Solar Hot Dog Cooker Does It With Parabolic Mirrors

For a university project [Adam Libert] decided to make his very own parabolic hot dog cooker. Now, we must say, this is a project that could probably be cobbled together in a weekend from scraps, but since it was for a lab, [Adam] decided to go all out — complete with a perfect laser cut frame.

The objective of the lab was to design a project that can use solar radiation to accomplish a task, and being partial to hot dogs, the hot dog cooker was a natural choice. He designed the parabolic mirror to focus 1/5th of a square meter of sunlight directly at a hot dog. To do this, he laser cut the frame out of MDF, and using tinfoil, toothpicks, and poster paper, assembled the mirror. The whole thing cost less than $5 (ignoring laser time) and can be setup in a matter of minutes.

He determined the heat output of the cooker to be around 10W at the hot dog, which means he was able to bring the hot dog to 150°F in about 10 minutes — which was surprisingly close to his original calculations, because let’s face it, tin foil is hardly an ideal mirror.

Interested in other solar cookers? Why not cover a satellite dish in foil tape? Or if you want a quicker-cooked-hot-dog, why not plug it directly into the wall?

26 thoughts on “Solar Hot Dog Cooker Does It With Parabolic Mirrors

    1. There are any number of places one can salvage off-cuts. Construction sites, manufacturing houses, etc. Ask permission, and they’re usually happy to have somebody haul off their garbage.

  1. Mylar is a much better reflector and just about as easy, if not easier to work with than aluminum foil. A cheap mirror from the home goods section of your favortive box store cut into smaller pieces probably would have worked as well, although much heavier and more fragile. But I made a lot of these things when I was a kid and into “survival” camping.

  2. At an average of 200W of sunlight energy available for 1/5 m², 10W is pretty bad.
    I wonder if the equivalent surface dedicated to a solar heater (black box with a glass window) wouldn’t be much more efficient.

    1. I built a much smaller solar cooker box from a couple of cardboard boxes salvaged from a bin behind circle-k; nested one inside the other, filled the space (about a 4 inch gap – sides and bottom) between with crumpled newspaper (also free). Glued foil on the inside of the inner box and spray painted it flat black with bbq paint. Made a lid to fit with a piece of glass on top (also free – off-cut from Lowes). The box measured about 24″ x 18″ x 18″ or so – inner box about 16″ x 10″ x 10″. I put a black camping pot inside with a lid, filled with beans and water, and set it in the sun with an oven thermometer inside. Added an old mylar auto window shade around the outside to reflect more light in. Every 15 minutes or so I would re-orient it; it ended up heating to well over 250 degrees F, and in a few hours I had perfectly cooked beans. I also tried to make cornbread in it – turned it into a dried, hard brick!

    1. Check out those references. Some pretty interesting stuff in there.

      Ohh I found one that may be related to me. Number 7:

      Lloyd Lawrence Gallardo.
      An evaluation of United States Department of Labor policy
      regarding wages paid Mexican Nationals: Michigan pickles: a case study
      . PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1962.

      Stupid thesis aside, I delivered some material to one of the last remaining pickling facilities in that area. It was being completely gutted and changed over to be a mental health facility. Just imagine it.
      Patient:”I’m not crazy! You are CRAZY!! It smells like pickles everywhere!!!”
      Psych:”Well looks like you haven’t shown any improvement over the pickles issue this month. I’m going to keep you for observation another few weeks.”
      Patient:”Noooo!! Damn you kosher dills!!! DAMN YOU!!!!”

  3. Mmm- keep in mind that meat cooking via solar energy may be unhealthy! Things may go well with a clear sky (perhaps TOO well !), but sudden clouds may leave the meats only partially cooked. Folks -especially children-will tend to eat them anyway = hello all manner of stomach woes. Best to maybe cook something less picky – cheese burgers perhaps!?

    1. I would think hotdogs would be one of the better choices of meats to use here actually.

      If you buy the hoddogs from the store, they are pre-cooked and thus can even be eaten “raw” from the package (eww and ick, but it shouldn’t harm you at all)

      Meat such as ground hamburger doesn’t come pre-cooked, at least anywhere I’ve shopped for it. I’m no expert however.

      1. Eww and ick? I love a “raw” hotdog (though a pre-cooked polish sausage is much better)!

        Also – you can get pre-cooked hamburger patties (though I don’t recommend them for those who really like a good burger).

  4. Sun burned weiner, OUCH! Anyway he should have added a solar powered rotisserie to turn the hot dog while it cooks, now all he needs is a pack of buns and a sunny street corner.

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