SolSource™ Solar Grill: Can you cook using only the sun, reviewing a well-designed cooker

Review and video by Jesse Mathewson

SolSource™ Solar Grill: Can you cook using only the sun, reviewing a well-designed cooker

Solar cooking with SolSource solar cooker (video)

“O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.” Sun Tsu

In TEOTWAWKI or SHTF or just a loss of immediate utilities due to any number of natural disasters; or simple camping expeditions, sometimes you need to be able to cook without smoke or in fire restricted areas. Solar grills/ovens have been around for many years, personally I carry several yards of aluminum foil for just such an event as when I may need to cook without using wood and flame or white gas, kerosene, etc,.

Living in the high desert of the United States allows for a large amount of sunlight much of the year. Across the United States sunlight occurs regularly. In fact, of the many sources of energy available, it is the cleanest and by far the easiest to find. Magnifying glasses and reflective surfaces allow you to easily concentrate the energy from the sun and create steam, electrical power through solar panels and using solar cookers…meals!

One Earth Designs© took the time and effort to innovate a truly remarkable, well put together, intentionally designed piece of equipment I have seen in quite some time. I received it within 3 days of creating the order. After admiring the bog, slightly bulky box it came in, I proceeded to tear into it and get the instructions out. Thankfully the instructions are a cross between modern military guides for the LAW and other shoulder fired weapons and the easy to read instructions you get with furniture from that great big box store from Sweden

It really is essential to use two people when assembling, this is to save you from lots of french and possibly arabic swear words and the occasional scraped knuckles. Additionally, it allows you to put it together without anything breaking. Once together, the design ties together quite well and becomes very strong. Now of course being of reduced intellectual ability, not too mention stubborn, I had assembled most of it by myself and did so in under an hour with the tools included. Nothing broken, and only one thing that required adjustment due to being put together backwards.

Now a warning in advance, it is large, as in VERY large. It breaks down nicely and would be rather easy to store, however, when put together it is about 4’ tall and 4’ wide give or take a few inches or centimeters depending on where you may hail from. Of course it was dark at this point and I had to wait for the next day to actually test the cooking abilities. In the mean time I watched several of the videos the company has on their page, read reviews on the SolSource™ and searched around and checked out a plethora of other solar cooking ovens/grills and more.

Next day around 3 pm I set it up outside and started cooking, in the video you have the meat that was fried using the initial test run. This was thin cut steaks for Beef Stroganoff a personal and family favorite dish. They cooked up quickly, within 5 minutes were fully done. Next I set my camping Enameled Coffee/Tea 10 cup tea pot up on it filled with water and within 7 minutes had water boiling. I have no doubt that anything I want to cook within reason will easily be made on this cooker. It took the weight of the coffee pot and frying pan with ease. I also tested my Cast Iron 8 cup dutch oven on it and it didn’t even budge.

One thing I found out and will take into account is that steel and cast iron will not heat as evenly as the cast aluminum with ceramic coating they included in the package. With the ceramic coating and it being a well made aluminum pan and lid, the heating was evenly distributed, and remained hot for almost 20 minutes after removing it from the ridged cooking element that will hold almost any size (again within logical reason) pot or pan. It is not built to cook for a hundred people, however, for 4 through 10 people, it is perfect!

First as always a list of the positive attributes.

  1. It is well designed and made, tubular steel construction makes for a strong foundation for the solar dish itself.
  2. The solar dish is made from modern polymers with a reflective coating over the top of it and is extremely reflective. Cleaning it is easily done with a SOFT cotton cloth, and warm water with dawn dish-soap, I love my dawn dish-soap.
  3. You are better off getting the package, includes the cover for the solar dish and the skillet/lid which is nice, however, you can use any dark bottomed pot/pan to cook with. So no reason to get rid of your current cook-sets.
  4. It breaks down into a relatively easy to transport bundle and can be set up again in about 10-15 minutes.
  5. It really is a great cooking setup for the off-grid/homesteading and or long term camping person, persons.
  6. Easy to use, my 7 year old can and did help with cooking using it. The easy access point from the rear (keeps you from blocking sunlight) is accessible by anyone over 4’ tall.
  7. Pricing is not bad, when compared to others pre built solar ovens and cookers in existence today, the entire package runs right at $550 dollars or so depending on where you purchase it. The cooker by itself runs $460 plus shipping. Calculating the ability to avoid using propane, white gas, kerosene or simply scrounging wood you can easily recoup monies spent using this.

The cons of this cooker.

  1. Pricing, it is on the high end, I have no doubt that once it becomes more popular pricing will reflect this and you should see small reductions, of course this also means possible reductions in quality. So given the amount of time and effort put into ensuring this product is made well, works well and the testing completed. I would say while this is a small con for some, for those that can, buy it now!
  2. Breaking it down, it would be nice to be able to fold the dish down smaller than 4’ in diameter. Everything else breaks down easily and can be stored in and around other camping and or prepping gear. The dish itself is the largest single component. It is bulky, taking up precious cargo space. If you have a small vehicle, you wont be able to use this easily without completely taking it apart, and this will cause premature wear on the components. Remember, the size is what allows it to quickly and easily use even a small amount of sunlight to work well.
  3. It is a large reflective surface, no smoke, this is a plus, however, reflective surfaces can be as bad. So be aware of this, and of course remember, it reflects where you aim it. Not a large issue, but something to consider nonetheless.

For myself and my family, this unit will be included in our camping setup (old motorcycle trailer converted) as a valuable addition to the preps we already have in place and keep ready at all times. The great thing is, we love to camp, so having this trailer parked in the garage pre-loaded with everything we need is not abnormal to anyone who knows us. And of course there is the simple fact that my garage is generally off limits and rarely seen anyhow.

More than likely I will be picking up their solar oven as well, after testing and enjoying this product, I really do think some more solid solar products is the way to go, at least for myself living in the high deserts of Arizona/New Mexico/ Texas/ Nevada/ Utah/ North East Washington and the like. Overall I give this product 3.5 out of 5 stars, it would have an easy 5 stars if the solar dish was easier to pack and move.

The design, materials used and solid overall construction means it should easily last several years of dedicated use. For the price, this is acceptable in terms of cost versus benefit. Well done OneEarthDesigns© and keep the innovations coming, would love to see a solar distiller that was easier to transport than what is available now.

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  1. Seems like a decent product from your review. Of course being the pauper I am it is a bit on the pricey end for me.

  2. I love the thought of a solar cooker and have a solar oven that works great when there is sun. Unfortunately for solar cooking, we do not live somewhere that sun enough for solar cooking is a given. My choice though, would rather have reliable access to ground water.

  3. mom of three says:

    It looks awesome but I do live in a very cloudy rainy state, summer is the only time we could use this unit.

  4. Chuck Findlay says:

    Yes it’s expensive and it would make a dent in most people’s wallets, mine included. And that would not stop me from getting one as I am a firm believer in buying quality items that last as in the long run they are always the better use of your money.

    My problem is I live in the Toledo Ohio area and for a good part of the year there is just not enough sun to warrant a solar cooker. I wish there was as it’s a great way to cook.

    For the most reliable outdoor/ primitive cooking I have bought and or made wood stoves.
    An interesting wood stove / water heater / water sterilizer is the Thermette. I have one and love using it. It boils 1/2 gal of water in 5-min and while a bit cumbersome (cooking on it is a second use, not the primary) you can cook food with it.

    Just U-Tube Thermette. A bit expensive, but it works great.

    • Ill look it up, this units primary benefit is rhe use of any of your small through medium large cookware will work 🙂

      But always interested in upgrades and better!

  5. Thomas The Tinker says:

    ??? Sir … did you happen to research any smaller units available? This looks to be a nice unit for a more perm. set up. I haven’t done any testing or timing on a 20 lb. bottle of LP but I’m thinking it would take quite a bit of it to ‘buy back’ the solar cooker. Then… one assumes an endless supply of LP and this unit is around the same cost as any entry level AR.. and I don’t need another one of those.

    At its buy back cost this unit falls right in there with Generators, solar panel & batt. banks, garden ‘engines’ and the like. I too live in No. W. Ohio and our sun hours are limited over half the year… but no need to hump charcoal, sticks and twigs and wood in general so….. you have a valid product here Jesse …. (as if you need my sage like opinion to tellyathat)

    This unit looks like it could run a water still as long as the sun was up and fair clouds … I think that is what has me doodling on the scratch pad… Thanks Jesse.

    • It could, I think with a solid tepee drop approach you could easily run a water still. Just shift it every hour or so as sun moves…

    • Most of the smaller prebuilt units run using a tube cooker, I dont like that, I want to be able to use my cookware- reinvesting in all new cookware is for me at least, fiscally inappropriate.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      Thomas Living where we do a wood based way to sterilize water is the way to go.

      Look at the Thermette or Kelly Kettle.

  6. When I was in the Saudi desert it was nearly hot enough to cook an egg on the ground equipment and on the blacktop. We got the whites to turn mostly opaque and yokes hot. With a solar cooker, it would have worked very well.

    I have seen people use solar cooking devices, where I live in Michigan and it’s always disappointing results. It seem that using a few sticks in the rocket stove would work much better here.

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