Since last summer, I have been fascinated with the concept of the solar cooker. A solar cooker is a device that uses reflectors to capture and magnify the rays of the sun into heat that cooks your food. This sounds like it would be so great during the hot days of summer when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with the oven! Solar cookers could also be amazing for camping. [project plans at]

I live in Oregon, so I won’t be able to test this out until much later in the summer (it typically rains until July 5th!), but I saw windshield shades at the dollar store last week, so I want to give you time to gather your materials. Windshield shades are seasonal, so now that spring and summer are approaching, they are more readily available in stores. You can get pots at the dollar store, but you might need to paint the outside black with flat paint. Or check your thrift store for better quality cookware that fits the bill. You can pick up oven roasting bags at the dollar store, or your local grocery store.

Cooking with a solar cooking is similar in time and technique to using a crock pot. That is, it takes many hours to cook the food, but you don’t have to do a lot of hands on stuff with the food once it’s in the pot. You will need to keep your eye on the solar cooker to make sure it is in the sunniest spot in your yard, however, as the sun moves through the sky. This solar cooker can reach up to 350 degrees, F.

Project Estimate:

  • A reflective car sunshade, $1
  • A wire rack or grill, on hand or $1
  • 5 inches of Velcro, on hand or $1
  • Pot (black), on hand or $1
  • Black paint, optional, $1
  • Bucket or plastic waste basket, on hand or $1
  • A plastic baking bag, $1

Total cost: $2 to $7 and up