Use Arizona sun to cook like an oven

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PHOENIX – We like to joke in Arizona that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk during our hot summer days.

While that might be a little farfetched, it turns out you can cook under the Arizona sun if you have the right kind of oven. We found out when we put out some oatmeal-raspberry-coconut cookies at the station.

It was no surprise lots of people tried them. What is surprising? The secret ingredient: sunshine. Gabrielle Mandola cooked them in the Sun Oven solar oven. "This is an oven and it does get up to 350 degrees consistently. I have reached temperatures of 400, but consistently it gets up to 350." 

That means Mandola can cook about any recipe she wants in one. "Meat, stewed meats, roast vegetables, bread, cookies, they all come out great. I even make my bacon in it." 

Mandola says she first bought her Sun Oven several years ago. "We had just installed a solar heater so we were kind of interested in solar and all that, so I saw a flyer for a solar cook-off." 

She says she didn't really use it until she started a blog documenting her recipes and while that got her started, it's not what keeps her cooking. "I continued using it, because I really like, preferred the way the food comes out of it. If it didn't make the food better, or at least as good as traditional cooking, I wouldn't use it." 

The Sun Ovens were first developed for areas struck by disaster or where electric or gas cooking wasn't an option, says Mandola."

They were developed for use in countries where people spend either half of their income or half of their day searching for fuel. Women spend all day over a fire.

Then of course for the U.S. market, there is the market for people who are interested in being prepared for emergencies, people who want to save energy, people who just like to eat well." 

The ovens weigh about 21 pounds and fold open in just a few seconds. Cooking times are similar to a regular oven if you turn it with the sun, but a big advantage with meats and soups is that you can put your food in in the morning and Mandola says, "Set your sun oven up to where the noon day sun is. It is going to stay at a safe temperature between 180 and 350 all day. When you come home it is just like a slow cooker, you food is going to be ready to eat."

A lot of feedback Sun Oven gets talks about how juicy the meats are, all of the broth in the chicken provencal Mandola cooked at 3TV, came from the chicken, no water was added.

Mandola says her energy consumption did drop as well. While she's not complaining about that, she still says, “As the old saying goes the proof is in the pudding."

That difference wouldn't have been enough for me if the food wasn't superior quality." Sun Ovens cost between $250 and $300 dollars depending on the dealer.

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