Sumertime Science Part 4: SolarOven

Summertime Science Part 4: Building a DIY Solar Oven

Posted by Corey Hunt on July 4, 2024

Looking for an educational summer project that will keep your kids engaged (even when it's hot outside)? Try a solar oven. In Part 4 of our Summer Science Series, outdoor mom Corey Hunt shares how to build a solar oven with your kids from start to finish.

I love sending my kids outside in the summer. 

We spend most of our days at the pool or in the river, trying to stay cool. However, about halfway through the summer, the pool starts to lose some of its allure, and my attempts to persuade my kids to stay outside are met with disdain. 

This summer, I did some research and have put together a couple of projects to keep kids outside despite the heat. 

Our first project was a solar oven. 

Solar Oven_Hunt

How To Build a Solar Oven

Solar ovens are easy and quick to assemble from items in your home. By reflecting light from the sun, they can heat or cook a variety of foods. Follow the steps below to make your solar oven. 

Step 1: Build The Oven

First, find a flat box with a lid attached, like a small pizza box. Cut a hole in the lid on three sides, leaving it attached to the back of the box. 

Next, wrap the inside of the lid with tin foil, making sure to tape it into place. 

Then, flip the lid up and tape a plastic bag or plastic wrap to the inside of the square you cut in the lid to seal it off. This will help trap heat inside the oven and keep the bugs out. Some sources suggested placing black construction paper in the bottom of the box to help generate heat. 

If your box is on the larger side, consider adding loosely rolled newspaper to the sides. This will help insulate the oven so it holds more heat.

We added a small thermometer to the inside of ours to see how hot we could get the oven. 

That's it! Now it's time to test.

Step 2: Test Your Solar Oven

Now, the oven is ready to be tested.

Find a sunny spot between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and angle the lid so the most light is reflecting down onto the food. 

Using a stick or a ruler, prop the lid at that angle while making sure there are no shadows around the box.

If you see a shadow, the box isn’t at the correct angle. 

Photo Jun 11 2024, 2 24 08 PM

Keep in mind the sun moves throughout the day, so depending on cook time, you may have to adjust the angle or rotate the oven several times. 

We decided to cook smores with our oven and they did not disappoint. 

You may want to consider preheating the oven for about an hour so the food cooks faster. Also, solar ovens will not get as hot as conventional ovens, so the food outdoors will take longer to cook. 

Some sources were able to heat their ovens to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but the best we could do was 120 degrees. We didn’t preheat our oven, and it took about thirty minutes to cook our s’mores. 


Step 3: Have Fun Experimenting With Outdoor Cooking In Your Solar Oven!

Solar ovens are a fun way to cook during the summer and require very few items to assemble. If you like the idea of cooking outside, you could try popcorn, nachos, cheese quesadilla, or even soup.

Safety Precautions When Using A Solar Oven

Although a solar oven may not reach ultra-high temperatures, it is still a hot cooking device. Therefore, it is essential to practice commonsense fire and personal safety, especially with kiddos around.

This means setting up your oven in a safe place away from flammable brush, dry grass, pine straw, etc., like on a concrete slab or in a firepit.

If your local area has a ban on outdoor fires due to drought or dry conditions, wait until those are lifted before attempting to use a solar oven. Better safe than sorry!

If you attempt to cook raw meat, always use a thermometer to ensure the food is fully cooked to appropriate temperatures to prevent foodborne illness.

Also, always keep a close eye on your solar oven just as you would any other cooking tool or device.

For those of us who live rural or want to take our ovens camping, a watchful eye is especially important to prevent bears or other critters from stealing your food.

Do not allow your children to use the solar oven unattended.

Do not place your food directly onto the plastic bag, as most aren't food-grade and can leach plastic chemicals into your food. Always use a food-safe cooking pot, pan, dish, or aluminum foil.

Finally, take care when removing your food and use pot holders or heat-proof gloves if needed.

Smore Solar Oven

Want More Summer Fun Ideas for the Kids?

Check out the other articles in this summer science series by Corey Hunt, including:

Corey Hunt

Corey Hunt is an award-winning freelance outdoor writer and photographer from the upstate of South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her work has appeared in publications such as Dun Magazine, South Carolina Wildlife and other online publications. More on Corey’s writing can be found on the blog she writes with her husband,

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