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Jennifer Stein Barker ©2002 Jennifer Stein Barker

The solar cooking assortment (left to right): Zomeworks SunFlash parabolic cooker, Sunspot, Sun Oven, Suntoys (in front), and Solar Chef (in back).

At the 1992 Solar Energy Expo and Rally (SEER) in Willits,

California, I met a man with dreadlocks who was dancing around a cardboard box with a jar of boiling beans inside. Joseph Radabaugh willingly sold me the plans for this magic box, which I went home and made for about US$5 worth of materials. Boxes are free, and I already had a roll of aluminum foil, glue, and all the other materials, except the can of heat-tolerant black paint. Within a few days, I was cooking with the sun.

My homemade SunStar cooker did everything as well as any commercial solar cooker I’ve had since, except that it had a tendency to cartwheel across the lawn in a wind gust if I left it empty. (I put a rock in it to prop the pans on and hold heat, but it still wasn’t heavy enough.)

62 Home Power #88 • April / May 2002

I baked cakes, casseroles, and breads outdoors all summer instead of gathering firewood for the woodstove and having to look for cool mornings to do my baking.

The next year, my partner Lance bought me a Sun Oven and I increased my solar cooking. It was not a more efficient cooker, just more convenient to use. In addition to eliminating the cartwheeling problem, it was not damaged by a sprinkle of rain, so I could leave it out more of the time. It was also easier to open and access the food.

In the following years, my collection grew to include a Sunspot, a Solar Chef, and a Suntoy cooker. The most recent addition is a donated Zomeworks parabolic cooker. I’m looking forward to learning how to fry with the sun this spring!

How Solar Cookers Work

The three basic types of cookers are single-reflector box cookers, multiple-reflector solar ovens, and parabolic cookers. My experiences are with the multiple-reflector style, which I think works best for baking at northern latitudes.

I have actually never used a single-reflector style cooker. It makes sense to me that the less sun you

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