How To Make That Old Satellite Dish Cook All Your Meals

Grab that old satellite dish out of the dark corner of you garage and get those hot dogs ready. [Share alike license] is going to show us how to turn the dish into a solar cooker.

Harnessing the sun’s power requires a reflective surface. Although the image above makes it look like a mirror finish, this is really just covered in foil tape. This is what’s used to seal duct work and can be had for a few bucks at any home store. You’ll notice the dish is pointed up quite a bit more than it would have been when receiving satellite television. The mount on the back of the dish has been turned 180 degrees to allow for this. You want the rays to be focused on the bottom of the cooking area instead of the side and this will do the trick. A small grate was added just below the pinnacle of the receiver tripod. For now it has only been used to boil a pot of water. We’d like to see it grilling up some dogs but you’ll have to figure out a way to catch the drippings. We wonder if a transparent baking pan would block too much of the heat energy?

This is a great way to add purpose to neglected equipment. But if you’re serious about solar cooking you need something more along these lines.

29 thoughts on “How To Make That Old Satellite Dish Cook All Your Meals

    1. Well, no. This is a start, but it’s the easy part. Auto sun tracking is significantly harder.

      Plus, checking on the progress of your meal or stirring it, when it’s 10+ feet in the air and bathed in a death ray, is troublesome. Tilting the assembly so that it’s no longer a death ray might result in your edible dish and satellite dish becoming one in the same. Taking the food down instead might also be tricky, if it requires welding goggles just to look at it.

      Lots of issues to be solved before it can be considered a practical means of cooking, without which few will bother with it other than out of curiosity, or absolute necessity. Neither of which significantly contributes to solving the world’s energy problems, though I’ll concede that variations of this have the potential to reduce air pollution in regions where the most common fuel source is wood. And one issue is unsolvable, no matter what – no cooking for you if it’s cloudy.

      Show me a solar cooker than can not only cook ramen, but a tasty wood-chip smoked brisket too; without resulting in major frustration and cursing. Until then, I shall maintain the stance that they cannot “cook all your meals”; unless you have very plain meals. ;)

      1. Yeah I find it pretty easy to work with. I have my ladder set up next to it and only have to go up a couple of steps to easily reach it. To stir the food, all I have to do is transfer it to the top of the ladder, stir it then put it back. An when I’m up there it is only as bright as in the photo on my blog so I don’t need welding goggle to use it.

        I don’t have the foggiest idea how to cook ramen, but I think smoking would probably be achievable with it. Thanks for the idea, I may just look into it.

  1. Be careful doing that! A friend had one, and it was pointed sideways and I walked in front of it… bad bad bad… Also, if you leave them pointed in the wrong direction, you can start fires easily, my friend accidentally caught his lawn on fire :)
    Also, the issue with cooking is a lack of insulation, so a steamer is awesome, or a well insulated pot for boiling hotdogs would also be a good idea. These kinds of ideas are best for places like Haiti, were such a solar cooking idea (used primarily for the resource intensive cooking of rice) could replace the wasteful method they currently employ of burning, which also leads to sever lung issues :(

    1. I had a two foot long solar vacuum tube (the kind used in commercial solar water heaters) and it could boil enough water for four cups of water in 40 minutes just leaving it outside in sunlight. That was the coolest thing to have ever, as it didn’t take very long, and it was easy to use.

      1. When not in use, I make sure to ALWAYS flip it upside down. There was one time I just had it laying back and had my leg in the path of the beam, wasn’t at it’s proper angle obviously so the light wasn’t properly focused, and it did start to give me a bit of a burn (felt like maybe approximately 50~60 degrees C). So, I’m always extra vigilant now.

  2. A few bucks for foil tape? Where is this? here in Ohio it is $10-$16 per 50 yd roll it lasts awhile but not all that long. For something like this I think Aluminum foil and glue would be a better choice.

    1. Aluminium foil may have been an option but I would of had to cut out a lot of squares to get it to go down nice and flat without many ripples. The tape idea came from a person who did a similar thing with a smaller dish that was at my local electric vehicle festival this year. It’s already cut in strips, has glue that can handle 120 degrees C and is thicker then standard foil so I went with that way instead. Although, it would probably be a better option on a smaller dish, mainly due to the tin side of the foil being more reflective then the aluminium is on mine.

  3. “This is a great way to add purpose to neglected equipment. But if you’re serious about solar cooking you need something more along these lines.”

    Jesus christ man, have some tact. you’re basically coming out and saying “here’s a better project”. I don’t really see how that is better. Actually, I’d argue that this one is better (parabolic vs. planes approximating parabolic.). This one just needs a better mirroring, and it’d be optimal. I’m starting to get tired of this shit. If you keep it up, I’m gonna compile a list of of all this shit and publish it. You really need to find a way to say “here’s another related project” with some tact.

    Also, your grammar is wrong. you can not start a sentence with “but”. Just make it “everything, but” and it’s correct. It’s really not that hard.

    1. Dude, I hope you don’t read my blog, my spelling and grammar is atrocious lol. I truely don’t mind if they link to a “better”/different project at all, I actually like it. I’m all about sharing and inspiring. If they can help someone find a project that suits them better, and that inspires them into action, then I’m totally for it. I still feel my project fills a bit of a void between some of the others I’ve seen, so I still feel it’s good of them to share it with the world. I do actually feel honoured that they posted it all.

    1. An even better option would be to troll garage sales for cheap mirrors, invest in a glass cutter, and cut the mirrors down to small squares, then use some construction adhesive to attach them to the dish, and then the most amount of light will be reflected. I’ve seen a blog elsewhere where a guy managed to do this to one of those old 10 foot dishes from the 80’s. took him a while to get enough mirrors, but when he was done, he could put a piece of wood at the focal point and it would start smoking almost immediately. I think he had a pot of water boiling within 5 minutes on a clear sunny day.

      makes me VERY interested to attempt this, as i have access to one of those at my inlaws that isn’t in use any more…it seems no one wants them for some reason – stating something about it being an eye sore… My first idea for it a few years back was to flip it over and use it as a sun shade over my kids picnic table, but death ray would be so much cooler!!!

  4. I went a little different route with a large one that i got from a car dealership that i was retrofitting there A/C system .
    it was a few years ago when i lived at a different house, turned it into a fountain lol
    had a very tall pine tree that had been killed by pool bleach (it was an accident)so in it’s place i laid it down and surrounded it with stones (Florida shale stone) and ran power to a pump .
    for Halloween i colored it with red water color paint and put large plastic body parts in it lol

  5. you should try this with mylar instead of foil tape, it has a 99% reflective surface, should prove more effective. it’s easier to handle than aluminium foil but is not self adhesive usually.

  6. If you can get the surface to a high gloss, no matter what color, and free of wax, there are a couple of spray on paints that will reflect better than aluminum flue tape.

    One is Spaz Stix Mirror Chrome. They also have a special clear coat paint to protect it. Spray this onto glass or glass-smooth clear plastic and you have a mirror. Apply their white or black backer paint over the chrome to protect it. Doesn’t work so well for front surface reflecting, it’s intended used is for back painting of Lexan RC car bodies.

    Alsa sells Killer Chrome in Killer Cans as a one step application. The problem is the paint is a two component catalyzed system, activated by twisting a knob on the bottom of the can. Once activated you have a limited time to use the paint before it hardens in the can. Another product from Alsa is Ultimate Mirror Chrome. It’s extremely finely milled aluminum suspended in alcohol. Spray it onto a smooth surface, wait for the alcohol to flash off, then spray on their protective clear coat. Both products intended for front surface reflecting, the UMC product should work for back surface mirrors on glass or plastic.

    Another process sold by several companies (Spectra Chrome is one) applies a self smoothing base coat which is then sensitized (probably with tin chloride) then a silver solution is applied, followed by drying then a clear or tinted clear coat. Reflectivity is good but unless the sensitizer works on plain glass or clear plastics (tin chloride would work on glass) it’s not usable for back surface mirrors due to the opaque base coat.

    This is an expensive process due to the need for specialized equipment, including a water purification and deionization system. The process is intended for commercial use where a lot of items will be coated or a few very large items will be coated.

    Spaz Stix and Alsa systems are much less cost for small projects, though entire cars have been painted with their Killer Chrome in the spray cans.

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