A solar cooker is a device that concentrates and uses the heat of the sun to cook food. Solar cookers are great for camping or travel because they require no heat source and are very safe and portable. A solar cooker can be as simple as a reflective sheet of lightweight metallic material that unfolds or as complex as a permanent unit built into the sunny side of a house.A solar cooker will usually fit into one of the following four categories: the solar cooker that concentrates heat from below, the solar cooker than concentrates heat from above, the box-type solar cooker and the indirect solar cooker. A solar cooker that concentrates heat from below is the easiest to make and also the most convenient type of solar cooker for routine cooking. Most solar cookers that concentrate heat from above are made of large circular reflective surfaces, usually metal.
Food is placed in a pot in the center of the reflector which then concentrates the heat of the sun to cook the food. Different types include spherical reflectors, parabolic reflectors, parabolic reflectors combined with a cylinder (like a small oven) and planes of flat interrelated mirrors. Another kind of solar cooker concentrates heat from above, focusing it like a lens. Lens-type solar cookers are some of the most popular and interesting commercially produced appliances. Many campers use a variation of this type of solar cooker called a panel cooker. A panel cooker is a sheet of metallic material that unfolds to create lots of interconnected reflective surfaces. To cook food, pots and pans are placed on the reflector just like a stove.
Even if you never use a solar cooker at home, it makes good sense to have one or several on hand: one to keep in the car, one to keep in the garage and maybe a spare packed away in a pantry or cupboard. A solar cooker is a remarkably efficient and effective way to make a meal during a power outage or while traveling or camping when no or gas is readily available.