Using sunlight to cook

The principle behind solar cooking is simple – eliminate the need for fuels such as wood, paraffin, gas or coal to prepare meals – by converting the sun’s rays to heat and conducting it into the pot. High-quality solar cookers can reach temperatures of over 2000C which is more than enough to cook any kind of food, bake bread, and boil water to secure vital clean drinking-water supplies in any environment.

Crosby Menzies, founder and CEO of SunFire parabolic cookers, explains that in many places around Africa there is no electricity, and where electricity is available it is very expensive. “The world’s poorest people spend a substantial portion of their income on costly cooking fuels, such as paraffin and gas, which are unsustainable. Solar energy can save millions of households and society-at-large time and money, while averting a needless environmental disaster.”
Menzies adds that solar cookers save time; reduce women and children’s workloads; save money by using less of other fuels; are healthier because there is no smoke that causes respiratory and eye diseases; can be used to cook healthy food that requires little or no water or oil; are safe with little risk of fires and burns, or children swallowing fuels such as paraffin; can be used to purify water or to create a new industry with many jobs; use renewable energy which is free of real energy costs, and protect the environment.
He explains that the SunFire parabolic cooker’s curved solar dishes focus the sun’s rays on a point where a pot or kettle is placed – just like you would use a magnifying glass to burn holes in a paper – harnessing the sun’s rays to cook food and boil water.
“There are 300m people in southern Africa and they all need to cook. So solar cookers could be like the next cellphone,” Menzies remarks. He reached this realisation while watching people using solar cookers in Zambia, which started him on a path to founding his business and criss-crossing South Africa to spread his dream.
Menzies says that although overcast conditions mean only slow-cooking food such as stews can be prepared, South Africa enjoys extremely high radiation and a high frequency of sunlight. “This means you can harvest more than twice the amount of energy that you could from a similar appliance in Germany.”
To help subsidise the cookers, Menzies has tapped into a carbon offset initiative in the United Kingdom. Airline passengers can voluntarily pay a fee to the Tourism Industry Carbon Offset Service to offset the carbon emissions they rack up while flying. Because SunFire’s cookers replace conventional cooking methods, such as using electricity or open fires, they lessen the environmental impact these communities have on the planet.
SunFire Solutions; contact Crosby Menzies, founder and CEO: mobile +27 (0)82 954 0144 or office +27 (0)11 624 2432.Website:

Three options to suit different needs
SunFire parabolic solar cookers are available in three models:
1. SunFire12: is a 1.2 metre outer focus cooker or “dish”. It has a power output of 500W and boils a litre of water in 15 minutes. The dish needs to be aligned with the sun every 20-30 minutes for optimal performance.
Assembly kits are 65 x 60 x 10cm and weigh 10kg. SunFire 12 costs R1,500 ($178.33) plus R200 ($23.77) to courier anywhere within South Africa. To avoid fires, the dish must be kept out of the sun when not in use.
2. SunFire 15: is a 1.5 metre outer focus cooker with a 1,000W power output. It boils a litre of water in eight minutes and needs to be aligned with the sun every 20-30 minutes for optimal performance. Assembly kits are 80 x 72 x 10cm and weigh 16kg. Postage anywhere within South Africa is R200 ($23.77) and the cooker
costs R2,000 ($237.74). The dish must be faced away from the sun when not in use, to avoid fires.
3. SunFire 18: is a 1.8 metre outer focus cooker with a power output of 2,000W, which means that it can boil a litre of water in four minutes. SunFire 18 needs to be aligned with the sun every 20-30 minutes for optimal performance, and the dish must be faced away from the sun or covered when not in use to avoid fires.
Assembly kits are 75 x 75 x 14cm and weigh 20kg. This cooker boils a maximum of 10.5 litres, but can be supplied with a 12.5 litre pot for an additional R300 ($35.64). SunFire 18 costs R2,500 ($297.20) plus R250 ($29.72) for postage anywhere within South Africa.