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The three most common types of solar cookers are heat-trap boxes, curved concentrators (parabolics) and panel cookers. Hundreds — if not thousands — of variations on these basic types exist. Additionally, several large-scale solar cooking systems have been developed to meet the needs of institutions worldwide.

girl with box cooker

Box cookers

Box cookers cook at moderate to high temperatures and often accommodate multiple pots. Worldwide, they are the most widespread. There are several hundred thousand in India alone.

Curved concentrator cookers

Curved concentrator cookers, or "parabolics," cook fast at high temperatures, but require frequent adjustment and supervision for safe operation. Several hundred thousand exist, mainly in China. They are especially useful for large-scale institutional cooking.

woman with parabolic cooker

woman with panel cooker

Panel cookers

Panel cookers incorporate elements of box and curved concentrator cookers. They are simple and relatively inexpensive to buy or produce. Solar Cookers International's "CooKit" is the most widely used combination cooker.


Most solar cookers work on basic principles: sunlight is converted to heat energy that is retained for cooking.


Fuel: Sunlight

Sunlight is the "fuel." A solar cooker needs an outdoor spot that is sunny for several hours and protected from strong wind, and where food will be safe. Solar cookers don't work at night or on cloudy days.

Convert sunlight to heat energy

Dark surfaces get very hot in sunlight, whereas light surfaces don't. Food cooks best in dark, shallow, thin metal pots with dark, tight-fitting lids to hold in heat and moisture.

black pot absorbing sun's rays white pot reflecting sun's rays

Retain heat

A transparent heat trap around the dark pot lets in sunlight, but keeps in the heat. This is a clear, heat-resistant plastic bag or large inverted glass bowl (in panel cookers) or an insulated box with a glass or plastic window (in box cookers). Curved concentrator cookers typically don't require a heat trap.

black pot with bag black pot in box cooker

Capture extra sunlight

One or more shiny surfaces reflect extra sunlight onto the pot, increasing its heat potential.

panel cooker with sun's rays box cooker with sun's rays
parabolic cooker with sun's rays

Related topics

»   Why solar cook?
»   Where solar cook?
»   Health and safety
»   Solar water pasteurization

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