Cooking is one of those household chores we often do without thinking much about it. Getting it done fast is really what’s at the top of our minds. But if you take the time to think about your cooking habits, you may learn how much energy (and often time) you waste when you mindlessly go through the motions of making supper. There are many ways to save energy while cooking that also save you time.
How Much Energy Does Cooking Use?
Here are some rough estimates of the energy used to feed a family of five one casserole, ordered by the most expensive cooking method to the least:
$.45 - Electric Oven
$.18 - Electric Range-top Burner
$.12 - Toaster Oven
$.08 - Gas Oven
$.06 - Gas Range-top Burner
$.05 - Pressure Cooker
$.02 - Crock Pot
$.01 - Microwave Oven
Clearly, these numbers show us that we should cook with the microwave, crockpot and gas range whenever possible. But what you cook and how you cook it can make a big impact on your energy bill as well. Follow these tips to waste as little cooking energy as possible.
Use the right burner: Use a small burner whenever possible. Never put a small pan on a big burner, or you’ll just end up wasting energy heating the air around the pan.
Boil it Faster
Use only enough water to cover what you are cooking when you boil. Less water takes less time to boil. Water also boils faster with a lid on the pan. Always use a lid to conserve heat unless you need evaporation to do the cooking (like in a reduction sauce).
You can turn down the heat after water reaches a full rolling boil. You can even turn it off if you want. Instead of boiling throughout the pasta cooking process, cook noodles for one or two minutes at a boil, then turn off the burner and let the pot sit covered for 20 minutes. Test the pasta after 15 minutes to figure out the perfect timing. You can also consider using couscous instead. They take only five minutes to cook!
Small Dish, Small Oven
Toaster ovens are great for cooking smaller dishes. They heat more quickly and use less energy than your conventional oven. Stop heating empty space and use the toaster for small dishes.
Use the Right Dish
Ceramic and glass dishes let you turn down the oven by 25 degrees without extending cooking time, because they conduct and hold heat better than metal.
Keeping Food Warm
If you need to keep a dish warm for a few minutes until serving time, put it in the microwave and close the door. The insulation will keep the food warm. Just be sure not to turn it on with a metal dish in it!
Don't Always Preheat
Most people don’t know that preheating is unnecessary on many roasts. If you’ll be cooking a dish for more than one hour, preheating the oven is unnecessary and wasteful.
If you have a convection feature on your oven, take the time to learn how to use it. You can save one-third of the cooking energy. It takes a little experimentation to get the temperature and time reductions just right, so write down your results and keep them in the recipe box.
Obviously, you waste a lot of energy when you open the oven door. Keep the glass clean and you won’t have to. Turn the oven light on just for a quick peek and turn it back off.
Use human power whenever possible. Don’t automatically grab for the electric mixer if a hand-powered whisk will do the job. Take a second to decide if you really need to cook those carrots. Aren’t carrot sticks just as good, if not better than boiled carrots? They're certainly more nutritious!
Open the oven door before you start cooking and arrange the shelves. If you have to do it after the oven is hot, you’ll waste a lot of energy. Cut up foods before you start the frying pan or you’ll waste heating energy while you’re dicing. Also think about any dishes you have been planning for later in the week. Can you make that cake today, baking on the heels of dinner? It will save you energy preheating the oven. Another option is to make a double helping of your dish and freeze half for later. Remember that reheating food on the microwave, stovetop or toaster oven takes less energy than in the oven.
By following these cooking tips, you could reduce your energy use by 5% or more, since cooking accounts for 10% of your total energy bill. Experiment with different cooking methods and see how low you can go.