Introduction: Solar George Foreman Cooker

Picture of Solar George Foreman Cooker

Following the success of my 4ft solar cooker, I wanted to go larger. Finding a rigid satellite larger than 4ft can get very expensive, as you won't likely find one for free. I searched Craigslist and eBay, but nothing affordable came along. I had posted a picture of my 4ft dish on Facebook, and a cousin of mine texted me that he had some more satellite dishes in his back yard.

Step 1: What Is It?

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I took a trailer over to my cousin's house and picked up 4 cages of satellite dish quarters. Each cage has two quarters of a dish mounted to the cage. The label on the cage is AS-554/TRC-29. This is a military nomenclature. Some google searches found that the TRC-29 is a microwave radio, and the AS-554 is the antenna from the 1950's. These are 'expanded metal' or mesh dishes made of Aluminum. I now had to engineer a way to set it up to be easily moveable to point at the sun.

Step 2: Dream a Little Dream...

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Most terrestrial satellite dishes are setup to pivot right around the center of the dish. This means that I would have to have a mount about 5ft tall to support an 8ft dish. There would be a lot of stress on the linkages using this type of setup while still making it mobile or portable. My first ideas were to have a curved cage to keep onlookers at bay while having three legs to support the center mast. Not having a roller bender, I would be unable to build such a mount. I thought about alternatives, and finally settled on a giant lazy Susan style base and only using 3/4 of the dish.

Step 3: Gather Resources.

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Again I collected old/bad hard drives. Disassembling them all, I saved the platters for reflective material and the NEO magnets for other projects. This dish would require approximately 400+ platters.

Step 4: Testing the Mount

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I purchased a few long pieces of 1.5x1.5 box tubing, some end caps, and some sliding pin locks. I used an arc welder to stick weld together the frame. I designed the four wheels to have pivot points so that in one position, the wheels are aligned in parallel so it will roll as a trailer. In the other position (45 degrees off), it will rotate in place. I assembled three pieces of dish, added a pivot point to each side near the center of balance so it would be easier to position.

Step 5: Get the Most Coverage

Picture of Get the Most Coverage

I spent some time laying out the best way to have the most coverage with the least amount of gaps. After several iterations, I settled on a design. I then started gluing on the platters with standard white tub caulk. Two dabs, and then flatten the back side with a putty knife to ensure the coverage sticks (the photo is from another dish with finer mesh, but the affect is the same).

Step 6: Get Sunny

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I purchased a used George Foreman grill from Goodwill. I managed to attach it to the dish with a couple arms so that it was near the focal point. The first photo is on a rainy day (see the rain drops?), the second photo is from a sunny day. I put a couple burgers and brats on it. Temps held steady at 350 degrees F. The reason it did not get hotter is the curvature of the dish is not as accurate as my previous 4ft solid dish, so the focal area of solar concentration is a lot larger. Short shaky video of the meat smoking!

Step 7: Next Time...

Picture of Next Time...

Dream a little bigger... I found a 12ft mesh dish that will require 1100 hard drive platters...


JohnC430 (author)2017-03-15

could you use CD's instead of HDD? where are you getting all the old hard drives from?

alex456 (author)2017-02-26

Hello. How you calculated the focal length of your concentrator? Do you have any estimates or did you come to this by experiments?

GregO29 (author)alex4562017-02-27

Typically if you have the entire dish assembly with the feed horn (LNB or whatever), that will be the focal point. But in this case I did not. I googled a formula like this one to calculate the focal point, then I added a few platters on the outer edges and some on the center to measure it more accurately.

alex456 (author)GregO292017-03-01

Thank you!

teodoropires (author)2017-02-26


Dan Elliott (author)2017-02-23

Very cool / hot use of old disks. At my work we used old CDs as scales for a giant bass interactive at a children's museum. I think your Solar Grille would be a great class project for a school science class on a budget.


Fionaussie (author)Dan Elliott2017-02-24

VERY cool use of old CDs!!

Oncer (author)Dan Elliott2017-02-24

I want your job!!!

mcousineau1 (author)2017-02-23

Good project why hard drive disk ? just aluminium tape from homedepot would not do the job in ventilation section. ?

Oncer (author)mcousineau12017-02-23

I suppose hard drive disks have a good mirrored surface and aluminium tape not so, but I was thinking CD's or would the diffraction patterns play hob with the focus?

mcousineau1 (author) Oncer2017-02-23

Some have done it with CD like this one

but also with aluminium tape like this one

So go foil tape on this big guy

Seem's to work with foil tape but your hard drive thing is a good recycling technique... less HD in india...

GregO29 (author)mcousineau12017-02-23

Thanks, but your first link is my 4ft solid dish with Hard Drive Platters, NOT cd's. CD's will diffract light as well, and do not have as high of reflectance as plated aluminum. Think of the rainbow you see on a CD/DVD, compared to the mirror image you get looking at a Hard Drive Platter.

GregO29 (author)mcousineau12017-02-23

Thanks for the question. Multiple reasons:

1) Reflectivity. This is a mesh dish, not solid, so there is not a smooth surface to apply it to. Wrinkles equals diffraction. Flapping tape equals diffraction. Hard drive platters are hard, and retain their mirror like surface, even in wind.

2) Cost. The drives were free. The HD tape is $7.68 and could cover 5sq ft. This dish is 8ft or just over 50sq ft. Using 3/4s of it, I would need 7-8 rolls of tape making an out of pocket cost of $50-60.

3) A solid 8ft dish can become a sail. The 'wasted' space by the holes in the center of disks and the gap in between their outer edges provides a bit of wind relief so it does not become too unmanageable in slight winds. Think of advertising banners that you may have seen with the holes punched in them so there is less wind stress.

askjerry (author)2017-02-23

Using hard drive platters... wow... that's impressive. When I saw the first picture I thought you were going to say old CDs... that's pretty inginus my friend!

ConradC3 (author)2017-02-23

WOW! 400 Platters X 6 screws each platter and 6 screws in the hard drive enclosure. 400 X 12 = 4,800 screws. Well done Sir!

GregO29 (author)ConradC32017-02-23

Sometimes I like to binge watch tv while disassembling drives: Netflix and unscrew.

lfoss (author)ConradC32017-02-23

Actually, most modern hard drives (made within the last 20 years or so) have 7 screws holding the case together. There are the 6 around the edge and then a 'hidden' one in the center, usually underneath a sticker.

Also multi-platter hard drives only have one set of screws holding the entire spindle group to the motor. So taking off these 1-8 screws (varies by manufacturer) could yield 2 - 4 platters.

Anyway, I wasn't trying to make your point any less valid. Just pointing out a few errors in your math. Either way, that's still a lot of screwing!! Err.. unscrewing?!

jsolterbeck (author)2017-02-23

omg 12' lol

Warleyman (author)2017-02-23

How about using old CD's or DVD's - might be easier to get hold of than hard drive platters and more reflective than aluminium tape?

Aaaecm (author)2017-02-21

Sorry, I had another thought. This antenna does not have a well defined focus. Could a second, much smaller parabolic dish be placed at the present focus to reflect the light into a smaller point located between the two mirrors? Position the collecting point so it doesn't throw a shadow on your larger mirror? I bet you could achieve a higher temperature if the solar energy was more concentrated. I'll stop now.

redrok (author)Aaaecm2017-02-23

Hi Aaaecm;

Technically, there is NO method of secondary imaging mirror or lens that can increase concentration more than the first mirror or lens. (Non-imaging mirrors or lenses can increase concentration but these are relatively difficult to make. See Roland Winston's CPC or Concentrating Parabolic Concentrators.)

These parabolic dishes already do a good job of high concentration by themselves.

You may think things like telescopes, with a secondary mirror concentrate light. But that is NOT TRUE. Telescopes, by definition, spread out the light. All light concentration is done only in the primary mirror or lens.


thesnowtheriver (author)2017-02-23

you are a genius. thank you.

anjoze (author)2017-02-23


Aaaecm (author)2017-02-21

Most awesome! Way more impressive than a bar-ba-que grill. Now I have to start looking for a parabolic dish. I already collect dead hard drives. I like to make speakers out of them. A solar cooker is a worthy goal.

Many thanks for the Instructable. Making things rules.

deluges (author)2017-02-21

That about sums up my view of most stuff

Whether it works as intended or not, let's scale it up just to make sure

cool project :)

About This Instructable




Bio: CNC Enthusiast, Amateur Astronomer, Photography, Computer hardware and programming, Arduino, Raspberry Pi
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