot and the ambient air. In the case of the HotPot, this layer takes the form of a glass bowl covering the black absorbing pot. Other models create this barrier by elevating the pot on a heat proof trivot and covering the assembly with a heat resistant plastic bag, often used for baking in a conventional oven. (Examples of different box cooker designs here.)

The reflectors are typically made of a more durable material such as anodized aluminum, and can easily collapse for storage. Cooking post can vary in size but can generally feed between 4-8 people. 

With thousands on the ground in Mexico and other developing countries, the HotPot (like the panel cooker) is reliable for consistently Sunny and relatively temperate environments.

For a more in depth review of the HotPot, take a look at this review by Solar Cooker at Cantina West.

Notable Models: HotPotSun FlairAll Seasons Solar Cooker

Cost: ≈$100 - $185

Capacity: 5-6 Meals

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Faster and Higher Max Temp than Panel Cooker

-Low Maintenance

 -Not As Rapid to Cook as Others

-Moderate Capacity

-Poor Absorption of Winter Sun

Parabolic Dish Cooker

Parabolic Dish Solar Cooker

Rather than insulating, parabolic cookers use a reflective dish to concentrate large amount so sunlight onto a cooking vessel. This sheer amount of energy can top temperatures in excess of 250C and allow users to cook using a frying pan as if on a stove top.

This design is ideal for boiling grilling or frying on sunny days but requires periodic re-adjustment to track the Sun. 

Notable Models: SolSource, SK14

Cost: ≈$549

Capacity: 4-8 Meals 

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Culinary Versatility (Fry and Grill)

-Cooking times similar to conventional stove top

 

 -Require periodic adjustment to track Sun

-Low performance in intermittent/ diffused light

-Dangerous if used incorrectly

-Portability

-Cost

 

Advanced Box Cooker

Solar Box Cooker Sun OvenIn addition to an insulated box, Advanced Box Cookers utilize a more sophisticated reflector system that can better absorb off angle sunlight. Interior racking for the cooking pot is used to keep heat from leaching into the box’s floor. Perhaps the most well know design of the style of the Sun Oven  which uses four flat reflectors that can fold flat for transportation.

This variety of solar cooker excels in capacity and use on primarily sunny days. DIY designs also exist such. such as the Heaven’s Flame Solar Cooker, which can be made in a few hours with simple materials. 

Notable Models: Sun Oven, Heaven’s Flame Solar Cooker

Cost: ≈$350

Capacity: 4-10 Meals

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Capacity

-Ability To Bake

-Requires little adjustment to track Sun

-Faster to Heat Than Normal Box Cooker 

-Difficult to Fry

-Poor Low Angle Light Performance

-Portability

 

GoSun Grill GoSun Grill Solar Oven Line Drawing

The GoSun Stove solar cookers are unique in their unparalleled reliability and low light performance. Second to the parabolic dish cooker in speed, tube cookers can hit temperatures in excess of 480°F/250°C and stay hot for hours after the Sun sets. Though a relatively new innovation, this style of cooker has received significant media attention as of late.

The Grill is the larger of the GoSun models, with the ability to cook a meal for 8 in less than an hour, and functions even in freezing weather, wind and partially cloudy or light overcast skies.

At the core of the technology is a solar vacuum tube that acts as a near perfect insulator. Light is reflected onto the tube's internal absorber surface, which is then trapped inside the vacuum layer. This unparalleled insulation allows vacuum tube cookers to operate in frigid environments with little, if any change, in performance. 

The stove also uniquely utilizes compound parabolic reflectors, with the ability to reflect light from a wide range onto the cooking tube. This ability to absorb diffused light gives the GoSun cookers the unique ability to cook even in light overcast. This is further amplified by the tube's broad spectrum absorbing surface that can convert both ultraviolet and visible light into useable heat.

Solar vacuum tubes do however require sensible handling to keep from breaking. For a long life, don't preheat the stove empty for long periods or drop it on hard surfaces. (More best practices here.) GoSun does however offer a Two Year No Questions Asked Warranty on all of it's solar powered cookers. 

The GoSun Grill also has the potential to be paired into a hybrid solar electric cooking system which is currently under development for release in early 2017. 

 

Cost: $599

Capacity: 6-8 Meals 

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Diffused and Intermittent Light Performance

-Culinary Versatility (Bake, Roast, Fry)

-Minimal adjustment to track Sun

-Capacity

-Speed

-Cost

-Moderate Durability

-Weight

 

GoSun Sport 

GoSun Sport Solar Oven Cooker

GoSun Sport vacuum tube solar cooker takes the best qualities of the Grill: low light performance, speed and versatility, putting them in a lighter and faster cooking package. 

The Sport has the ability to bake, roast steam or fry a meal in as little as 20 minutes in full Sun and pack up into a 7.5lb package to be taken on the go.

 

Cost: $279

Capacity: 2 Meals

Primary Advantages: 
Primary Disadvantages: 

-Speed

-Diffused and Intermittent Light Performance

-Culinary Versatility (Bake, Roast, Fry)

-Minimal adjustment to track Sun

-Portability

-Limited Capacity

-Cost

-Moderate Durability

Picking the best solar oven, cooker or stove for your needs can be a challenge, but there are other great resources to help make a decision. For more information on solar ovens and stoves, take a look at the Solar Cooking Wikia by Solar Cookers International

For more info on the GoSun Solar Ovens, including larger and smaller models not mentioned above, take a look at our solar ovens here 

 

Picking the right solar cooker can be a challenge. Take a look at this convenient chart to find out which is the best fit for you!




Matt Gillespie
Matt Gillespie

Author

Matt is an Industrial Designer, Design Strategist and founding member of GoSun Stove. An avid gardener, cyclist and outdoor explorer, Matt brings his passion for connecting and serving others to the GoSun Team.



2 Responses

John C Parson
John C Parson

June 03, 2016

I have one of these, and it works great, even last winter when it was down to freezing temps. it did great, though it did take a bit longer.. I will be getting the bigger one when it comes out, soon I hope.

Marchand
Marchand

June 02, 2016

Great review. I can confirm, that the gosun is a very good cooker. I’m looking forward to the new model.
Cheers Christina

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