14 Steps to Build a Cardboard Solar Oven

A simple and inexpensive method of outdoor cooking is the solar oven.  In most locations they can be used though out the year.  A friend of mine in Wyoming has used his when it was sitting on 4 feet of snow.  As long as the sun is out you can cook.

There are many designs for solar ovens, some are better than others.  You can buy one or make it yourself.  I have seen them sell for 200 – 300 dollars or you can make one for next to nothing.  The better ones are more efficient and will reach hotter temperatures. They can be as simple as one I saw made from an old tire and piece of window glass.  It worked, but wasn’t the best.

Today I am showing you how to make a very simple one that costs next to nothing.  It is made out of cardboard, old newspapers, aluminum foil and a piece of glass.  The one I made using this plan was able to reach temperatures of over 200 degrees.  Over the next week or two we will post several articles on solar cooking and other designs for solar ovens.

I am a big fan of solar ovens for a number of reasons, including the following.

  • The fuel is free and readily available.
  • They can be inexpensive and easy to make.
  • They are easy to use.
  • As long as the sun is shining, they will work.
  • They create no smoke or odors other than the food cooking.
  • In the summer, the heat stays outside.
  • Once you learn the principal, you can make an improvised oven almost anywhere.  I am aware of a situation in which one was made from an old tire and a windowpane.

The downsides that I have found are

  • Depending on the oven the food can take twice as long as normal to cook.
  • They are bulky, not good for backpacking.
  • They have to be used outside which can create security issues.
  • They won’t work on overcast or rainy days.

A solar oven is a great way to cook without using any energy. You can use it to cook food, or even heat up water. It’s easy to make your own solar oven, and you probably have most of the supplies you need lying around your house.

In a survival situation, a solar oven could be a lifesaver. If you’re ever stranded in a remote location, or if the power goes out, you’ll still be able to cook food and boil water.

You can construct a safe and effective oven that can reach temperatures of more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit using only a few basic household materials. That’s hot enough to roast some meats like sausages and bacon or even potatoes like tater tots.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with a solar oven. You still need the sun to be in a good spot that makes it easy to heat the homemade solar oven and it needs to be a hot day. Additionally, you want to make sure the oven is made well and the good thing is it can take about 20-30 minutes to make one.

There are three types of solar ovens: solar cookers, panel cookers, and parabolic solar cookers. They all work in the same way by using radiation and convection. This guide is for a basic solar cooker that uses cardboard. This is the same principle behind solar roof panels.

So, it’s not the fastest oven but it can still cook up veggies and grains pretty well. Let’s get into what you’ll need below.

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Materials Needed to Make a Solar Oven

  • Two large, shallow cardboard boxes. Think pizza boxes! One has to be able to fit inside the other.
  • You will need a piece of cardboard for the lid of your box. The cardboard should be at least half a foot bigger than the oven.
  • Pencil, Pen, Marker, or Sharpie
  • Glue
  • Stick
  • Heavy-duty tape like duct tape
  • Old newspapers
  • Scissors, knife, sharp tool
  • Saran wrap roll
  • Thin Aluminum foil
  • Black Construction paper sheet

How To Home DIY Cardboard Solar Oven

  1. Create an insulating chamber within the inner box so that it may lie inside the outer container.
  2. Turn the outer box upside down and center the inner box on top of it.
  3. Cut along the lines that outline the interior box’s form to produce a window cut-out. You should now have a frame on all four sides of 1-2 inches.
  4. Time to construct a lid for your insulation chamber. To make the top piece of cardboard identical in size to the hole you just made in the bottom of your outer box, measure and cut it.
  5. Attach this piece securely to the bottom of your outer box. This will be the lid for your insulation chamber. Use glue or tape for this.
  6. Next, we make a lid for the bigger box. This lid will have a flap that you can open to put your plate of food in to cook.
  7. Make sure to position properly! With the loose cardboard piece on top, trace around all four sides of the big box. Then trace around the inner box inside of those lines. To make the flap in the lid, cut along three sides of the innermost lines.
  8. You’ve just completed a simple box outline. Now trace the outer box that you previously drew. Extend the lines from each corner of your larger traced box, drawing to each corner of the cardboard piece, and cut along these lines to make a lid. Fold-down the lines you just made and tape them up.
  9. You can reflect sunlight into your box by lining it with foil. You can also trap heat inside the box by insulating it with newspaper.
  10. Line the inside and outside of the boxes with aluminum foil. The shiny side should be out. Put foil on the underside of the flap, too.
  11. Wrap the four sides of the gap between the outer box and inner box with rolled-up newspaper sheets.
  12. To keep the heat in, duct tape and double up on Saran Wrap to the underside of the window. The top and back of the inside box should be covered with black construction paper.
  13. Make sure your oven is set up correctly. The foil-lined flap should be reflecting light into the window so that people can see in. If it’s not in the right spot, move it.
  14. Setting your plate in the box will help keep it clean. You can use the stick to open the lid.

This how-to guide has given you 14 steps on how to build a cardboard solar oven. If you are interested in trying this DIY project, we’ve included the materials needed and how-to instructions for making your own solar cooker using two large pizza boxes. Have fun and always make sure your food is safely cooked.

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