Best solar ovens: top-rated reviews
Solar ovens are more than a science project. The best solar ovens can consistently reach between 200 and 300 degrees (1) or more, making them hot enough to cook most foods. To help you find the best solar oven for you, on this page, you’ll find our in-depth reviews, expert buyers’ guide, and our bottom line to know before buying. If you’re ready to cook delicious and super-convenient meals without the need for a power cord or outlet – hop right in with our quick comparison to aid your search.
Quick Comparison of our Top 11 Picks (For Those In A Rush)
If you’re in a hurry, here’s what you should know about each of our top 11 solar ovens to buy.
- GOSHENG Oven for 3-5 People (Best Overall): With fast heating, room to heat food for five people, and no fuel input, this is our top choice overall.
- SUN OVENS International Sun Oven Package (Best Budget Choice): With a lightweight oven, several racks and pots, and a comprehensive cookbook that teaches you how to cook with solar power, this is a great budget pick.
- ETE ETMATE Solar Oven (Best Portable Oven): Between a maximum temperature of 550 degrees, an incredibly fast heating time, and a lightweight design, this is easily one of the best portable options.
- LiFuJunDong Focal Spot Sun Oven (Best High-Temperature): This parabolic solar oven is affordable, durable, and cooks much faster than a charcoal grill. Together, these make it the best high-temperature option.
- SUN OVENS International Sun Oven (Top Backup Choice): This unit is fundamentally similar to our #2 pick, but is slightly more affordable, comes with a sun-track indicator, and reaches temperatures of up to 400 degrees to earn its place as a top backup choice.
- GOSUN Solar Oven: This oven has an easy-grip wooden handle, a submersible design, and a low-maintenance setup for long-term use.
- KECOP Sun Cooker: This solar oven is easy to adjust, boils water well, and holds up to 1.4 kilograms of food.
- GOSUN Solar Oven Portable: GOSUN’s portable choice is one of the most compact, affordable, and lightweight options currently available.
- Haines 2.0 SunUp: This option is closer to a dutch oven than a solar oven, giving it added versatility, capacity, and portability compared to other products.
- Sunflair Mini Portable Oven: This oven is impressively high-capacity despite the name, comfortably lightweight, and folds down for easier transport as needed.
- SolCook Solar Cooker: Our last suggestion is particularly affordable, lightweight, and has an impressively high capacity.
Solar Oven Reviews
Here are our detailed reviews of the best solar oven options available in 2020. After putting each model to the test, these units perform consistently better than others on the market, all supported by smart solar systems that allow you to use them in different situations. Starting with our #1 choice, the GOSHENG Oven For 3-5 People, our best overall unit of the year, let’s get cookin’ – shall we?
1. GOSHENG Oven for 3-5 People (Best Overall)
GOSHENG’s family-size solar oven is our best overall choice. Using it is as easy as facing the grill towards the sun, and it can reach over 570 degrees in just 45 minutes of exposure to sunlight. That’s warmer than most of its competitors can get and allows you to cook many foods faster.
With an internal capacity of 5.8L, this solar oven is also good enough to cook food for up to five people at a time. Volume is vital for many buyers, and this is just about the right size for a family. This product uses a vacuum tube for the cooking area, which keeps the exterior of the oven cool regardless of how hot the tube is. Overall, there’s a lot to love here.
2. SUN OVENS International Sun Oven Package (Budget Pick)
Visually distinct from our #1 option, this budget pick includes several pots and pans, as well as a foldable solar oven that can reach up to 400 degrees. That’s enough to cook most products safely. Unlike some other ovens, this unit is also suitable for dehydrating food, which is excellent for creating food that you can store long-term.
Both of those are good, but what cements this as our budget pick is the extra cookbook that comes with it. Cooking with solar ovens is different from cooking with almost any other type of product. Creating a solar oven is easy (2), but cooking well requires guidance until you have more experience.
Between its affordability and friendliness towards beginners, this solar oven more than deserves the #2 spot on our list.
3. ETE ETMATE Solar Cooker (Best Portable)
A strong contender for our top overall choice, ETE ETMATE’s solar oven is easily the best portable solar oven we looked at. Weighing about 11.24 pounds unloaded, it offers a solid 4.5L of cooking space in its tube. This is enough to feed 2-4 people well. However, it’s the other features that really set it apart.
This oven can reach an interior temperature of up to 550 degrees, which is much higher than most of the competition. It can also cook a meal in just 15 minutes and heats up quickly, making it ideal for cooking while you’re on the go. This unit also uses self-healing polymers, which help ensure its durability and effectiveness over time.
Finally, this unit is more affordable than many other solar ovens, which cements its status as an outstanding choice for almost any buyer. It’s not quite the best overall, but this is a strong contender for virtually any buyer.
4. LiFuJungDong Focal Spot Sun Oven (Best High Temperature)
This solar oven is much larger and heavier than our first three options, though it’s more affordable, too. Unlike sealed interior cookers, this oven is mainly a parabolic reflector and a stand where you can place trays and whatever food you want to cook. At maximum effectiveness, this reflector can reach temperatures as high as 1000°C.
Further, this oven allows you to adjust each of the reflectors to change and control the heat. Since it’s solar-powered, it gets up to cooking temperatures far faster than any charcoal grill. However, the weight and size are a small issue. At 37 pounds, and with a large frame, this unit isn’t nearly as portable as most other options.
It’s undoubtedly effective, especially if you need to cook at higher temperatures, but this unit is much harder to bring camping. This cooker works better if you use it at home for parties and can cover it when you don’t need to use it.
5. SUN OVENS International Sun Oven (Top Backup)
This is nearly the same product as our #2 choice. In fact, the solar oven itself is practically identical, being from the same manufacturer and designed to reach interior temperatures of up to 400 degrees. The main thing that sets this product apart is that it’s a little cheaper and doesn’t have the same number of accessories and add-ons.
One big reason to consider these ovens, versus tubes, is that SUN OVENS’ products have a large, rectangular cooking space. They don’t get quite as hot inside as the tubes can, but they’re better for cooking steaks and other large items. Tubes work better for chopped and mixed foods. Together, these details make this our top backup solar oven.
GOSUN is one of the most well-known brands in this industry, and that experience shows in this great choice. This option reaches temperatures of up to 550 degrees inside its tube, cooking most meals in 20-30 minutes while keeping the outside cool. The large wooden grip supports easier carrying and setup, too, which is a feature we love.
This solar oven’s main drawback is that it’s somewhat smaller than many other options, especially for its price. Designed to cook food for two, this is a good option if you’re camping alone or traveling as a couple, but it’s not large enough for families or parties. Capacity is a key buying factor, so that alone may help you decide if you want this product.
KECOP’s Sun Cooker is fundamentally similar to our #6 entry; you might not notice the differences unless you look closely. The main thing that separates the two products is the capacity. This sun cooker feeds about three people well, making it a bit larger than our previous entry. It’s still comparatively small, but sometimes all you need is that little extra space.
While this isn’t a family-size solar oven, it reaches up to 550 degrees in full sunlight and can cook most meals in half an hour or less. Every component is water-washable, which makes it easy to clean things up, too. Like our previous entry, this unit has a large wooden handle for transportation, which comes in handy when you need to pack things up and go.
GOSUN’s Solar Oven Portable is a miniature version of their regular cooker described above. It reaches the same high temperatures with sufficient sunlight, but it weighs just 2 pounds and fits in most bags or backpacks without any trouble. It also comes in a durable case for added protection, which is a nice feature.
The virtues of this product are also its vices. As the name suggests, this is a comparatively small solar oven that’s only suitable for feeding one or two people at a time. That’s fine if you’re camping alone, and the low price makes it appealing, but don’t expect to feed anywhere close to a family with this particular oven.
That said, this solar oven also boils water quickly and efficiently, which can make it a great supplement for using dried and prepared foods when you’re off the grid. If you just want to boil water without fuel, this solar oven is a great option.
This is a two-part solar oven set, and it works somewhat differently from many of the other products on this list. The cooking component is a four-quart Dutch oven with a tempered glass lid. This pot absorbs heat quickly and efficiently, allowing it to heat up faster than many other box-style cookers.
The solar aspect involves a set of lightweight, foldable panels that reflect sunlight into the pot itself. The comparatively large capacity here makes this a great tool for family gatherings, while the low price makes this more attractive for budget-conscious buyers.
However, the reflectors aren’t quite as durable as other products, which can be a problem if you want to use solar ovens regularly. It’s usually better to get a single long-lasting product than several products that will break faster.
Sunflair’s miniature portable solar oven is another standout in this field. The oven itself is a collapsible silicone pot, which makes enough food for 1-2 people at a time. The oven part is a foldable reflector that goes around the pot to catch and redirect sunlight. Unusually, Sunflair also includes a thermometer in this set to help you ensure your food is cooking properly.
Like other small units, the compact nature of this solar oven is its biggest drawback. You can’t cook a lot of food with this oven, although it easily gets the job done as long as stuff can fit inside the pot. On the positive side, it’s easy to clean. We recommend this mainly as a personal solar oven for hiking and camping trips, rather than a heavy-duty option like our top choices.
SolCook’s Solar Cooker is another panel-based solar cooker with impressive coverage. What makes it stand out from many of the other panel cookers is its size. With a large interior tray, this solar cooker can heat much more food than many of the other options on this list. It also works well for dehydrating food for later.
However, unlike many other solar cookers, this one requires assembly before you can use it. It’s fundamentally not quite as user-friendly or as durable as our top options. That’s not an insurmountable issue, especially if you’re looking to get the most affordable solar cooker you can find, but it’s worth keeping in mind when comparing your options.
Buyers’ Guide (Top 3 Tips To Know Before You Buy)
Buying a solar cooker involves more than comparing prices and capacities. These products function in many ways, so figuring out which of them is the best choice for your needs is essential to making the right choice. Here are the top three things to know before you buy.
1. Know What Type Of Solar Oven/Solar Cooker You Need
Picking between the many styles of solar cookers is one of the most important parts of your final buying decision. Here are the four main types of solar ovens currently on the market. Other types of solar ovens exist, but they’re usually not as effective as these choices.
Panel cookers are the cheapest solar ovens available, with some models running less than $100. These help redirect light into the middle of the box area, where you put your cooking container. Most cooking containers need to be dark for the heat trap area to work correctly, and people often add glass bowls or similar items to hold the heat better.
The biggest advantage of panel cookers is their low weight. These cookers can be as little as a few pounds, which makes them ideal for carrying on longer trips. However, there are a few downsides to keep in mind.
First, they have relatively small openings for light, so you’ll need to keep a closer eye on them and make sure they’re warm enough to cook your food. Second, they’re not as durable as any of the other options here.
Third, panel cookers can get extremely hot inside, requiring an oven mitt or similar tool to get the food out. Finally, panel cookers tend to have low capacities, which makes them a poor choice for feeding families.
Together, these qualities mean that panel cookers are best for single trips or individual excursions. They’ll certainly get the job done, but they fundamentally aren’t as good as the other three varieties described below.
Box cookers are like a premium version of the basic panel cooker (3). They have hard exteriors that noticeably increase their weight, but that also provides added durability and makes them better for long-term use. In many ways, box cookers are the most popular type.
Most box cookers follow the same fundamental design. Five sides of the box itself are opaque and serve to help keep the heat trapped inside. The lid of the box is glass, which allows light to pass in and heat the food inside. The reflectors are placed on all four sides of the lid to capture as much light as possible and reflect it inside.
Box cookers typically have higher capacities than regular panel cookers, which makes them a good choice for steaks and many other large items. Like panel cookers, they usually require a dark pot or container to trap even more of the heat, but that’s fairly standard for this industry.
If you’re not sure which type of solar oven to buy, a box cooker is a tested and reliable choice. They’re more expensive than panel cookers, but the added durability is worth the price difference.
Parabolic cookers are the odd choice out for solar ovens (4). However, they also have a few properties that can make them better choices in certain situations.
The most significant factor that makes parabolic cookers stand out is their efficiency. Unlike regular solar cookers, which only reflect some sunlight into the cooking area, parabolic cookers reflect basically all of the light they receive into one area. This makes them faster and more efficient than other solar cooking options.
Parabolic reflectors can also reach much higher temperatures than other solar ovens, with many models holding the potential to go over one thousand degrees Celsius. This is higher than most food needs, so parabolic cookers usually let you hide certain panels to reduce their efficiency and temperature.
Despite their efficiency, there are a few qualities that make parabolic solar ovens harder to use. First, they tend to be larger and heavier than other solar ovens, which makes them a poor choice for camping or hiking. Second, they rarely come with a cooking container. You’ll need to get something that can withstand the high temperatures.
Finally, parabolic reflectors can damage certain tools and containers if you leave them exposed to the concentrated energy. In short, these solar ovens are extremely powerful and efficient, but also harder to use. They’re a good choice for making food in bulk or cooking things that require especially high temperatures.
Tube cookers (also known as vacuum tube cookers) are the premium option among solar ovens (5). These are functionally a hybrid between parabolic cookers and box cookers, drawing on the principles of both to create a more effective design. The way they function is simple.
Curved panels collect sunlight and reflect it onto the cooking container, which is normally a vacuum-sealed glass tube with a dark energy-absorbing layer to collect the energy. The food, placed inside the tube, cooks relatively evenly. Several features help set this design apart from other solar ovens.
First, by creating a vacuum between the interior and exterior, all the heat stays on the inside. This means the outside of the tube stays cool to the touch even while the good is hot, improving efficiency and making the food much easier to handle safely.
Second, the tube itself can hold an impressively large amount of food. Better models are capable of feeding entire families, while 1-2 person units are lightweight and ideal for camping.
Tube cookers are more expensive than other solar ovens because they take more work to make. They’re also inconvenient for certain types of foods. For example, hot dogs easily fit in these tubes and cook well, but flat hamburger patties won’t fit.
Essentially, tube solar cookers are only good if you can accept the shape limitations on the food. If you want to cook things with different shapes, consider getting a box solar cooker instead. Most tube cookers get up to 500 or 550 degrees when cooking.
2. Look For Bonus Features That Excite You
Solar ovens in each category share most of their fundamental design choices, but companies sometimes include extra bonus features to make the products more appealing. Here are some of the most common bonuses.
These aren’t part of the solar cooker itself. However, solar oven recipes frequently vary from traditional recipes, especially if you’re using a tube cooker. Starting with some basic recipes (6) for your cooker can help you understand how a solar oven differs from conventional cooking options. Once you know that, you can start adjusting other recipes.
Experimentation is key to mastery in this field, so the more time you spend practicing with a solar oven, the better off you’re going to be.
The best solar ovens have some type of storage to protect them from damage. Tube solar oven models tend to have the best storage because their glass components are more fragile and need the cushioning when not in use. However, even panel solar oven models can benefit from a bag or something to keep all of the parts together.
Box solar oven models rarely have separate storage because they’re sturdy enough as they are. However, their reflector panels may remain exposed, so be careful with them.
Cooking temperatures can vary by product, with many solar ovens reaching over five hundred degrees. Keep in mind that cooking temperatures depend mainly on the amount of sunlight the solar cooker gets, not how warm it is outside. Most solar ovens are all-season products (7), which means they can function well even in the middle of winter.
However, higher temperatures aren’t always better. Some foods should cook at a lower temperature for longer periods. That said, sealed cooking containers trap moisture in with the food, so cooking at a higher temperature there isn’t the same as cooking in a regular oven where moisture evaporates.
In short: Cooking temperatures matter, but you should adjust recipes as needed to account for the type of solar cooker you’re using.
Many solar cookers come with special cooking containers and these make a huge difference in how well you can cook your food. Tube solar oven models include the cooking container in their design, while other types of ovens often come with metal or silicone pots for heating your food.
Parabolic solar oven models are, as usual, the odd choice out. Most of them don’t come with a suitable cooking container, so you’re in luck if they do. Containers from the solar oven’s manufacturer are always designed to work well with the oven itself, which means you can get much better efficiency than trying to use another product.
Heat retention is an extremely useful feature for solar ovens, especially if you’re trying to use them in areas that don’t get a lot of sunlight (8) or during winter. Tube solar ovens are the best option here because they have a vacuum seal that minimizes heat loss while food is cooking. However, heat retention with other products can make them just as viable in some situations.
Note that panel cookers tend to be the least-effective in cold environments because outside air will leak in and cool things down a little. If you plan to use a solar oven in chilly environments, consider getting a different solar oven type instead.
Parabolic cookers are, again, the odd choice out here. In most cases, the cooking container is directly exposed to cold air, which means it will lose a lot of heat over time. However, parabolic solar ovens are so powerful that they can reach higher temperatures than other options, which can compensate for the cooling effect.
Using the right cooking container makes all the difference when cooking with a solar oven. When in doubt, look for something that holds the heat better.
3. Find The Top Deal For You
Finally, buying a solar oven involves figuring out the best deal. In this context, the best deal is getting a solar oven that meets your needs or preferences at the best price. Here are the main factors to consider.
Limited Time Deals
Limited-time deals are a great way to save money, though they often mean waiting until a deal becomes available. Some manufacturers run a lot of promotions during their less-popular seasons, so planning ahead can mean a lot of savings, too.
While deals vary, most solar ovens don’t drop too much in price. A 10% discount is relatively large in this industry, so don’t worry about waiting for a limited time deal unless you’re on a budget and need to save as much as possible.
Shipping can be a real cost when you’re buying a solar oven. These products tend to be large and can be surprisingly heavy, especially if you’re buying a parabolic solar oven. Companies may demand higher average orders before they’re willing to offer free shipping, which can erase the gains of finding a limited time deal.
That said, shipping is expensive enough for many of these products that getting free shipping will often help you save more than finding a limited time deal. That means that it’s better to prioritize free or low-cost shipping over waiting for a bargain.
Finally, what’s the real price of the product, accounting for taxes, shipping, discounts, and any accessories you need to get? Most solar ovens range from a little under $100 to somewhere in the mid-hundreds. Any solar oven above five hundred dollars or so is probably overpriced unless it’s particularly large or comes with a lot of extra features.
Also, consider the durability of the product when evaluating the final prices. A single solar oven you can use for many years is a better investment than a cheap solar oven you need to replace every season. Investing more now can ultimately end up saving you a lot of money if you want to use it frequently.
Here are some of the most common questions that people ask about solar ovens.
Do Solar Ovens Really Work?
Yes! Most people don’t realize that modern solar ovens are considerably more advanced than the basic pizza box oven (9) that serves as a simple science project. However, while they fundamentally work, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, environments affect how well solar ovens work. They rely primarily on the amount of sunlight they receive, so areas with less light won’t see solar ovens get anywhere near as hot. Second, the design heavily impacts how efficient they are.
Panel and box solar oven models are the least-efficient choices. These are more exposed to the air, which means heat transfers out more. Issues with using these are why many people suspect that solar cookers don’t work as advertised. When used correctly, however, these products work fine.
Parabolic and tube solar ovens are noticeably more efficient. Parabolic solar ovens have raw power, which means they can compensate for environmental heat loss by being better at their job. Tube solar ovens have vacuum-sealed containers that minimize heat loss, making them functionally superior to parabolas.
The other thing to keep in mind is that most solar cookers aren’t meant to cook a huge amount of food at once. Many of them can only make enough for two or three people at a time, which makes them harder to use at parties or with families. If this is the case, you may need to get several solar cookers, rather than buying one large one.
How Hot Can A Solar Oven Get?
That depends on the type of solar oven you’re using. Parabolic solar ovens can get up to 1,000 degrees Celsius (about 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit), but most people don’t need or want that kind of temperature while cooking.
Most solar cookers get somewhere between 300 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit under optimal conditions. Keep in mind that solar cookers don’t have to reach their maximum temperature to work. If they don’t get as hot, you can usually compensate by cooking for longer instead.
This may be better than cooking food at full efficiency, especially if you have sealed containers that trap moisture in. A long, slow cook can help create a juicier and more flavorful meal.
What Makes A Good Solar Oven?
Several factors help determine what makes a good solar oven and what you should avoid. Here are the main things to keep in mind.
- Efficiency: Efficient solar cookers heat up faster and work better in colder temperatures. Parabolic designs are ultimately the most efficient, with tube solar oven models copying some of the principles. Box and panel solar cookers are not quite as efficient, but they’re light and portable, which can be more important for certain buyers.
- Durability: Most people don’t use these solar ovens for home cooking, although this is viable in some climates. Since solar cookers are mainly for trips and off-grid excursions, their ability to withstand the bumps of traveling is a key consideration. Cases are the best option, but a sturdy design is also helpful.
- Capacity: Capacity determines how much food a solar oven can heat. While any solar oven can feed at least one person, better models should feed at least three to five people in a reasonable timespan. Capacity also affects the shape of the food you can cook with it.
- Ease Of Use: Most solar oven models are easy to use. They may require little more than unfolding them, putting your food inside, and turning it toward the sun. Ovens that require more care and assembly tend to be lower-quality overall.
- Ease Of Cleaning: How well can you clean your oven’s components? Tube ovens can be harder to clean despite their overall quality, particularly when you want to avoid scratching or damaging them. Box and panel ovens tend to have food containers that are separate from their heat source, which makes them easier to clean.
- Weight: How heavy is the solar oven? Most solar oven models weigh less than fifteen pounds, with a few models going as low as two pounds. Parabolas are heavier than other options, often weighing thirty pounds or more.
- Warranty: Good warranty policies can protect you from manufacturing defects and other problems. Solar cookers often cost several hundred dollars, especially if you want a good model, so proper warranties are essential for ensuring you can get the most out of your investment. Try to get coverage for at least one year, rather than just 30 days.
The Bottom Line: Should You Buy One Of The Best Solar Ovens Today?
Solar ovens aren’t for everyone, but if you want to cook without relying on electricity, the GOSHENG Oven For 3-5 People is an outstanding choice. Between its durable construction, high capacity, and general efficiency, this is easily our best solar oven that you can buy today.
Want more top-rated solar gear like the Gosheng Oven? Check out our best off grid refrigerator of the year and make sure your oven’s delicious creations stay nice and tasty all week, with minimal energy demands. Or, feel free to check out our homepage for our full list of highly-reviewed solar equipment.