Earth Notes: Honoring the Sun III--Developing Solar Ovens.

Dec 21, 2011

This week Earth Notes continues its series on the sun, with a look at turning your backyard into a kitchen

Just as the inside of a parked car heats up on a sunny day, a solar cooker traps the sun’s rays in its enclosed interior, causing water, fat and protein molecules in the food to heat up. The molecules vibrate vigorously, and the food cooks.

The heating power of the sun has been harnessed for millennia, but it wasn’t until the modern era that inventors began to see the potential for solar cuisine. The big breakthrough came with the pioneering work of two women from Arizona.

In the early 1970s Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole developed an inexpensive solar cooker made from a cardboard box. These enterprising women came up with a design that cooked very well, while posing no danger of setting the box on fire.

Built from inexpensive materials, Kerr and Cole’s simple design has since spread across the globe. With the help of organizations like Solar Cookers International, solar cooking has been introduced to low-income people around the world, helping them to feed their families and conserve scarce fuelwood.

Solar ovens don’t just conserve fuel and save money. They generate no carbon dioxide or other waste gases. And because cooking happens slowly and evenly, it leaves the food with a better nutritional content than artificial high heat methods.

Next time on Earth Notes we’ll explore some simple rules for using solar cookers in the upland Southwest—all year round.


Visit for an overview of how solar ovens are making life easier for people in many less-developed parts of the world.