I must say that, in all my years of testing products, the Solar Flare Parabolic Solar Cooker has been one of my most challenging products to test. Made in the U.S., in Bountiful, Utah, this cooker proved a handful. No, not the product itself, rather the weather in my part of Oregon. For the better part of almost a month, we had very heavy, low-hanging fog. It’s been totally frustrating, to say the least!
Anyone who is a prepper, survivalist, camper, or hunter, should understand the “Rule Of Three”, and that is you should always have three ways of accomplishing a task. It’s sort of a back-up plan, with a secondary back-up plan, should plan one or plan two fail you. When it comes to cooking, we have several methods available to us at our homestead. We have our electric cook stove in the kitchen. We also have a propane camp stove that is used a lot when the power goes out. We have a BBQ grill that also has a propane burner on it. We also have a solar oven, and we have several “rocket-type” stoves as well. So, we have a lot of bases covered.
We had more than two solid weeks of heavy fog with no sunshine at all. So, it was impossible to test the Solar Flare Parabolic Cooker during this time. This is an example of why you need back-up plans for your preparedness items. You can’t always count on perfect weather or fuel supplies. I even took the Solar Flare up on a mountain near my home, hoping the fog wouldn’t be up that high. Wrong! On several occasions, the sun did break through late in the day. However, it wasn’t out long enough to get anything cooked in the Solar Flare. No sooner would I get everything set-up, which only takes a few minutes, the sun would disappear behind some heavy clouds or more fog would roll in. It was totally frustrating, to say the least.
A close look at the Solar Flare is in order, and it is one of those “why didn’t I think of that” inventions. First, we have the cooking vessel, which is a large Mason canning jar that has a special coating that helps it retain the heat, so the food cooks inside the jar. The temperature inside the jar can reach 350-400 degrees inside of a few minutes. With the special black colored coating, unlike other solar cookers, there are no hot or cold spots inside the jar, and you don’t have to stir your food as it cooks. In most cases, your food will cook in about 45 minutes to an hour. The cooking jar works similar to a pressure cooker.
We also have the reflector, which catches the sun’s rays. Unlike some solar ovens, this flexible reflector allows the sun’s rays to fully circle the Mason jar– 360 degrees. I’m not sure what material the solar reflector is made out of, but it is familiar to me, and there isn’t any information on the Solar Flare website as to what this material is. You can roll it up and place a rubber band around it, and place it in your backpack for easy transport. Just don’t fold it or wrinkle it, or you’ll lose a lot of the “reflectivity” of the reflector, so be advised!
You also get a plastic bucket with a lid on it to transport the special Mason jar. There is also a cooking bag, similar to what you might find at your local grocery store, that you can place the cooking vessel in on winter days; this helps retain the heat and cook your meal faster. I examined the plastic bag, and it looks for all the world like the bag my wife uses to cook our Thanksgiving turkey in. It helps retain the heat and moisture of the turkey, and it helps to cook it faster.
Here is how the Solar Flare set-up works. You take the reflector and put it together using the easy-to-use fasteners, so you have a parabolic shape to the reflector. You then place the cooking vessel (Mason jar) on top of the plastic bucket, with the lid on the bucket, and place the parabolic reflector around the cooking vessel. On colder days and in the winter, you should place the cooking vessel inside of the plastic cooking bag to help retain the heat and promote faster cooking. You also get two plastic “riser” cups, if you feel the need to raise the cooking vessel a little higher. It depends on the weather and the angle of the sun whether you need the riser cups or not. Experiment! You need to adjust the parabolic reflector so that it is catching the sun’s rays.
Okay, that’s it! There isn’t anything complicated about setting up the Solar Flare cooker. It really is “that” simple. The only problem I encountered, once we finally got around to actually being able to do some cooking with this product, was wind! A few times the reflector blew off the cooking jar. I did some checking on the Internet and have found numerous people who have used the Solar Flare cooker, and everyone loved it and said it was the best-of-the-best, in regards to this type of set-up. I can’t find much to fault. The thing works and works as advertised, so long as you have access to a solid hour or more of sunshine, and one of the best things is, you can’t overcook your meal.
I did find that it is best to let the cooking vessel cool down a bit before handling it; it gets VERY hot. You don’t have to put the lid on tight; just finger tight, in order for it to work as a pressure cooker. You can also use it to pasteurize water, too. Another thing worth noting is that, if you are on the run, you sure don’t want to make a campfire and have smoke giving away your position. On the other hand, you want to make sure that the solar reflector doesn’t give away your position either, with the sun reflecting off your cooker and giving the bad guys your exact location. However, with a little experimentation, you can safely hide the reflector with a little bit of camo, yet still allow it to cook your meal.
I’d like to see the Solar Flare come with two of the specially-coated Mason jars. Once one is filled and the food inside is cooked, you could place the second one inside the Solar Flare for a second person’s meal to start cooking. As an aside, I’d like to see Solar Zenith include some kind of carrier for the reflector, so after you roll it up, you can place it inside of the carrier and not worry about it getting bent or crinkled. A mailing tube that you could get at any post office of office supply store would work. Still, I think it would be a dandy item to include in the kit as it comes from the factory. That’s just my two-cents worth.
A single Solar Flare cooker sells for $69.99, and you can get two of them for $99.99. To be sure, they are a lot of fun to cook with, and they work as advertised, when you have some sunshine for more than an hour or so. I was totally frustrated with the lack of sunshine we had in our area, but I was determined that this product would work. Once the sun came out, at long last, I put it to the test and cooked several meals over several days. A person can cook a couple days worth of meals at one time, if they had more than one cooking vessel. You can purchase additional accessories from the company, so be sure to check out their website for more information.
Once again, this product proved that you really need to follow the “Rule Of Three”and have three different ways to accomplish any task, including cooking. Remember, no single method of doing anything is something you want to depend on. If you want to start a campfire, you should have matches, a flint and steel, a butane lighter, et cetera. Don’t just depend on the matches, and don’t depend on just one method of cooking. Explore other avenues, and the Solar Flare is one great method for flameless cooking in an emergency or even just cooking out in the great outdoors, as an alternate way of doing your cooking. It’s a worthwhile investment to your emergency preps. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio