Compound Parabolic Solar Cooker

Just the thought of experimenting with aluminum foil sent me searching for solar cooker designs. A solar cooker is essentially a reflective dish used to focus sunlight to cook food. Commercially they come in many different shapes and sizes but with a bit of geometry I think we can optimize a DIY shape for the best light collection. My first instinct was to use a parabolic reflector. A circular paraboloid can collect a large field of light and redirect it  in to a focal point. This allows for far higher temperatures at the focal point than at any other point in the field.

The only problem with this shape of cooker is that it must be positioned to directly face the sun for optimal temperature. Theoretically the solar panel amplification dish design below could be used to create a solar cooker that would collect light even as the sun moved over time.

(via fossil freedom)

There are is a great how to for a compound parabolic solar cooker on instructables. For a simpler rectangular design that can be made with a cardboard box.


9 thoughts on “Compound Parabolic Solar Cooker

  1. Maybe my efforts exist outside the boundaries of known science (or I’m clumsy and dislike instructions), but I have never gotten a solar cooker to work super well, even in our 100+ heat. Any secrets?


    • I have never seen a successful solar oven either! I have a suspicion that part of the reason for this is that I’ve been measuring “successful” in terms of whether or not children find it impressive, and solar cookers can be very very very slow. A cursory glance at Wikipedia indicates that some solar cookers take 2 hours, or longer, to make cookies. Perhaps if we measured success in terms of whether it can cook food for impoverished families at very low costs they would seem more impressive. Just a theory.

      • We do cookie in our solar oven in 10-15 minutes. Two loaves of Bread in our Sun Oven in 50 minute. We also do meats, stews, soups, casseroles in as little as an hour in our solar ovens, but of course those foods are better when slow cooked and so I will let them go for 3-6 hours just like a crockpot. Now our solar parabolic cooker can cook a big pot of corn on the cob, potatoes or deep fry scones and pop popcorn just as fast as my electric stove. So, Solar cookers are quite impressive when you have or build a good one.

    • Not sure what you did, but we have a functioning kitchen, and yet I find myself using the solar cooker almost every day. Rice, beans, meat, vegetables, all works. Just set it up and adjust toward the moving sun every 30-45mins. I got a lazy susan base, so I can readjust with my large toe while I read a book…

      I find it more fun than using the kitchen stove, and it keeps the house cooler in the summer.

  2. I’ve read that in developing countries, parabolic solar cookers are popular and even used for commercial purposes! So, allegedly, someone, somewhere is having success. Me? Not so much. After leaving my solar cooker in 100 degree heat for eight hours, I ended up with beer bread goo.

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