Harnessing the sun to boil water and cook food is a dream come true for anyone but especially so for preppers and self-sufficiency types who want to reduce their dependence on the electrical grid and traditional sources of cooking fuel. The SolSource Solar Cooker does just that; it harnesses the sun and effortlessly becomes an all-in-one cooker, stove, and grill. Not only that, it is fun to use (actually a blast to use!) and the prepared food is super-delicious.
In this review, I will explain how the SolSource works, from installation through cleanup. In addition, One Earth Designs is giving a complete SolSource Solar Cooker bundle to one lucky ready. This is a $569 value. How cool is that?
Cooking Off-Grid with the SolSource Solar Cooker
The SolSource Cooker: Just the Nitty Gritty
If you did not know what you were looking at, you would think the SolSource Cooker was a fancy satellite dish. But of course, it is not.
The SolSource consists of a large, parabolic dish with shiny bright, high-tech self-healing reflectors made out of high-tech polymer. When properly positioned, sunlight is reflected down into a focus point beneath your cookware. This integrated focus point reflects upward toward the sun and when you see the sun reflected back in its center, the solar cooker is properly aligned and ready to use.
According to One Earth Designs, the SolSource has 92% efficiency, allowing for temperatures up to 550F degrees in minutes. I did not personally test the temperature but can attest to how quickly water came to boil and how quickly food cooked. More about that in a moment.
Installation and Setup
At first glance, the installation and set-up process appears daunting. The reality is that setup is not at all difficult and actually quite easy as long as the instructions are followed.
Shelly (aka the Survival Husband) managed the setup single-handedly and since he is not a good “follow the manual” type of guy, he had to stop at one point and regroup. Assisting in the process were a group of videos on the One Earth Designs website. Follow the instructions and the setup goes smoothly. We had some stops and starts but all told, the setup took about 90 minutes for one person.
Note: One Earth Designs recommends that two people assemble the unit together. Since that is not always possible, we purposely chose to see if it could be done by one person.
Something to note is that the assembly manual that came with the unit did match up with the included parts. We actually thought there were missing parts. During a quick call to support, we learned there was a newer installation manual available for download. Apparently, the SolSource Cooker we received was an improved model and the old manual had been put in the shipping box by mistake. No worries – we got the new manual and were all set.
Using the Solar Cooker
Shortly after the SolSource was set up, the rains came. The unit itself was covered and protected from the elements but I sat and stewed. I kept looking outdoors, getting intimidated at just the thought of learning how to use this “monster”. I should not have worried. Using the SolSource was easy and extremely fast!
The first step is to align the dish-like reflector panels so they face the sun. There are a number of levers on the stand that allow this to happen. Basically, you release the lever, or brake, then swivel the panels around side to side then up and down until you get the right angle. You know things are lined up when you see the sun reflected in the alignment mirror.
Note: As with many aspects of the SolSource Solar Cooker, the alignment process is a little tricky the first time around. Once you get the hang of it, however, it is quick and easy.
You can see the alignment mirror to the bottom left of the pot
Another way to check the alignment is after you put a pan on the grill unit. You can stoop down and look at the bottom of the pan or pot. The reflection of the sun should be more or less centered on the bottom of your cooking vessel.
Note: The grill unit is the holder where you set your pot, pan, or skillet.
As I mentioned, the SolSource looks like a big satellite dish. It is not a perfect disk, however, There is a slot cut out that you step into to access the grill unit. Accessing the grill unit from the front is not advisable which I assume is because the reflection off the plate can hurt your eyes. Also, the area immediately above the reflection mirror gets very hot. To be safe, you should access your food only from the slot behind the unit.
For this review, I decided to boil water, make some white rice, fry an egg, and pop some popcorn. Boiling water was pretty straightforward. Set a pot on the grill until and wait 10 minutes. That was it.
For the rice, I used a cast iron Dutch oven. I used two cups of water and one cup of white rice. I didn’t bother waiting for the water to boil first but instead, dumped everything in the pot, covered it, set it on the grill, and set a timer for 20 minutes. At the end of 30 minutes, I checked and the rice was done. I don’t know if it was the ambiance, the cast iron pot, or the solar cooker but I swear this was the best tasting white rice I have ever eaten.
But it was not as good as the popcorn! I plopped a large dab of coconut oil in the pot, added one-half cup of popcorn, covered it then set it on the grill. The popcorn started to pop after two and half minutes and took ten minutes start to finish. In twenty-twenty hindsight, I probably should have heated the coconut oil in the pot before adding the popcorn.
I am not one to snack but I ate half the popcorn myself right out of the pan. It was that good. Can you imagine popping some corn outdoors after suffering the woes of a disruptive event? Talk about surviving in style!
The final test was a fried egg. I used the SolSource Grill Pan which is a heck of a pan in its own right. Yes, it was goofy to fry an egg in a pan with grids, but what the heck? I did so anyway.
As you can see from the photo, the egg fried up perfectly. There were no loose whites and the yolk was nice and loose, just the way we like it. The eggs slid right out of the pan with just the slightest nudge from my spatula. You can read more about the grill pan here.
By the way, the day I did my solar cooking the sky was cloudy. The sun was behind a cloud when I boiled the first pot of water and it took more than 20 minutes to boil. But it did boil eventually. When the sun moved from behind the clouds, I started over and the same pot of water took only 10 minutes to boil.
For More Information: Visit One Earth Designs
When my cooking session was over, I followed the directions to pour water over the reflector panels to tidy them up. The splatter of rice literally slid down the side and I did not have to go back and wipe up any messes with a rag. After the water droplets dried, I covered the cooker and I was done. Easy peasy.
Heating and Boiling Water: Other Uses
Let us not diminish the importance of using the sun to heat and boil water. We need steaming hot water to reconstitute meal pouches, sterilize cooking utensils and medical instruments, maintain personal hygiene, and wash clothing.
This is in addition to having the means to boil questionable water before drinking it; thus reducing the possibility of waterborne illness.
This is the part you have been waiting for. A complete SolSource set up like the one in this review will go to one reader. The price includes the SolSource Solar Cooker, Weatherproof Cover, and Grill Pan. The value of this giveaway is $569.
Although comments are not necessary to win, you do get five “entries” for answering the giveaway question. Just remember that you must select the “I Commented” entry in the Rafflecopter to have your comment recorded in the random drawing.
For this giveaway, I am looking for recipes using five ingredients or less. If I get enough, I will compile them into a reader cookbook. Would you like that?
This giveaway will run for one full week. For extra points, share it with your friends! The deadline is 6:00 PM MST next Saturday. The winner will be notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article. Please note that the winner must claim their prize within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.
Note: Due to Customs requirements, this giveaway is only open to those with a mailing address in the United States.
The Final Word
What I have shared in this review is just a sampling of how the SolSource Solar Cooker can be used. In my testing, I prepared simple foods because gourmet cooking will not be on the agenda following a disruptive event. On the other hand, for long-term off-grid cooking, or even cooking on a sweltering hot summer day, this solar cooker can be used for grilling meats, making soups and stews, and even canning the summer harvest,
If you want to make your mouth water, take a quick peek at some of the recipes on the One Earth Designs website. Those grilled veggies sure look good!
I would like to thank the nice folks at One Earth Designs for sponsoring this fantastic giveaway. Please jump on over to their website and check them out. And remember, one lucky Backdoor Survival winner is going to win a fantastic SolSource Solar Cooker.
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Below you will find items mentioned in today’s article as well as other personal favorites. But first. Did you like my apron?
Princess Frill Lace Polka Dot Kitchen Cooking Apron: I purchased this apron on a whim and now it is a mainstay in my kitchen. Ladies, sometimes we just need to have some fun!
Lodge Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven, 5-Quart: I love the versatility of this Dutch Oven, plus the size is just perfect for the two of us. The lid serves double duty as a skillet and is easy to get on and off. Of course, I love cast iron in general.
LifeStraw Family 1.0 Water Purifier: While the individual Lifestraw is an important prep, it is a “straw” that you drink out of. The water can not be used for cooking or other purposes. On the other hand, the Lifestraw Family (BDS sponsor Eartheasy.com) will purify 9-12 liters of water per hour into a bucket or other container. It contains no chemicals, no batteries, and no moving parts to wear out. Read my review of the Lifestraw Family here.
Solo Stove & Pot 900 Combo: Ultralight Wood Burning Stove: For portability, this is my favorite rocket stove. What I like about this combo set is that the stove nests inside the pot. This combination is perfect for your bug-out kit and especially for heating water for use while brewing coffee or preparing freeze dried meal pouches. It is lightweight and it burns biomass, no other fuel is needed. Click to read my review of the Solo Stove.
Farberware Classic Stainless Steel Yosemite 8-Cup Coffee Percolator: Here is a link to my percolator. It makes great coffee on or off-grid.
A frequent question I get on Backdoor Survival has to do with healthcare matters when there is no doctor around. This is the definite source of survival medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible for survival medicine.