It is important to think about how you wish to use a solar cooker before you go ahead to buy any expensive one. This brings us to the need to understand the types of solar cookers and which of them will work best for us.
Technically, there are four basic types of solar cookers, and the interesting part is that these include DIY solar cookers. The types of solar cookers available in the commercial market include panel cookers, box cookers/ box ovens, parabolic cookers, and evacuated tube cookers.
Be aware that each of these types of solar cookers functions quite distinctively to meet specific cooking needs and results.
To begin with, solar cooking does not require electricity, gas, propane, butane, drug, charcoal, or wood to cook. It is a cooking mechanism that uses sunshine as the fuel to heat and cook food.
The cooking mechanism of a solar cooker involves trapping and concentrating UV rays from the sun into heat high enough to cook food.
Digging deep into the types of solar cookers available will also have you concerned about your budget to determine how much you can afford.
So far, we have been able to identify three different types of solar cookers (four basically) that are currently available in the commercial market today.
At the end of this post, you will no longer find it difficult to decide which one is best, especially as a newbie.
The types of solar cookers – Explained
Now that we can conclude that there are four types of solar cookers, we are going to look into each of them respectively. This will help you to know which type of solar cooker will work best for your need.
As mentioned earlier, the types of solar cookers available include panel cookers, box cookers/ box ovens, parabolic cookers, and tube cookers.
Box Oven Solar Cookers
We will begin with the box oven solar cookers because they are the most popular type of solar cookers. It works like panel cookers (another type of solar cooker that will discuss as we progress in this post).
The significant feature that makes box oven solar cookers different from other types of cookers is that the open side is covered by clear glass or plexiglass, creating an airtight heat trap in the center of the box.
When the solar oven gets hotter, it will cook faster. But for panel cookers to create the same best result, you will have to give it some extra little time.
There is usually a layer of insulation between two walls that hold in the heat, this can be seen in most commercial models.
Besides, most box oven cookers I have seen have large shiny panels to redirect the UV rays down into the heat trap.
The inside of the box is usually painted black to add to the heating.
All in all, I would still say that there is a great extent of similarity between box oven solar cookers and panel cookers.
However, Solar ovens can reach higher temperatures than a panel cooker because the center cavity of the oven is well insulated ( reaching between 250° F (121°C) – 400°F(204°C) )
Parabolic Solar Cookers
Parabolic solar cookers can fry, grill, and even pop popcorn as it is known for its high temperatures. (The concentrated UV rays reach extremely high temperatures of 500°F ( 260°C) – 700°F (371°C) that are capable of frying, and grilling).
It is a type of solar cooker that is shaped like a parabolic satellite dish. And of course, it uses sunlight as a source of heat for cooking food.
The cooking mechanism of parabolic solar can be described as when sunlight comes into the dish and is reflected up to a center focal point, cooking vessel is placed above the reflective surface at the focal point.
The entire surface of the dish is reflective due to the shiny material that the dish is covered with.
Panel cookers are similar to box oven solar cookers in the sense that they both cook slowly and can be both likened to the cooking mechanism of an electric pressure cooker.
If you have any food item that requires to be simmered in a slow cooker or the microwave then, solar cookers like panel cookers are what you should focus on.
Panel cookers are recommended for cooking general food items and ideal for preparing soups, meats, vegetables, casseroles, and desserts.
Panel cookers take the shape of an open, three-sided box.
The bottom and side panels of the box are covered with shiny material creating reflectors
Rays from the sun that hits the shinny panels are further passed and redirected into the box.
What captures the sun rays at the center of the box is called a heat trap. It allows the UV rays to pass through.
Besides, The heat trap prevents the heated molecules from dissipating, creating a superheated vessel.
Temperatures reach 250° F (121° C) – 300°F (149°C) in the panel type of solar cookers.
Evacuated Tube Cookers
This is what makes the fourth type of solar cookers. Evacuated tube cookers are new on the market, so not everyone will be informed enough to tell you that there are four types of solar cookers.
In as much as they are new, it is fast-rising that most users are considering it as their favorite among other types of solar cookers.
Evacuated tube cookers are surrounded by shiny reflector panels and made of a large evacuated glass tube that can reach temperatures of 550°F (290°C) or even higher.
While evacuated tube cookers require sunlight to cook, just like every other type of solar cookers, it can still work well under gloomy conditions. Besides, the appliance gets hot enough to cook meat, bread, vegetables, and dessert.
When using evacuated tube cookers, you need to be extra careful not to pre-heat the glass tube before cooking.
Another important caution for users is that an empty tube cooker should not be left focused on the sun.
So above are the types of solar cookers available and your choice on any of them will depend on your need.
Very soon, I will be putting out a guide on the best solar cookers that are ideal for home users.
The buying guide will also contain the critical factors to consider when choosing a solar cooker.
Before I put the final full stop to this post, let’s briefly go through some frequently asked questions on solar cookers and their types.
If you have got a question about solar cookers, this last segment of this post may contain the answers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is solar cooker painted black from inside?
The main reason why solar cookers are painted black is to improve heating efficiency.
Black surfaces are excellent for radiation absorption and help greatly in trapping more heat inside a solar cooker.
I’ll be putting out a post that will explain more on this soon.
Which fuel is used in a solar cooker?
Earlier in this post, I explained that a solar cooker requires no fuel, wood, gas, or electricity to heat and cook food.
It is a cost-saving cooking mechanism that relies on sunlight to heat food and this can be seen as a huge economic and environmental benefit.
How does a solar cooker even work?
The sun’s UV rays are converted into longer infrared light rays that cannot escape.
Since it has n vacuum for escape, this will bring about the required energy to vigorously and heat water, protein, or food item in the solar cooker.
What are the disadvantages of the solar cooker?
A notable downside of solar cooking is that it is slow and can perform only limited cooking functions.
Other disadvantages are that it cannot be used at all times and has limited utility at the places where sunlight is less.
Solar cookers can not be used where there are too many rains.
Are solar cookers expensive?
Most powerful solar cookers in the market are expensive, but you should be able to find one within your budget.
There are equally many solar cookers that are inexpensive too. Since large-scale solar cookers can cook for hundreds of people, you should be getting value for your money spent.
There is no doubt that buying a solar cooker is a good investment in cooking appliances.
Final words on the types of solar cookers
To crown it all, beginners who are just getting to know more about the use of solar cookers should start with cool models like Copenhagen.
As a first time user, you want a solar cooker that is inexpensive, easy to make, and one that cooks well.
If you are reading this and you have a solar cooker, I would like to know the type of solar cooker you use and which of these types do you recommend (and why).
Thanks for reading.