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How to Make a Copenhagen-Style Solar Panel Oven

Making a Small Copenhagen Panel Oven

Sunlight is your cooking fuel when you direct it towards a pot or other cooking vessel. By focusing light on a dark colored pot and converting it to heat, you can prepare delicious cooked food. Make one today for your next camping trip; a fun project with your children; and, in sunny locations, your everyday cooking. 

The instructions below are for a small panel cooker with 11 inch square reflectors and a 4-3/4 inch square cooking space. Scale the sizes as necessary to create a larger cooker.

Gather your supplies

  • 1 sheet of Poster or Card Board 22 in. x 22 in. (55.9 cm x 55.9 cm)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Reflective material (foil, reflective mirror sheeting, interior side of chip/snack bags, etc.)
  • Masking or duct tape (optional)


  • If using poster board, turn the shiny side down. 
  • Find and mark the center of the square. This can be done by folding the board in half vertically, opening it, and then folding in half horizontally.
  • Make a mark 3-1/2 inches from the center along each fold.
  • Using the ruler, draw lines from one mark to another until you’ve drawn a small square on the board.
  • Turn the board over and glue the reflective material to the board.
  • Turn over again and cut along the fold line from the outside edge of the board to the marks made. (Don’t cut into the small square.)
  • Fold along the lines that created the small square to form the base for your cooker. (The reflective sides should be folded towards each other.)
  • Raise each outer (reflective side) panel up towards you. 
  • Form a funnel by overlapping the edges of adjoining panels.
  • Hold together with a sturdy clip or clothespin.
  • Optional: If you want, glue edges to hold them together. (Once glued, you won’t be able to fold flat for storage.)
  • Optional: To create a sturdier cook surface, make a separate 4-3/4 inch x 4-3/4 inch square, and glue it to the center of your panel oven. If you glue it to the reflective side, you should either cover it with foil or paint it black.)

Setting Up the oven

Place the oven with the small square base on a level surface.

Practice aligning the panels toward the sun. When the oven is facing the sun properly, a perfect shadow should form.

If the sun is low in the sky, lower the from panel slightly (or completely) so that the cooking space is not blocked.


Cooking with your Copenhagen Panel Oven

Use a small black metal pan that fits on the small square.

Place the pan of food inside a heat trap such as an oven bag or two inverted bowls (the pan sits in one and the other is placed upside down to form a lid). 

Set the pan of food (in heat trap) on the square base of the panel oven.

In direct sun, this oven can reach 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Low temperature cooking takes longer so allow more time for food to cook thoroughly. 

You can use an oven thermometer to monitor the temperature inside your heart trap. 

Try something simple like rice, grain, or vegetables to begin with. Then, try harder items once you have some experience with this cooker.

Safety During Solar cooking

  • Direct light waves are concentrated on shiny surfaces and can cause eye damage. Protect your eyes from light reflecting off the shiny panels (wear good sunglasses).
  • Surfaces, cooking pots (including heat traps), and food can get very hot. Handle with care using potholders or other protective gear.
  • To avoid fires, do not allow the solar reflectors to focus on anything other than the cooking space.
  • Close the reflectors or cover them when you are not cooking.
These instructions are courtesy of Solar Education Project and are a variation of the original Copenhagen design by Sharon Clausson. For recipes and more, visit Solar Education Project
To learn how to make a larger Copenhagen panel oven, watch this video on YouTube.

Additional Resources:

How to Build a Simple Box-Style Solar Cooker by Earth Water Alliance.

Why and How to Cook with a Solar Cooker by Earth Water Alliance.

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