The Telkes Solar Cooker (It Works!)

A Telkes solar cooker cooks with the same firepower as burning one pound of wood per hour when the reflectors direct 40 square feet of sunlight down into the airtight, super insulated black box. Yes, that is big!

And wood stoves often use 2 or more pounds of wood per hour. You can always add more wood to the fire but that big sun in the sky does what it wants to do.

Actually, the two Telkes solar cookers Aprovecho used for a decade to feed interns and staff during the summer, intercepted 90 square feet of sunlight. We could boil oil for French fries and bake a small chicken. The oven hovered around 350F so it was perfect for bread and cookies.

Even though the reflectors were about 8 feet in diameter, the solar cooker couldn’t handle big loads. We could cook a chicken but not a turkey. The temperature would fall and the turkey wouldn’t be fully cooked even on a long summer day. Like any machine it could do only so much. The cook has to know the limits of the machine.

On the other hand, the big Telkes powered out lots of rice and beans and it was sure an easy way to bake bread! And solar cooking uses free energy and makes zero pollution. After years of experience we think that solar cooking (when it’s sunny) is easier than cooking with wood.

The fire is already lit!