Solar ovens, also known as solar cookers, are available commercially. If you are good with your hands, however, you can make your own solar oven for a fraction of the cost of buying one. Here are six sets of plans for solar ovens. They range from simple plans that can be put together in an afternoon to an elaborate set of plans to create a sophisticated appliance. Note that links to all these plans appear in References and Resources.
Box Cooker Plans
Bill Becker's solar box oven is made of wood and sheet metal. Because of good insulation and large reflectors, the temperature inside can exceed 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a sturdy, practical cooker that will last a long time. To make one, you will need basic carpentry skills as well as the ability to cut sheet metal and glass. If you want to make a box solar oven, but don't have carpentry skills, plans for a similar cardboard oven are available at the Backwoods Home Magazine.
Parabolic Cooker Plans
The Peru Children's Trust parabolic oven uses a parabolic reflector to focus sunlight onto the cooking pot. The plans for these ovens offer a couple of advantages over most parabolic ovens. First, the plans provide a simple way of making an accurate parabolic reflector. Second, the wood base around the reflector makes it heavy and sturdy enough to be able to withstand winds. To make this oven you will need basic carpentry skills and the ability to cut mild steel tubing and 0.3 mm thick Anocoil aluminum foil.
Panel Cooker Plans
The Fun Panel Solar Cooker, designed by Teong H. Tan, reflects light using shiny panels onto a central cooking pot. The Fun Panel Cooker is probably one of the easiest solar cookers to make, involving nothing more than measuring, cutting, and assembling cardboard and household aluminum foil.
Fresnel Lens Cooker Plans
Unlike most solar ovens, the Fresnel lens cooker concentrates light using refraction rather than reflection. The plan for the Solar Furnace cooker offers one way of building a frame that not only holds the lens to the sun but also puts the food to be cooked directly in the focal point. The Solar Furnace is one of the hottest solar ovens available, hot enough to be almost immediately dangerous to anything put in the focal point. The plans require basic woodworking and welding skills.
Novelty Pizza Box Cooker Plans
The pizza box oven, which is indeed made from a pizza box, is the least sophisticated oven. It's not going to get as hot as the other ovens, but it will heat food to safe temperatures. And perhaps more importantly, it's a good way to become familiar with the basic principles involved in solar cooking. The skills involved in making a pizza box oven are simple enough that a 10 year-old can perform them.
High-End Box Cooker Plans
On the other end of the spectrum from the pizza box oven is the Tracking Solar Cooker. It's a box oven that is pedestal-mounted and has a rear access door. The oven mount is a Lazy Susan connected to a tracking mechanism that allows the oven to follow the sun. Building the oven requires metal, wood, masonry, glass and electrical skills.
Susan Peterson is the author of five books, including "Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contact Athletes" and "Clare: A Novel." She holds a Ph.D. in text theory from the University of Texas at Arlington and is an avid cook and gardener.