Solar Cooking Without Reflectors, Part 1

This is a basic box cooker. The box was made in 1995 and still in good shape. The lid has been damaged and replaced due to wind damage -- grrr. The current lid was made on July 4th, 2011. The reflector's purpose is to reflect sunlight onto the food or cook pot it is in.

My reflectorless solar oven reaches 200°F-250°F.  This is plenty of cooking heat considering the low setting on a crock pot is 200°F.   I don’t like solar cooking with reflectors because they can catch wind like a kite.   This makes them a chore to keep in place during windy weather and Hemet has a lot of that.    Lots of solar cooks tend to this problem just fine by securing the reflectors with bungee cords, but I do not want to take the time for this anymore.

A reflector is necessary in many areas of the world so they are considered an essential part of a solar cooker.  From personal experience I found I can solar cook without a reflector.  I live near the Valle Vista library in the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley.  I am able to solar cook without reflectors from April-September.  This is worth doing because you can lower your electric bill by using less electricity to cool your home.   It is also nice to have another way to cook during a power outage.

By comparison, the more reflectors a solar cooker has the more sunlight (cooking heat) it can capture.  A Sunstar is a box cooker with four reflectors and can reach 450°F.  That’s nice unless you have a windy day.  That’s the trouble with reflectors and the reason I tested whether they are as necessary as the experts say.

The Sunstar (designed by Joseph Radabough, author of “Heaven’s Flame”) was the first solar cooker I ever made.  I attend Joe’s workshop in 1995.   I used my Sunstar to death.  It was great for cooking at conventional cooking temperatures but it fell apart fast due to moisture and getting knocked around by the wind.    To cook in it, I had to be ready to set it back up after the wind knocked the reflectors off.   That was okay then, but I am too busy for that now.    I admit watching a Sunstar reach 450°F inside of 30 minutes was thrilling.  The smoke point for cardboard is 450°F so it was also fun watching it start to smoke, but not catch fire.  As the moisture in the food heated up, the steam cooled the oven down to 350°F.

Additional Resources

This blog was started when I wanted to post my notes for an introduction to solar cooking class that I taught for free at the Valle Vista library in August 2011.   I don’t expect to have time to teach until summer.  Watch the library’s Facebook page or my blog for the next class.

I will post as much detail as I can on how I made my solar cooker and how I cook since it is rare to see a reflectorless solar cooker.   It is so rare that several people on the Solar Cooking Yahoo group were surprised that my solar cooker even reached 200°F.   Had I not posted photos, many would have thought I was joking.

If you are enthusiastic about solar cooking, then I suggest you join Solar Cookers Yahoo group.   They are a friendly, active group of over 2,000 members from all over the world.   They welcome questions.


About Hemet Sunshine

I am a homeschooling mom living in Hemet, California. I am interested in building a better community for the ones I love.
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