Solar cooking experiment

  • Pantelidis, Ioannis S. (PI)
  • Woodward, Ken (CoI)

Project Details


It is estimated that Britons use their barbecues approximately 60 million times a year and a charcoal BBQ uses 998kg CO2e per year versus a propane BBQ that uses 349kg CO2e. Thousands of tons of CO2 per year could be dramatically reduced using a solar cooker. This project was funded by the University of Brighton's Springboard grants programme which allowed for the purchase of a solar cooker. The solar cooker enabled the team to run a series of sensory analysis experiments to both showcase the possibilities of free energy and educate participants and the public on the uses of parabolic mirrors.

The solar oven works when parallel sun rays are reflected by the parabolic mirror and are then focused at a specific point. The pivoting cooker frame, ensures maximum efficiency throughout the day, and can also be controlled to achieve varied temperatures. 

The project was broken down into four stages
• Stage one: Building the solar oven and publicising via a video

• Stage two: The baking of bread in a combination oven and the solar cooker

• Stage 3 and 4: The running of a controlled experiment, cooking sausages at the same location as stage 2.

• Stage 5: Working with Eastbourne Borough Council in promoting the experiment to the public

• Stage 5b: From Solar Cooker to Hay-box Cooker

In stage 5b we took the whole process one step further, creating hay-box cookers to support the solar food production. No identifiable or significant difference in the cooked food holding time was observed between the different types of homemade hay-boxes, though the polystyrene insulated box measured slightly better due to its tight fitting sealed lid.

Key findings

Based on our initial research findings it may be concluded that whilst there is a difference in holding temperatures of different shaped hay-boxes the shape of the inner container of the hay-box did make a difference. The ovoid or convex bottomed inner containers took measurably less time to cool than cylindrical containers such as conventional saucepans or glass Pyrex casserole dishes.

The initial results of the solar cooker trials show that fireless cooking can be used in a commercial catering setting when combined with hay-box insulation to retain heat
Points to be considered when using recycled or indigenous insulation material in haybox construction, must remain unaffected by rot, insects, vermin, and humidity to conform to EU and UK food safety legislation.

The haybox or fireless cooker should be easy to clean, simple to handle and easy and convenient to store.

The use of haybox or fireless cooker is not only an environmental bonus but chefs will spend less time working over a stove and be exposed to less smoke and noxious gasses.

It is also a way of helping to preserve renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
There is a need to identify, test, disseminate and popularise such measures that are not only cheap, easily available and energy efficient but are user-friendly. If popularised among the masses the combination of solar and hay-box cooking can be an asset to the catering industry. It is essential that academics look for innovative culinary processes with energy saving imperatives.

As chefs look to manage their time and energy more efficiently, old methods reinvented with a new outlook can provide solutions. It should be noted that the pleasure of a hot meal is often beyond the imagination of many families around the world. Many homemakers would like the opportunity to access low cost fireless cookery, therefore a combination of solar and hay-box cooking may in part give low or no cost solutions. Designs of hay, cardboard, strawboard need to be evaluated and tested for their efficacy in cooking and for keeping the food hot within safe temperatures.

Pantelidis, I.S. & Woodward. K., 2012 “Solar water, bread & sausages! Bringing sunshine into the classroom” Sustainable Education in Travel & Tourism organized by the International Society of Travel & Tourism Educators, Frankfurt
Effective start/end date1/09/1131/08/12


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