From a corner of the outdoor-cooking world come products that skip wood or fuel like propane, heating with nothing but concentrated sunlight.
I first encountered solar ovens in the Himalayas. Monks heating water for tea outside a monastery in Nepal at 16,000 feet simply placed a pot in a sheet-metal cone. The sun’s light, reflected and concentrated in one spot, brought a kettle to a boil fast.
Earlier this summer, at my home near sea level in Minnesota, I cooked food in a solar oven, the GoSun Stove. It is a glass-and-aluminum contraption with reflectors and a sword-like cooking tray. (See the full review, “GoSun Stove Bakes Food With Sunshine.”)
Now comes the PhotonGrill, a cooker made with an inflatable dish-reflector covered in high-strength foil. The company sells it as a “high-power portable BBQ,” and it can cook or grill almost anything.
No charcoal, fuel, or even matches are required; heat concentrated by the PhotonGrill’s dish cooks food in an included 11-inch pan.
It’s said to reach 500°F within less than 5 minutes in bright sun. You can cook “faster than an ordinary charcoal grill,” the company touts.
The unit packs up small for carrying to a beach or a camp site, weighing about 7 pounds. Unpack the legs of the unit, unfold the dish, and inflate it — you will have a cooking station in minutes.
The Austrian company is selling it now on Kickstarter for about $220. If funded, the PhotonGrill will ship in May, 2016.
Solar Cooking Is Real
Solar cooking is legit. We have not tested the PhotonGrill, but we have tested the concept. There is no smoke, no needed fuel, and cleanup is usually easy.
You do need bright, direct sun to cook, however. Start your dinner plans early if you use the PhotonGrill or similar products.
Once the sun dips down, you’re out of luck, and it’s time to start a campfire or find matches for the gas grill again.