CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

I’ve been experimenting with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard.

It has a couple of nice features:

  • It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles.
  • When you fold it up it takes up no more space than an album (do I have to explain what an album is for the youngsters out there?).
  • A flat area on the base of the CooKit makes weighting it down with rocks easy. This is really important in windy places.
  • All you need to build it is a knife, cardboard, aluminum foil and glue.

As with all panel solar cookers you need an black enamelware pot wrapped in a turkey roasting bag to hold in the heat. You ain’t gonna deep fry things with a panel cooker, but they are great for slow-cooked crock pot type dishes. The only disadvantage to this design is having to cut curves, but with a sharp knife it wasn’t difficult. The other improvement would be a stand to lift the pot off the aluminum foil for more efficiency and to keep the cooker un-scuffed. When panel cooker season returns to LA in the springtime, you can bet I’ll be making a lot of rice with this thing.

Detailed instructions for how to build a CooKit can be found here.

Also, Mrs. Homegrown and I are writing a new book and we’d like to include some plans for solar cookers (any kind). If you’ve got a favorite DIY model, leave a comment with a link.

Another view with curious Doberman in the foreground:

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  1. I tried this one over the summer. It was crazy easy to put together and it worked well enough for me in the heat of the SFV. I made solar-cooked cupcakes for my husband’s birthday. They weren’t perfect, but the gesture went over well:

    And next summer I’m going to bake cookies on my dashboard while my car is parked at work:

    BTW – love your blog and your book. Keep it up!

  2. i’ve seen a bunch of different ones on and would be interested in reading about this…for those of us with more defined seasons (smile), i’m assuming these are summer only?

  3. Where portability is needed the cookit is nice for it’s compact storage… However, I live in north america and it is actually easier to store something thinner if bigger. I have found the Reflective Open Box Works well for me even at almost 50 deg north. There are only 4 reflective surfaces, 2 upright and 2 almost horizontal. I made the pot from an old glass coffee pot with a tin can inserted inside. The can is painted black on the outside. I have cooked rice and soda bread with it. I made and used it in September so it would be at least usable 4 or 5 months… but I suspect longer if you have a sunny winter… we have rainy ones here on the “wet” coast.

  4. So glad to hear you’re working on another book – would love to hear more about it. Here is a post that lists a few DIY solar cooker projects, as well as a link to a pretty exhaustive “compendium” (nice word!) of how-tos:
    Another interesting (and timely) video here: that repurposes political candidate’s signs into a solar forced air heater – nice!

  5. I made mine from plastic cardboard (the kind used for political signs) and covered it with mylar (a “solar blanket” – aluminum covered plastic) for longevity.

    There are other technologies explored for cooking such as solar concentrators (aluminum covered satellite dishes) and mirrors on

  6. I’m glad to hear you had success with this model. I tried one of the windshield-reflector models but I could never get it stable by following the instructions – it was far too prone to tipping. Given your recommendation, I’ll try this model. Thanks.

  7. i made one at the iowa renewable energy conference last year. we took it camping and made a meal every day with it. set it up in the morning, spend the day on the river and come back to a prepared meal. we love ours. at the conference they had rolls of that material to make one. they charged five dollars per person. it was the deal of the year. and now we use it in the backyard at home.

    p.s. your book rocks, thanks for all of the great information!!

  8. just one more thing :)…………..the kids at the conference made cookers with pringles cans. they have the silver lining so they work great. they cut a piece out of the container (2inches wide and the length of the can) put a piece of clear plastic in the cut out, poked a wooden stick through the length of the can and popped the lid back on. you can cook a hot dog, marshmallows and other small items. the kids loved it. 🙂

  9. Another Girl Scout memory – I once met a woman who was a huge enthusiast and advocate for, I believe, this very model of solar cooker. She utilized Girl Guide solar cooker trainers throughout Africa to bring this tool to them to help cut the expense and time of searching for wood all the time. I had always admired that project but hadn’t stopped to think – hey – I could do it, too!

  10. Have you seen the new movie Men Who Stare at Goats? There is a scene with a solar-powered cooker. It was pretty funny. I hope yours is more successful.

    This is my first time to Home Grown Evolution and I was happy to have stumbled upon it. Looking forward to reading more. Thanks!

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