Solar cookers are devices that use sunlight as their source of energy for cooking food. They are extremely popular with humanitarian, development, and environmental groups for use in impoverished areas, because they use no fuel and cost nothing to run, which is perfect for poor families and slowing the growth of deforestation. However, these cookers also have a market in the US, where it is popular with campers, as an alternative for the backyard cookout, or as nifty, environmentally friendly gadgets. They can also be used to boil and pasteurize water.
There is a variety of designs for these types of ovens, but all do at least two of the following things: collect and concentrate sunlight, covert that light into heat, and trap it inside a given space. A solar tea kettle/water boiler will concentrate and convert light, but won’t trap heat, for example, while a solar oven will do all three. These cookers can reach temperatures of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which is enough to cook most recipes, although some might need to be cooked longer.
Solar cooking also has a handful of hidden benefits. Because it works at lower temperatures and slow-cooks food, it preserves more nutrients in food. These nutrients are often broken down by the high heat of a conventional stovetop burner or oven.
The cost of a solar oven will vary greatly with the model. A basic cooker of the sort a camper might want to use will cost at little as $40. A large model of the sort not meant to be carried around, or a proper solar oven, will cost between $180-$250.