“Solar Burner” parabolic cooker: assembly and first impressions

I’ve been using the Solar Burner (SB) for a few days now and wow can this baby burn! I keep it covered anytime it’s not in use because it’s fairly easy to accidentally look at it and get seriously dazzled by the light. Even with sunglasses I find myself occasionally catching a flash.

But let’s rewind a bit and go back to the assembly. You can see details of the unassembled parts on this cantinawest page.

I’m a fairly slow & methodical assembler of things like this and it took me a bit over an hour to complete the assembly on my own. It would have gone faster if I had the appropriate cordless screwdriver attachments for the bolts. The included written instructions were not good. Fortunately Nathan at cantinawest provided some clearer photos and tips via the linked page above.

The product was fairly described as having sub-par fit & finish. There were some scuffs & scratches on the mylar surface, but they become practically invisible in the sunlight. Some edges of the metal parabola segments were a bit bent out of shape, but not in any critical spot. It’s what I expected from a $170 product and I think it’s great value at that price.

I cooked a curry in a pressure cooker on the SB yesterday. It took roughly the same amount of time as it would have on a gas stove. That was around 4:30 pm. At noon today I put some leftovers on to reheat and it got hot very fast, maybe even faster than the high setting on my stove. I was prepared to preheat the pot for warmups, but that’s not going to be necessary.

You can really see the difference in the vertical sun angle between noon and 4:30 pm. I don’t have to adjust that angle during a typical 30-60 min. cooking session, but I certainly will between noon and evening sessions. It also drove home the lesson already learned from SolarCooking forum members that adjusting that angle in a box cooker is also important, especially since my typical time frame for that cooker is noon to 5 pm.

This is a big dish (5 ft. diameter) and some folks with short arm reaches may not feel comfortable having to reach out a couple of feet to hold and stir the pot. I’ve heard from more than one source that the Tinytech (or clone) is a more manageable size in that respect. With a 45″ x 45″ square reflector, the distance to the cooking platform is probably significantly shorter.

Two big thumbs up for the Solar Burner! Together with a pressure cooker and thermal pot, it’s going to get more use than my box oven. That will still see plenty of use as a slow cooker and dehydrator. I’ve got a small solar fan on its way from Hong Kong to help make the latter work.

Important note: Do not underestimate the burning power of the light reflected by such a large parabolic dish. As advised in many blogs & forums, I wore dark sunglasses to protect my eyes. Even then I avoided looking directly at the dish. Of course, NEVER put your hand near the focal area. Here’s the obligatory video shot.


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