What do glass cleaner, construction adhesive, and peperoni have in common?
You can use them all on your own solar powered barbeque.
It was a perfect day to roll out the old solar barbeque, but too bad there were no hot dogs in the fridge, only some big pepperoni slices. But enough for a mini picnic.
I washed the barbeque's mirrors off with Windex for maximum reflection, and pointed the barbeque at the sun. The peperoni started smoking after just 1 minute, and was sizzling a few minutes later.
It is so easy to make, just stick a lot of mirror pieces on, and put some chicken wire at the focal point.
It is easy to cook on. You do not have to wait for the solar cooker to heat up. It is instant on. Just place the food in the chicken wire holder at the focal point.
Things you will need to make a solar barbeque:
- an old fashioned satellite dish 8 feet in diameter with its focal point attachment poles.
- a lot of cut or broken mirror pieces about 3 to 5 inches.
- some Liquid Nails or similar construction adhesive and a caulking gun.
- a square of chicken wire about 12 to 18 inches across.
- a square of metal screen about 12 to 18 inches across.
- a large block of wood.
Use the construction adhesive to stick the mirror pieces on the face of the dish, but leave at least one section empty. You do not have to fit the mirrors together. Odd gaps between mirrors are fine.
Attach the corners of the chicken wire to the top of the poles at the focal point just by crimping it on.
And form a pouch out of the chicken wire for the food to cook in.
Form the screen into a cone shape and crimp the edge back to keep the shape.
Use a wall that faces the sun and the block of wood to aim the dish toward the sun.
I made this solar barbeque from an old fashioned 8 foot aluminium satellite dish.
My solar BBQ doesn't look finished, but it it has about 300 mirrors and it shows 250 degrees Fahrenheit on the meat thermometer.
I had originally planned to cover the whole thing with mirrors, but it is a good thing that some sections do not have mirrors, because it helps when cooking;
you can approach the solar BBQ from a direction so that the non-reflective section is in the background behind the food on the chicken wire at the focal point.
That way the sun is not reflected in your eyes. All you see in the mirrors is blue sky, trees, or buildings, or the food each showing multiple reflections in different sections of the dish.
And where the sun would have shown, directly opposite the focal point from you, is the section without mirrors.
You can also approach the solar cooker from the side so that the background you see behind the food is just the ground.
Even then, you must be ready to look away quickly in case any of the mirrors are out of alignment.
WARNING: Do not approach the satellite dish barbeque with the mirrored section as the background behind the focal point, or the sun will reflect right in your eyes in several mirrors.
If that happens look away quickly. That can be dangerous and can cause blindness like looking right at the sun can.
Be extremely careful of the sun's reflection at all times around the solar BBQ.
Keep children away from it, and keep everyone from looking at the sun in it.
The mirror pieces should be 3 to 5 inches across.
Having the mirror pieces any smaller than 3 inches won't help because the food won't be smaller than that, so there is no point making the focal point smaller, or the food will cook unevenly.
We don't want to burn the middle of the food, and not even heat the rest. So using the larger pieces of mirror will give more even heating.
I used a glass cutter on a couple of old hall mirrors to get the right sized pieces of mirror.
My satellite dish is only about half covered with mirrors but it has around 300 mirrors on it, and it toasts bread, sizzles and burns pepperoni, pops popcorn, and shows 250 degrees on the meat thermometer. That is in Canada during April. Your results may vary.
It is recommended to use precooked meat like hot dogs or pepperoni because it is difficult to ensure proper heat distribution for thorough cooking.
Remember to use proper food preparation cleanliness even though you are cooking outside.
You can probably do a better job than I did when you make your own solar powered barbeque. You will soon be enjoying outdoor cookery with free energy.
Set up the Solar BBQ on a sunny day. Just lean it against a sun facing wall. Prop the block of wood under one side of the dish.
Aligning the Solar BBQ with the sun is dead easy. There is a circle in the middle of the dish. And the shadow of the focal point bars on the dish sort of form an X. Just move the X shadow onto the circle. Do that by moving the bottom edge of the dish closer to the wall, or further from the wall, and use the block of wood below one side or the other to lean it a bit out on the left or right side. Later you can just move the block of wood a bit to recenter the shadow if the sun moves.
The old satellite dish I used was passed along especially to make the solar BBQ, by a friend who used to install satellite TV receivers.
It has an aluminium frame and comes apart in four quadrants for transport.
It has an expanded metal mesh for the face of the dish, and four poles in front of the dish that used to hold the TV signal receiver at the focal point.
One afternoon I thought I'd see if it would work as a solar corn popper.
First I put the popcorn and some cooking oil in an old cake pan. But after a long time trying the pan at different orientations, it wasn't working.
It seemed like the pan was acting like a heat sink, spreading out the heat and dissipating the heat.
Then I had the idea to try a piece of screen to hold the kernels, and even with just the 5:00 pm sun low in the sky, within a few minutes we were enjoying delicious solar popcorn.
Accessories to have on hand when using your solar cooker:
- Glass Cleaner
- Paper Towels
- Hand Sanitizer
- Plates, Cups, etc.
Things to cook on your solar barbeque:
- Hot Dogs
- Pepperoni (for sub sandwiches)
Things to serve with your barbequed food:
- Barbeque sauce
- Tomato slices
Links to other Solar Cooker web pages: