Ten days ago we built a personal hot dog solar roaster from a chip canister. Recent snow was still melting that day, but the clouds thinned and it was 63°F outdoors. Spring in Utah is come and go, there was snow in the shade, but the lawn was out on the south side of the house, so we set up the cooker to see what we would get.

Use a meat thermometer help you see when the oven is faced toward the sun most effectively.

During our first attempt at 11 am there were still thin clouds, but all we could get out of the oven was 68°. We waited an hour, by then it was 68° outside and in just minutes the oven heated to 137°F.

Lunch and chips for Scouts with no mess from a campfire.

This simple solar cooker is great to show the power of the sun, have fun, and end up with a meal. 

What you need to get started:

  • 1 chip can (Pringles or other foil lined tube) for every Scout (its okay if they are full because it will add to your meal)
  • 1 hot dog for each Scout
  • 1 hot dog bun per Scout
  • 1 14” wood skewer for each Pringles can
  • mustard, ketchup, relish, (and sauerkraut for me)
  • plastic wrap
  • masking tape 
  • scissors or sharp knife,
  • access to direct sunlight.

Building Your Roasters

Adopted from (Energy Information Administration, 2001)

  1. Cut the chip can as shown in the diagram
  2. Bend back the flaps, but do not remove them from the can.
  3. Cover the opening on the inside of the Pringles can with plastic wrap and tape the plastic wrap in place.
  4. Make small holes in the metal end of the can and in the plastic lid. Remove the plastic lid from the can.
  5. Put a hot dog onto a skewer, slide the skewer into the can, and place the end of the skewer into the hole in the metal end. Put the plastic lid back onto the can, fitting the other end of the skewer through the hole. The hot dog should be suspended inside the can as shown
  6. Place the solar cooker in direct sunlight, positioning the flaps to reflect the maximum amount of radiant energy onto the hot dog.
  7. Consider insulating the solar cooker to improve efficiency. In our case, we wrapped it with black duct tape and placed the entire cooker in a clear plastic bag. 
  8. The flaps on the chip should be adjusted to reflect the sun’s energy onto the hotdog.

Earth Day is a pin on my Scouting calendar every year, but sadly this year it falls on Sunday. That means, if you want to try this with your Scouts, you will probably have to celebrate Earth Day during the week, but for me I know have a car dashboard hot dog cooker I can take on trips.

Bryan on Scouting suggested these “10 ways to celebrate Earth Day with your pack, troop, or crew:

  1. Find Earth Day events near you. Large or small, attending a community event lets you celebrate on short notice.
  2. Bring some trivia to your next meeting, like “Environmental Jeopardy”  (PDF), which mixes learning with friendly competition.
  3. Have fun with Cub Scouts with these Earth Day craft ideas and Earth Day coloring pages
  4. Watch a movie that will inspire and entertain your Scouts. Some ideas: the Disney films EarthOceans or (my personal favorite) Wall-E. Have a discussion after you watch. Older Scouts might find the scientific data in An Inconvenient Truth  compelling. I sure did.
  5. Volunteer with The Nature Conservancy, giving Scouts a chance to give back.
  6. Play a game, like this Leave No Trace card game, which appeared in the March-April 2011 edition of Scouting.
  7. Adopt a highway. Most states have Adopt-a-Highway programs that encourage groups to take responsibility of a stretch of roadway and pick up trash.  To get started, try these tips from fellow Scouters.
  8. Carpool. Whether you’re driving to work, school, or a weekend campout, show your Scouts that you’re reducing toxic emissions by sharing a ride with coworkers, friends or other Scout leaders.
  9. Teach your Scouts how to: safely recycle electronicscreate a compost pile, or identify recycled-content products.
  10. Offer Sustainability merit badge. There’s no better time than Earth Day to offer this new, Eagle-required merit badge. See the requirements here.

What else can you do to remind Scouts about protecting our amazing but fragile planet? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.”

Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. These days he is a Scouting Ambassador and serves on the Council Membership and Marketing Committee. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Commissioner.

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