What is a solar hot dog cooker?
Can you really build one that works?
Are solar hot dog cookers useful for meal prep or more beneficial as fun, kid-friendly activities?
Solar hot dog cookers are DIY projects designed to use the power of the sun to cook a hot dog. Although they make take a while to do their job, they’re a fun and interesting way to enjoy meal prep when you have direct sunlight to work with.
It’s easy to build a solar hot dog cooker that works. As long as you have the right materials and enough direct sunlight to get the job done, these cookers function well and create nicely cooked hot dogs in under half an hour after setup.
Solar hot dog cookers are a fun kid-friendly project that helps teach kids science and geometry. However, they can also be an exciting way for adults to prepare food on the go, especially when camping or spending time at the beach.
In this article, you’ll find a quick how-to guide to help you learn more about making your own solar hot dog cooker.
With this information, you can put together a cooker for your backyard or your campsite using just a few household materials in a short amount of time. Read on to learn more!
How to Build a Solar Hot Dog Cooker
In this section, you’ll learn how to build a solar hot dog cooker. This is just one of the methods you might choose to make your cooker, but it’s a great way to learn more about the process and enjoy a hands-on experiment at the same time.
This version of the solar hot dog cooker will require some help from an adult or an older teen who can safely handle an electric power drill and a utility knife. Kids should ask for assistance with these two tools, but should have no trouble completing the rest of this project without help from anyone else.
Materials and Equipment Needed
- Utility knife – the type with a retractable blade works best, but anything that will cut cardboard smoothly works too.
- Cardboard box – choose a long, rectangular box for best results.
- Scissors – these should be sharp enough to cut through cardboard if needed as well.
- Poster board – a single sheet of white poster board is best.
- Tape – clear Scotch tape is fine; masking tape probably won’t hold, and duct tape may be too sticky for the job.
- Tin foil – you will need enough to cover the poster board.
- Electric drill – only an adult should operate this!
- 2 wood dowels – these should be thick enough to drill a hole through.
- Skewers – if you don’t have a skewer, you can use a clean stick or chopstick.
- Hot dogs – any kind you like!
1. Choose the right box for the job. It’s best to use a longer box since it has more surface area and will make more heat via solar rays.
2. Cut the top off the box using your utility knife.
3. Draw a half-circle on one of the long sides of the box. This is also known as a parabola.
4. Use the utility knife to cut out the parabola and discard the piece you cut off of the box.
5. Repeat the parabola drawing and cutting process on the other long side of the box.
6. Shape your poster board so that it fits into the box, resting on the curves you cut in the last step. You may need to use scissors to cut the poster board to the right length and width for this step.
7. Use the tin foil to cover the poster board, taking care not to wrinkle it as much as possible. To attach it, use tape on the back of the poster board.
8. Tape the poster board with the foil cover into position on the box. Remember, it should sit on the curve you made by cutting out the two parabolas.
9. Take the box outside and find a spot where it will receive direct sunlight. You might have to try several places to figure out the best position for the cooker.
10. Use your hand to tell which part of the cooker is generating the most heat. This is the “focal point” of the cooker.
11. Cut wood dowels to hold the hot dog skewers. The idea is to position one wood dowel on either side of the focal point you found in the last step.
12. Use the power drill to drill a small hole into each of the wood dowels.
13. Place the wood dowels in the right position on either long side of your cooker. Make sure the holes in the dowels are positioned so that the skewer will hang over the focal point.
14. Skewer the hot dog and set the skewer, with the hot dog, into place using the holes on the wood dowels.
15. If you have found the right focal point, it should take around 10-12 minutes for your hot dog to cook. This time will depend on the season, climate, and position of the sun, so check the hot dog often to make sure it’s getting enough heat to cook.
16. Don’t forget to turn your hot dog if you want it to cook completely on both sides!
Did you learn something about how to make this solar hot dog cooker? Although there are multiple ways to tackle this project, this version is one of the best. The shape of the box cuts and the poster board with the tin foil help collect solar energy more efficiently than some of the other methods out there, and they reflect that solar energy in the right way to heat up your hot dog in a short amount of time.
But what makes the hot dog really get hot? How does this hot dog cooker actually work?
Because of the way a parabola is shaped, it collects the most heat right in the center of the curve. This heat hits the parabola’s focus point and bounces off, hitting the hot dog next. Basically, the parabola with the shiny, reflective tin foil in place works like a mirror and bounces the heat and light off of itself toward the hot dog.
The parabola wouldn’t do this if the material used wasn’t reflective like tin foil, and the hot dog wouldn’t cook well if it wasn’t placed at the focus point. When done right, the result is a fully-cooked hot dog heated through with the power of the sun. Just remember that it might take a while for the tin foil and the hot dog to heat up all the way!
Now that you know a little bit more about how this project works, you can try making a solar hot dog cooker for yourself. With a little bit of preparation and a few simple, household materials, you can put together this project in no time.
It’s a fun way for kids to learn a little bit about science, and it can be an exciting family activity when you’re spending the day on the beach or out camping, too. Grab your materials and get started constructing right away!