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Pizza box solar oven

You will need:

  • 1 x cardboard pizza box
  • Aluminium foil
  • Clear kitchen plastic wrap
  • 1 x wooden kebab stick
  • Black plastic garbage bag
  • Scissors, sticky tape and glue
  • It can help if you have access to a box cutter (with an adult!)
  • Thermometer, chocolate squares or even butter!

Pizza box solar oven at window
Pizza box solar oven at window


  1. Using the box cutters and adult help, carefully cut a 'U-shape' in the top lid of the pizza box so that you have a flap that can be bent upwards when the pizza box is closed.
  2. Cut a sheet of Aluminium foil so that it is larger than the cardboard flap you've made. Wrap this Aluminium foil around the inner side of this flap so that it faces downward into the pizza box. use tape to secure the foil. The foil will be your mirror to reflect sunlight.

    Top of pizza box solar oven
    Wrapped Aluminium foil around the pizza box solar oven lid
  3. With the rest of the Aluminium foil, coat the rest of the interior of the pizza box.
  4. Fold the black plastic garbage bag into a square and glue this onto the base of the interior of the pizza box. If you have black cardboard this can work as well.

    Inside of pizza box solar oven
    Inside the pizza box solar oven; here we have used black cardboard for the base

    Another option is to simply coat the entire inside of the pizza box with the black garbage bag. In fact, this would make a good variable test with your students > which design performs better?
  5. Place clear plastic kitchen film across the opening of the top lid and secure this with tape.

    Top lid of pizza box solar oven
    Top lid covered in foil with clear plastic film across window opening
  6. Use the wooden kebab stick to support the Aluminium covered top lid flap by pushing it into the pizza box and the lid. It can be handy to create a loop of sticky tape off the edge of the top lid flap as that way you can use this as way of adjusting the angle of the lid (great for allowing for sunlight angles at different times of the day).

    Kebab stick supporting pizza box solar oven lid
    Kebab stick supporting pizza box solar oven lid: note tape loop on lid for adjustments
  7. You're done! Put the thermometer on the black plastic square and a take an initial temperature reading. Place the pizza box oven in a sunny position and take readings of the temperature within the pizza box at set times. How hot does it get inside?

    Pizza box solar oven at window
    Pizza box solar oven at window
  8. Try to cook something! We like melting chocolate squares on top of crackers (with a marshmallow you've made a Smore!). Another alternative is to put a bit of butter on a plate and see how long it takes to melt. Enjoy :)

    Pizza box solar ovens made by students
    Pizza box solar ovens made by students in the Sun
    Be Amazing Book Front Cover; Ben Newsome, teacher & founder of Fizzics Education. Be Amazing -how to teach science the way primary kids love
    Be Amazing!
    How to teach science, the way primary kids love

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Why does this work?

Solar ovens work by trapping heat energy from the Sun. In this experiment you were able to direct heat energy from the Sun through the clear plastic film using the reflective Aluminium foil flap. Once the heat was inside the pizza box, the black plastic garbage bag absorbed the heat energy and the air temperature within the pizza box rose. For best results you would have found that you need to move the box slightly to compensate for the Sun's position changes as our Earth spins. You could also further insulate the outside of the pizza box to avoid heat loss from conduction into the ground and surrounding area.

Solar ovens have been around for a long time, in fact you can buy commercial solar cookers from some boutique suppliers! The best solar cookers have means of concentrating the Sun's radiant heat energy into an area which is dark to absorb as much heat as possible and are well insulated to avoid heat loss. Solar cookers still have use in modern times, especially in areas where people don't have ready access to electricity, wood or gas cookers. There has been some revival of this technology as a response to environmental concerns of greenhouse gas emissions too, plus they make great camping gear. Of course, in cooler environments you'll have a much more difficult time!

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