SLiCK – Solar Cooking in Faro, Portugal

We were pleased to get an invitation to the CONSOLFOOD2016 Solar Cooking conference, at the University of the Algarve in Portugal.  The conference theme was ‘advances in solar food processing’.  January is the wrong time to find sunshine in Europe, but Faro is a promising location.  Professor Celestino Ruivo organised this event. He’s an enthusiastic user, teacher, and advocate of Solar Cooking.

We rarely meet other solar cooks in the UK, so we’re used to explaining the basics.  At this conference, the opposite was true.  We were surrounded by knowledgeable enthusiasts from around the globe.

massed solar cookers

Our own presentation was about the durability of evacuated tubes, like the ones used in our SLiCK SM70.  We explored the range of possible reasons for tube breakages, using data from the past year.  You can download our paper Here, and our slide presentation Here.

Interested solar cooks can learn a lot by browsing the conference material – a good summary of the current state of the art.  Several new solar cooker designs are shown, but the most exciting advances have been in the use of phase change materials to store solar heat energy so cooking can take place after dark.

parabolics smal

Outside the lecture hall was the biggest demonstration of solar cookers we’ve ever seen. All types: panels, boxes, parabolic dishes, low cost, and high cost, including the excellent SolSource unit.  Our SLiCK Sm70 was the only commercially available vacuum tube food cooker on show, and it was our pleasure to bring this along to demonstrate the power available, even under the partially cloudy January skies. Unsurprisingly ,this great display made it onto local TV.  We would like this kind of interest from UK TV, too, and we hope to achieve this soon.

CONSOLFOOD2016 was not a stuffy ‘academic’ event.  There was plenty of humour at the conference, and great music from Solar Punch (the solar powered music combo from Brooklyn, NYC).   Solar Cookers International (SCI) attended and also provided financial support for SLiCK to attend.   SLiCK is affiliated to the SCI, and we strongly recommend you consider joining SCI, too.  You would be helping to spread this important technology around the globe.

Its clear that, in a world with too few solar cooks, meetings of this nature are an essential way to accelerate global development and we were pleased to be able to contribute.

SLiCK conference presentation Report on Faro 

Stewart MacLachlan/Dave Oxford



December saw a lot of thick cloud, so with the shortest day just passed it was great to catch some morning sunshine on 23rd December – five hours, according to the local weather station at London’s Heathrow Airport – A feast of sunshine perhaps?.  Is solar cooking even possible at this time of year? I loaded our SLiCK SM70 with seasonal snacks. imageBacon wrapped sausages (‘pigs in blankets’) are a full fat Christmas snack that fit easily into the cook-tray.

Starting at around 9:30am, under a low sun the sausages cooked up nicely. I let them crisp up, nearly burnt, the way I like them. It took just under 2:00 hrs to get them ready, left in the clear sun. No stirring, No hassle, No grease in the kitchen.


Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 19.16.15You can see from the graph on the left that the tube interior temperature stayed over 100C for some time and steam was seen venting – the smell of cooking bacon. With the main course finished it seemed a shame to waste that delicious sunshine – and leftover oil, so I set up some diced root vegetables for a secondary roast. The sun vanished around 1:00pm. I ate the the ‘pigs in blankets’ with fresh bread at midday, and the roast veg went down at tea-time with pickle. I was delighted to see (and taste!) what a SLiCK SM70 evacuated tube solar cooker can do on a UK mid-winters dayimage. If the sun’s shining, you’re cooking!

You can use all types of solar cookers during a UK summer season. Less powerful devices don’t work well during our winter due to heat loss, low sun angles and power. Standing in the cold attending a solar cooker is also an issue. Our SM70 was unattended during this session. I left it, went out swimming for an hour and came back starving – they didn’t last long!

Author Stewart MacLachlan, SLiCK


INDOOR solar cooking

Yes!  Solar Cooking indoors.  This morning in Cornwall, we had some sun … finally.  But also some 40 mph gusts of wind.  I didn’t fancy risking my SM70 outside, so I set it up indoors.  I moved the sofa, set up a folding table in front of a south facing window, and was ready to go.  No wind or rain to worry about.

Look, no wind

Look, no wind

Notice that the sun is so low at this latitude at this time of year that I had to prop up the back legs of the SM70 to aim it properly.

Just four small potatoes to bake for lunch.  They took about an hour and half to cook.  Remember that the flesh of a potato switches from being starchy to gelatinous (i.e. cooked) at around 60C, so you can work out the true cooking time from the graph below.  There was some wispy cloud obscuring the sun part of the time, and I assume cooking would have been quicker in full sun, and/or if I’d bothered to clean the double-glazed window.

So, it seems that all year round cooking is possible in the UK if you have a south facing window, a suitable cooker, and … oh, some sunshine.  Give it a try.Indoorspudz7Dec15

Apple Day in Cornwall

P1100409 (1024x919)We had plenty of Bramley cooking apples on our tree this year, so when it looked as though we would get plenty of sun today I decided to put the two together.  Out came the CooKit and these three apples went in at around 1.00 p.m.  They were just washed and cored, and had a score mark around them to prevent splitting.  I usually stuff the centre with saltanas, but I knew they would cook more quickly if the hot air could reach the centre.  At this P1100408 (952x1024)time of year, I use a data logger to record the temperature so I know the food is safe.  After just three hours, during which the air temperature in the inner pot rose to 85C, these were smelling gorgeous, and fully baked.  Don’t underestimate the CooKit.  If you have continuous full sun, they work well even this late in the year, but do adjust the front reflector to accommodate the lower angle of the sun.  Remember, if you stand in front of the CooKit and cast a shadow with your head onto one of the panels, you P1100413 (1024x896)should be able to see the cooking pot reflected in that panel.  If you can’t see the pot, move the CooKit around until you can, and repeat this check for each of the panels, including that wide front panel.  For detailed advice about using the CooKit, see our CooKit instructions on the Resources page.