If you like to get creative in the kitchen, you probably don’t give much thought to how much power you’re using – not when there are more important things to measure. Well, just take a minute now to think about all the things going on in the kitchen when you’re cooking – the oven is heating, the stove top is probably bubbling away with one or two pots and you may even have the microwave, the kettle or the grill going as well.
When you add up all of that power used, every night of the week just to feed your family you’ll probably start wondering if there’s a better way. You don’t have to resort to takeaway food to tone down the power consumption in your kitchen, all you have to do is cook smarter and below are 24 ways you can save energy when you cook, and most of them won’t even cost you a grain of salt.
1 : Fill Your Oven
The same way you wouldn’t run your dishwasher or washing machine half full because it’s a waste of energy, so too should your oven be full when you use it. With more homes opting for a gourmet style kitchen you may even have a large freestanding stove which you use to cook just one tray of muffins or roast one chicken breast. Instead, think about what else you can fill your oven with – you may take something from the stove and cook it in the microwave instead, or maybe you can double or triple your recipe and freeze some for later.
For example when cooking a cake…I never bake just one as cakes are the best food to freeze. When defrosted they taste great and they are very handy to have on hand. Same with sausage rolls! yum!
2: Close the Oven and Keep it Closed
The more often you open the oven door, the longer it will take for your meal to cook – using more energy. Your oven is likely to have a light inside so turn this on and peer through the door, instead of letting all that cooking warmth out.
You probably thought this was an old wives tale, much like the one about keeping the fridge door closed but it is true.
3: Keep an Eye on Preheating
Some dishes will call for the oven to be preheated and it is important to the end result. However, where you can avoid it, don’t leave the oven heating for too long before putting the food in, and if you still want to preheat the oven, make sure you put the food in as soon as the oven has reached its preheated temperature.
4 : Use the Oven as a Warmer
Instead of getting out a warming tray, or leaving your oven on a warming setting to keep your meal until everyone arrives at the table, use the residual heat from the oven’s cooking time to keep food warm. Again, if you keep the door closed, very little heat will escape.
5 : Cooking Marathon
Where you can, cook meals you need for later in the day, when you are already cooking an earlier meal. For example, cooking your dinner meal straight after your lunch meal allows you to use the already warmed oven’s energy for the next meal, rather than letting it cool down, and making it work harder to heat up again from cold.
6 : Weekend Cooking Marathon
As well as giving you more time during the week, cooking your meals for the week on the weekend means you can cut down on the energy your oven uses at dinner time every day. Cooking more than one meal in the oven or on the cook top at once will use less energy than heating up your oven five times a week.
7: Don’t Over Boil
When you fill the kettle for a cup of tea or coffee, don’t fill the kettle right up unless you need to. Similarly if you’re boiling a pot of water for pasta or vegetables, take care in using just the amount of water you need, rather than filling the pot to the top. The more water you’re boiling, the more energy you’ll be needlessly using.
Here is a funny tip from my miser husband and wife friends. The husband gets up an hour before his wife, boils the jug and pours the rest of the hot water into a Thermos and leaves it on the bench for when his wife gets up. Now they are only boiling the jug once in the morning.
8: Unthaw Food Before Cooking
A little preparation in unthawing your meat or stored soups before cooking will help you cut down on the cooking energy needed. To cook something from frozen is going to take a lot longer, and use a lot more energy than cooking something thawed. Also meat that has been thawed correctly tastes so much better!
9: Cook Smaller Food
No, you don’t have to go on a diet you just need to cut up your food a little before you cook it. Cutting pieces of meat for the BBQ or cutting vegetables for roasting will mean they take less time to cook and use less energy.
10: Turn Off the Stove While You’re Cooking
If you are cooking something on the cook top such as an omelette, bacon, pancakes or the like, when your food is almost done, turn off the stove as the residual heat in the hot plate and in the pan will be enough to finish off the cooking process for a perfect meal.
11: Turn Off the BBQ While You’re Cooking
Outside you can turn off the BBQ just before you’re done too. If you’re cooking sausages or hamburgers for example, when they are about five minutes away from being cooked, turn off the heat and let the stored heat in the grill or plate finish them off. Plus if you have a BBQ with a hood, this will keep in even more heat after you turn off the gas.
12: Size Up Your Pots
If you are cooking something small on your cook top, use a small pot. This will allow you to use one of the smaller burners on your stove, and in turn you’ll use less energy to cook.
13: Slow Cooking Saves Energy
Instead of heating up the whole oven to cook a meal, use a slow cooker or crock pot. You can cook a whole roast and vegetables, a stew or a delicious Asian dish in a pot on the stove using much less energy than you would in the oven. Not to mention putting your dinner in a slow cooker and letting it cook away saves you time.
14: Flat Bottomed Pans
Check just how flat the bottom of the pan or pot you are using is, to conserve energy in your cooking. The flatter the base of the pan, the more surface area there is to be in contact with the hotplate, and therefore your cooking is faster and uses less energy.
15: Lid On
Everything you cook will cook faster with the lid on, in turn saving you energy. Water will boil faster with the lid on, your veggies will steam faster and the meat in your stew will break down faster with the lid on.
16: Clean Kitchens Save Energy
Make it a habit to regularly clean your oven , cook top and hotplates – they’ll reward you with efficiency. Just think about how much harder your oven has to work to cook through all the baked on meals of your past, and how much hotter will your pans get when they can be in direct contact with the hot plate, not with the food baked onto the hot plate.
17: Microwave Boil
Using a microwave to boil your water is more efficient than using a kettle, or boiling water on the stove. Where a microwave can heat and bring water to the boil faster, it is able to use less energy.
18: Choose the Right Sized Appliance
If you can use a smaller appliance than your oven to cook then you are going to be saving yourself a lot of energy. If you can use a small toaster oven for your grilled cheese or a slow cooker for your roast then go for it.
19: Use an Electric Kettle
If you like to boil your water traditionally – on the stove top – then this could end up costing you. It can take more energy to boil water in a kettle on the stove, than is used by an electric kettle.
20: Broil vs Bake
When you bake something in your oven you are essentially surrounding it with hot air, at the temperature your recipe book told you, or that you know is right for the food. Broiling is like upside down barbequing as broiling is cooking with infrared heat, which on a BBQ comes from the coals underneath and in a broiling oven comes from the hot element above the food. To broil a steak for example you would choose the setting on your oven, put your meat in a dish to catch the juices and let the steak cook. Since you are using just one element in the oven, and letting your food cook in its own juices, you are likely to be able to use less energy than baking. Broiling will also cook your food faster, and therefore use less energy.
21: Double or Triple the Recipe
If you are making something like soup, pasta sauce or even muffins or cookies double or triple the recipe and freeze some for later. Cooking these meals from scratch just once will use less energy than the hours of cooking required to cook each batch individually.
22: Quality Cookware
Good quality pots and pans will cook more efficiently than the cheap and nasty ones. This is because they are made of stronger materials, and materials better suited to cooking to allow them to conduct the heat better. For example, most good quality cooking pots will have a copper base and copper is excellent at conducting the heat evenly across the base of the pan so your food cooks faster – using less energy. You are likely to have to make an investment to upgrade to quality cookware but the energy savings, plus the better cooking results will be worth the switch.
I know a good cake dish will cook a cake evenly and faster as the actual tin will generate heat evenly around the cake.
23: Wood Stove
Having a camping cook-out is an alternative to using up energy in your kitchen as you are able to use a specially designed camp oven – which is usually a large, strong based pot – over a wood stove to cook your meal.
24: Cooking with Solar
Solar cooking is a culinary method which has been used in developing countries for centuries and is only just emerging into mainstream Western cooking practices. A totally carbon neutral and power-free cooking method, using the sun to cook your meals instead of the stove is sure to save you on energy costs. There are three main types of solar cookers; the Panel Cooker which directs sunlight from reflective panels onto food; the Solar Oven which places food under a glass plate and as the sun travels through the glass it cooks the food, this solar cooker also used reflective panels to direct even more sunlight through the glass; and the Parabolic Cooker uses a series of mirrors designed to concentrate the sun’s rays on a particular spot. Solar cooking can take some time to perfect and will require an investment in equipment but if you’re serious about natural cooking the answer could be right there in the sky.
Using less energy when you cook can be as simple as choosing the right tools for the job. Plus when you cook more efficiently, you can often save yourself time too.