Solar Cooking
Last edited: 12 April 2023      
Integrated Cooking Washington DC 2009

Photo shows a solar cooker, heat-retention haybox, and an improved combustion stove, the three components of the Integrated Cooking Method.

The Integrated Cooking Method (ICM) relies on these basic elements:

  1. Solar cookers (using the sun's free energy as a supplement to fuelwood)
  2. Heat-retention cooking (insulated baskets that allow food to continue to cook after once being heated to boiling)
  3. Improved combustion stoves (stoves designed to cook using much less biomass)

Two other simple devices will further reduce fuel use and help preserve food:

  1. Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) - Water only needs to be heated to 65°C (150°F) to make it safe to drink.)
  2. Pot-in-pot cooler (refrigeration using two clay pots and wet sand - Proposed addition to ICM)


Ruth Whitfield demonstrating two aspects of the integrated cooking method

Ruth Whitfield demonstrates the Integrated Cooking Method in Bolivia.


Rice being cooked in a heat-retention cooker

In 1989, the late Dr. Wilfred Pimentel of the Rotary Club of Fresno developed a great kinship with the African people. He lived in Northern Nigeria for 3 years with his wife and family while he taught Veterinary Medicine & Surgery at Ahmadu Bello University. He became aware of the severe deforestation and the grave concern of many by the Sahara desert slowly moving southward. In 1988 he became involved with Solar Cookers International.

In the 1990s, Kenya was experiencing deforestation at a rapid rate. The lives of the people became more and more tied to the need for obtaining wood for cooking and water for drinking. Women spent many hours of each day in these activities. However, there was abundant sunshine that could be used for cooking. In 1994, Dr. Pimentel visited all of the Rotary Clubs in Kenya seeking ways to help these women who live in abject poverty. To address the issue of deforestation and reliance on fuelwood for cooking, Dr. Pimentel started the first solar cooker project with the Rotary Club of Nairobi East. Solar cooker technology was taught to a group of Kenyans in two days of classes using their pots and food. This was the beginning of the spread of this technology, the addition of Improved combustion stoves and Water Pasteurization Indicators followed and became part of the integrated solar cooker program that has now spread to sixteen different sites on five continents.

The most recent project is in Turkey with the Rotary Club of Adana-Seyhan and funded by the Rotary Club of Adana-Seyhan, Sarnia Bluewater in Canada and Fresno. Other locations with active projects include Turkey, Mexico, and Bolivia.


Pat McA

Pat McArdle presents solar/integrated cooking information at STAR-TIDES 2022. Photo credit: Pat McArdle

  • April 2022: Pat McArdle hosted an exhibit on solar/integrated cooking at the STAR-TIDES expo on the grounds of George Mason University in northern Virginia, USA in mid-April. The purpose of this civ/mil entity is to identify low-cost, sustainable solutions for supporting distressed populations damaged by disasters, war, or poverty and to share this knowledge openly with anyone, including military, government, non-government, and civilian agencies. She built a sixteen brick rocket stove and made a retained heat container using a plastic storage bin and some blankets. In spite of the windy weather, solar and other integrated cooking concepts were successfully presented. From 2013 to 2020 the U.S. Army sent Pat three times to Central America to teach solar cooking during military disaster exercises. She used the Cookit for all of those exercises since it was the lightest and most portable solar cooker at that time.
Santa Maria Dense Fronteres November 2012

An Integrated cooking method promotional poster created by Santa Maria Sense Fronteres representatives. Photo credit: Santa Maria Sense Fronteres

  • June 2012: Two representatives from Santa Maria Sense Fronteres spent 25 days living and working with the Integrated Cooking Method (ICM) in a little community of 400 people in The Gambia. We promoted solar, efficient and retention cookers, using participative methods and involving all the community. A young local woman was interviewing between June and December the ten families who tested the integrated cooking system. Our main objective was to discover how and how much the ICM can improve the life of the rural communities and the environment.
  • November 2012: CEDESOL Promotes Integrated Cooking Method - The Integrated Cooking Method (the combined use of solar, fuel efficient biomass and retained heat cooking devices) is the cornerstone of David Whitfield’s CEDEDSOL Ecological Stoves for Better Living project in Bolivia and Paraguay. This CEDESOL project includes local production, promotion, education, distribution, installation and maintenance of improved cooking devices. The project will replace traditional inefficient wood stoves in rural and urban areas, with efficient designs, which have been shown to reduce fuel-wood consumption above 60%. This program is designed to generate Voluntary (verified) Emissions eductions (VERS) by installing and monitoring more than 50’000 Ecological Stoves in Bolivia and Paraguay. VERS to reduce the cost of the stoves to users will be provided by the foundation. Without carbon finance obtained with VERS in association with Foundation My Climate, CEDESOL’s beneficiaries would not be able to access the program and receive the cookers and education. CEDESOL also acknowledges the generous assistance of Kyoto Twist Society and Green Microfinance.
KoZon Mali November 2012

KoZon and AFIMA, a Malian NGO promoting the development of rural women, began a joint project in Ségou, a region of Mali, Photo credit: KoZon

  • June 2012: A successful Integrated Cooking project cooking in Ségou, Mali - In 2009, KoZon, a Dutch NGO promoting solar cooking in the Sahel, and AFIMA, a Malian NGO promoting the development of rural women, began a joint project in Ségou, a region of Mali where solar cookers had not been introduced. In five villages (Dioro, Babougou, Koila Bamanan, Kominé, Soké), they trained four groups of 25 women (selected by the village chiefs) in the practice of Integrated Cooking. They received kits containing: two CooKits, to cook meals when the sun shines; a Improved combustion stoves, for use when there’s no sun; and a heat-retention cooker to allow even more food to be cooked in the first two. In addition to a short hands-on training workshop, the project ensured that all participants were visited several times after the course to solve problems, and provide extra tips, and encouragement. In the final evaluation, in May 2012, external experts established that more than 80% of the participants--in some villages nearly 100%--used these technologies daily. As intended, they are now saving some 1,800 tons of fuel wood per year. The evaluators also found that many women appreciate having more free time each day, since they do not have to tend a fire when solar cooking or using the heat-retention cooker. They use their time for other activities including running small businesses. Buying less firewood also saves them a lot of money. It’s no surprise that the evaluators spoke of integrated cooking as a great means of relieving poverty!
SCI Kisumu 3-7-11

Uganda LGH Director, Amberle Reyes, visits Solar Cookers International demonstration in Kisumu.

  • March 2011: Light Gives Heat visits Solar Cookers International demonstration in Kisumu, Kenya - Light Gives Heat (LGH) is a NGO promoting grass-root economic sustainability and creative endeavors in Africa. Ugandan Director, Amberle Reyes and a staff member recently visited a demonstration of sustainable cooking methods sponsored by Solar Cookers International. It included traditional fixed and portable earthenware stoves, called upesi in Kiswahili, which more efficiently use charcoal or wood as fuel, CooKit solar panel cookers, and heat-retention cooking baskets. They were most interested in solar cookers and fireless baskets. Locals were initially attracted to solar cooking not because of the possibility of saving money by buying less fuel, or the health benefits of indoor smoke reduction, but because solar cookers can bake cakes. Cake is seen as a "rich person food", and LGH saw an entrepreneurial opportunity: Cakes are sold for weddings and birthdays. Most people cannot make high-quality cakes because of the irregular temperatures of charcoal and wood stoves, but solar cookers bake perfect, moist cakes with very little worry of burning or overcooking. At the end of March, SCI staff will bring CooKIts and retained-heat cooking baskets to Jinja and demonstrate first-hand their effectiveness to all the LGH employees. Light Gives Heat has received an $8,000 USD grant to supply their Uganda artisans with these solar cookers.
  • April 2007: Former Solar Cookers International Executive Director Bev Blum demonstrated solar cookers and built solar CooKits at a conference titled "Killer in the Kitchen: Household air pollution and Appropriate Technology Solutions" held last November in Alabama. The purpose of the conference was two-fold: to spotlight the global problem of indoor air pollution related to smoky cooking fires, and to explore proven appropriate technology solutions. Several technologies were presented, including Improved combustion stoves, heat-retention cookers, and solar cookers. Solar Oven Society’s Martha Port provided additional information on solar cooking and solar water pasteurization. "There was a strong consensus that the ideal way to address smoke hazards is integrated introduction of fuel-efficient stoves, solar cookers and heat-retention cookers," Blum writes. "It was a great experience." The conference was sponsored by Servants in Faith and Technology (SIFAT), the Sparkman Center for Global Health, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Framework Program. SIFAT offers courses on a range of topics -- including appropriate technology, international health, and microenterprise development -- from a Christian perspective.

Experience with integrated cooking in Bolivia[]

Technology transfer is more a social issue than a technological one. That is one reason our methods utilizes hands on works shops followed by a six-month documented use period to help force the development of new habits. Once relatives and neighbors see the "home improvements" and hear from their friends the benefits, they all want the devices too. In that way, demand is created, as well as a cultural base of people that basically understand the technology. The the next phase is short demonstrations for groups of people that want to buy the devices. That is where we are now.


Our vision evolved from just solar cookers, to solar cookers and efficient stoves and then solar cookers, efficient stoves and heat-retention cooking, used in combination. Thus the term, integrated cooking systems, which I think was coined by Wilfred Pimentel after returning from two of our Integrated Cooking systems courses.

I think several years back Dean Still referred to their research at the Aprovecho Institute in Oregon, that indicated that retained heat cooking was the single most significant cooking variable that could immediately reduce the ills related to cooking with biomass fuels, even without improved cookstoves.

We took those indications to heart, but continue to encourage the use of solar cookers and Improved combustion stoves, because used together they reduce by more than 80% the fuels used in traditional methods, as well as reducing other ills associated with traditional cooking, and we have found that it is just as easy to introduce the technology all at once as it is one at a time.

Many folks are still skeptical of solar cooking. We have learned that when we begin by acknowledging that solar cooking, in any form, will not completely replace traditional cooking, it makes more sense to the people. For instance, in developed countries, you might have a toaster, a small electric toasting or warming oven, a gas stove and oven combined, and a microwave oven, all useful for specific cooking tasks. This comparison helps people understand that the solar cooker is not intended for full-time cooking. The fact that the solar box cooker can be used as a retained heat cooker, when there is no sun has been a real boost to our efforts in Bolivia. We believe that this is one of the reasons we have had such success getting people to develop the habit of using the solar cookers. We have folks that cook at night for their husbands who work the graveyard shift using the solar cooker in heat-retention cooking mode! They bring the food to boil, put the pots inside the solar cooker and let their husbands take the food out at midnight when they are leaving for work. Those ladies are so happy not to have to cook at 11:00 at night!

In the case of the solar cookers, since discovering their double utility the number of users who use the solar cooker 5 to 7 days a week increased from 77% to 89%. For us this is very significant. The solar cooker/heat-retention cooking users report a yearly average of 65% fuel savings.

David Whitfield, CEDESOL, Cochabamba, (first written on the stove list Bolivia February 2005) - (look for the downloads section)

Articles in the Media[]

Audio and video[]

  • February 2022: Patricia McArdle, an experienced advocate of solar cooking, has created this informative video

Heat retention cooking-2

  • June 2015:

Pat McArdle - Integrated Cooking Method-2

Pat McArdle former board member of Solar Cookers International discusses the Integrated Cooking Method which is the combined use of three cooking devices to dramatically reduce emissions and fuel consumption. Only one of these devices used burns any fuel.

  • March 2013:

CEDESOL - Changing Lives In Rural Bolivia

David Whitfield explains the challenges and successes CEDESOL has faced in the past, and their methods of educating the rural population about the integrated cooking approach in 2013.



See also[]