Beekeeper Dennis made one of those once in a lifetime garage sale finds earlier this year: a solar oven from the 1960s called the “Sundiner.” I couldn’t find much on the interwebs about it except for a brief mention in the  April 1963 issue of Desert Magazine,

“Here’s a new product that suits desert living as few others can—it collects and concentrates the heat of the sun and allows outdoor cooking without fuel or fire. They call it the Sundiner. The technical description is “Solar Energy Grill.” Sundiner is a compact unit, 17-inches square and 6inches tall. Fold-out mirrors are metalized Mylar plastic, supported by polypropylene holders. The mirrors focus the sun’s heat on the lower section of the cabinet, where heat slowly builds up to a maximum of about 450 degrees—plenty to cook with. Directly below the apex of the mirrors is an oven enclosure. Plastic foam insulation and a pair of glass plates prevent excessive heat loss. The solar energy grill works in this simple way: point the mirrors toward the sun for a few minutes until the right temperature is reached (built-in heat indicator dial) and pop a tray of food into the oven. There is no fire or fuel to handle. Sole source of cooking stems from the collected, concentrated rays of the sun. Here is a sample of how long various meats take to cook: Hamburgers, franks, and fish, 15 to 20 minutes. Steaks and fillets, 20 to 25 minutes. Quartered chicken, 25 to 30 minutes. Temperature variations are possible by turning the Sundiner toward or away from the sun. The advantage of the Sundiner is that it can be used as a safe substitute for a fuel-fired stove on beaches, parks, decks of boats, and other restricted areas. Carrying handles are standard. The price is $29.95. From Sundiner. Carmer Industries. Inc., 1319 West Pico Blvd.. Los Angeles 15. Calif.”

That price would be about $207.62 today, just under what the very similar Global Sun Oven Solar Cooker costs.

When collapsed the Sundiner resembles, unsurprisingly, a 1960s era portable record player.

Dig that groovin’ temperature dial.

 The instructions are printed on the inside cover.

I can almost taste the heavy nitrites in those 1960s hot dogs.

For more vintage solar thoughtstylings see Life Magazine’s “Solar Power Back in the Day.”

Leave a comment


  1. Oh yea I never thought of that, since its an older product the plastics/paint might not be up to spec for cooking with 😛 Would work for melting/filtering wax though!

  2. So, now that GE has denied us a loan to get home solar panels (so why is GE in the solar loan biz anyhow?) I have been told by sources in Europe that the Chinese “own” the Panel-on-every-home solar industry and they are set to start cranking them out in the next five years forcing the prices to plummet. Has anyone else heard these solar industrial rumors?

  3. Hey Anne,

    I’ve heard those rumors too. I’ve also heard about other evolving business models involving companies installing said Chinese panels for free and selling you the electricity. Other than that I don’t know. I’m gonna stick with aluminum foil and cardboard solar cookers in the meantime.

  4. To make a long story not too long, I’m currently awaiting the installation of solar panels on my home in NY State. Total cost is 21,000 minus 6,000 from NYSERDA, then minus 6,000 federal tax rebate and another 2,000 from the NY tax rebate. All in all the system will put me out $7,000 total.

    I do think the prices of the panels will be dropping significantly in the future but so will the incentives so I thought now was a good time as any to buy.


  5. I look forward to the review. My summer ‘to-do’ list involves building one to do some light cooking in, more of an experiment than anything. But it would be sweet to see what that oven could do 🙂

  6. I have found two of these at thrift stores and purchased both, I sold one on eBay for around $120 or so . I’m now always on the lookout for another as they work well. Nice find

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