The 4 Types of Solar Cookers Explained

By Kami Turky


With the rising costs of energy and a growing emphasis on sustainable living, solar cookers have emerged as a cost-effective alternative to traditional cooking methods.

But what are the types available to cater to different needs? 

Essentially, there are four primary categories: Box oven, panel, parabolic, and evacuated tube cookers.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through each type, highlighting their unique features and functionalities to help you make an informed decision.

Key Takeaways

  • There are four primary types of solar cookers: Box Oven, Panel, Parabolic, and Evacuated Tube Cookers.
  • Box oven solar cookers resemble traditional ovens, using a transparent top and reflective panels to trap and uniformly distribute hea.
  • Panel solar cookers utilize reflective panels to focus sunlight onto a cooking pot, offering portability and efficiency, but their performance varies with sunlight intensity.
  • Parabolic solar cookers, shaped like a parabola, concentrate sunlight for rapid cooking and high temperatures, but require adjustments for optimal alignment with the sun.
  • Evacuated tube cookers use a glass tube and reflective panels to capture sunlight, functioning efficiently even under cloudy conditions.

What Are the Basic Types of Solar Cookers?

1. Box Oven Solar Cookers

Box oven solar cookers, often termed “solar box ovens,” stand out as one of the most prevalent and versatile types of solar cookers.

 Their unique design, resembling a box, can be crafted from a variety of materials, including wood, cardboard, or metal. 

The top of this box is sealed with a transparent material, such as glass or clear plastic, which permits sunlight to penetrate while simultaneously trapping the heat inside.

These cookers are also equipped with reflective panel that are often made from materials like aluminum foil or mirrored surfaces. 

The interior of the box is usually coated with a dark material, primarily black, which plays a pivotal role in absorbing and retaining the sun’s heat. 

Once the sun’s rays infiltrate the box through the transparent top, they are absorbed by this dark lining, causing the internal temperature to escalate. 

The combined action of the box’s insulation and the transparent top ensures that this heat remains confined, creating a mini greenhouse effect.

The cooking mechanism in a box oven solar cooker mirrors that of a traditional oven, albeit at a more gradual pace. 

The heat is spread uniformly, guaranteeing consistent cooking of the food. This method is particularly apt for baking, roasting, and slow-cooking dishes.

Typically, these cookers prepare food at temperatures can reach up to 150°C (300°F), with the precise temperature contingent on factors like the cooker’s design, sunlight intensity, and its orientation towards the sun.

2. Panel Solar Cookers

Unlike box solar cookers, panel solar cookers use reflective panels to concentrate sunlight onto a central point, typically where a cooking pot is placed.

The panels are often made of materials with high reflectivity, such as polished aluminum or mirrored surfaces, ensuring maximum sunlight capture.

The cooking pot, positioned at the focal point of these panels, is typically dark-colored, ensuring optimal heat absorption. 

The concentrated sunlight heats the pot, which in turn cooks the food inside. 

For added efficiency, the pot is often enclosed in a clear, heat-resistant bag or a glass enclosure. 

This setup not only intensifies the heat but also maintains a consistent cooking temperature, making it ideal for dishes that require steady heat.

Given their design, panel solar cookers are relatively lightweight and portable. Many models can be folded or collapsed, making them convenient for transport and storage. 

This portability makes them especially popular for camping trips or other outdoor activities where traditional cooking methods might be impractical.

However, there are some considerations to note. The efficiency of a panel solar cooker is directly tied to the intensity and angle of sunlight. 

On days with less sunlight or when the sun is not directly overhead, cooking times can be longer. 

Additionally, while they are effective for many cooking tasks, they might not reach the extremely high temperatures that some dishes or cooking methods might require.

3. Parabolic Solar Cookers

Parabolic solar cookers are designed with a reflector that takes the shape of a parabola. 

These shiny surfaces are adept at capturing the sun’s rays and concentrating them to reflect back onto a dish, facilitating the cooking process. 

The fundamental principle behind this type of cooker is the ability to focus sunlight onto a specific point, usually where the cooking pot or dish is placed.

This concentration of sunlight results in higher temperatures, making parabolic cookers capable of achieving rapid cooking times.

The size of the parabola also plays a crucial role in determining the heat generated. 

For instance, a parabolic cooker with a diameter of 1.40 meters can boil several liters of water in approximately 30 minutes

Due to their design and the intense heat they can produce, parabolic solar cookers can reach temperatures up to 230 °C (446°F) in a mere 10 minutes

This makes them particularly suitable for tasks that require higher temperatures, such as frying or boiling.

However, there are some considerations to keep in mind. 

Given their ability to concentrate sunlight effectively, parabolic cookers require more frequent adjustments to stay aligned with the sun compared to other solar cooker types. 

This ensures that the sunlight remains focused on the cooking pot. 

Additionally, due to the high temperatures they can achieve, they demand more attention during the cooking process to prevent food from burning.

4. Evacuated Tube Cookers

Evacuated tube cookers consist of a large evacuated glass tube, which is surrounded by reflective panels. 

The design allows the tube to capture and concentrate sunlight effectively, enabling it to reach impressive temperatures of up to 550°F (290°C) or even higher.

The mechanism behind this cooker is the evacuated glass tube, which acts as an insulator, minimizing heat loss. 

One of the standout features of evacuated tube cookers is their ability to perform well even under less-than-ideal conditions. 

Unlike some other solar cookers, which require direct sunlight to function effectively, tube cookers can still operate efficiently under cloudy skies. 

However, there are precautions to be taken when using evacuated tube cookers. 

Given that the primary component is glass, it’s essential to handle it with care. 

For instance, you should avoid pre-heating the glass tube before cooking and refrain from placing cold food into a hot cooker. 

It’s also crucial not to leave an empty tube cooker focused on the sun, as this can lead to overheating and potential damage.


How Many Types of Solar Cooker Are There?

There are four primary types: Box oven, panel, parabolic, and evacuated tube cookers.

What Type of Solar Panel Cooker?

Solar panel cookers blend elements of box and parabolic designs, featuring a large reflector area and an enclosed cook pot to retain heat.

Which Type of Solar Cooker Is the Fastest?

Evacuated tube cookers are the fastest, rapidly reaching high temperatures due to their efficient design and heat retention capabilities.

What Is a Parabolic Solar Cooker?

A parabolic solar cooker has a curved, reflective surface that concentrates sunlight onto a specific focal point for cooking.


As promised, we’ve covered the diverse range of solar cookers available, each with its unique features and benefits.

If you ask for my advice, I’d recommend starting with a panel solar cooker if you’re a beginner. 

They offer a balance of efficiency and simplicity, making them ideal for those new to solar cooking. 

As you become more accustomed to the process, you can then explore other types to find the one that best aligns with your specific needs.

Do you still have questions? If so, feel free to drop a comment below and I’ll try my best to answer.

Kami Turky

Kami is a solar engineer with nearly a decade of experience in researching, testing, and reviewing various solar products. He has also provided technical consultation to several organizations on the best ways to incorporate solar energy into their operations. When he’s not busy helping others find the best solar solutions, Kami enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, and exploring the natural wonders of his home state.

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