Cooking involves a lot of energy. An avid cook such as myself uses the stove top multiple times a day, the oven several times a week, and the slow cooker at least once a week, sometimes more often. All of our household appliances use energy, of course, and we can always buy more energy efficient appliances, but when you're not in the market for an expensive kitchen makeover, what are some of the steps you can take to reduce energy usage in your kitchen?
I have heard that because slow cookers use very little energy they are more energy efficient. However, the difference may not be as great as you think. I was shocked to learn today that, because the slow cooker cooks consistently and constantly over the time it's on, it can use more energy than your oven, which cycles on and off to reach the right temperature as it cooks. Many variables come into play, such as how efficient your oven is or how much you open your oven to check your food. The energy use makes sense when thought about- I just didn't think about it! Here's an interesting article that discusses this.
The other major cooking appliance in our kitchens is the stove/oven. There are 3 choices available for your cooktop- gas, electric, and induction. Gas is typically more efficient than electric, and the electric ignition does away with the pilot light, which makes them much less scary for me to contemplate using.
According to Consumers Reports, there are various types of electric stoves which can vary energy efficiency, so do your homework before buying a new stove. In the meantime, you can reduce your energy usage by planning your meals efficiently. Use the element closest to your pot size so you reduce the amount of wasted heat radiated around your pot, and cover your pot with a lid to enable it to reach temperature more quickly. If you need to boil water, don't forget to turn down the burner once the boil is reached and continue to cook at a low simmer rather than a hard boil. Use as little water as possible when cooking, as suggested in my cooking water challenge post.
I am intrigued by the idea of induction cooking. I've seen induction cooking surfaces for sale over the last few years that are stand-alone and can be plugged in to use. They cook using a magnetic field, which in and of itself is fascinating. Though I have heard they are more energy efficient to cook with, remember that they also both use electricity to cook. In one article I read, the suggestion is there that The US Department of Energy did a study to compare the two, but the study link refuses to open the document beyond the first page so I can't speak for the results myself. I don't want to spread more confusion into the already confused internet on the merits of energy efficient appliances, so I will not draw conclusions here. However, there are several reasons I would like to try induction cooking, and it is on my list for future purchases.
The most energy efficient cooking appliance in your home to cook a meal is the Microwave, but again there are so many variables at play, as this article lays out.
The most important consideration, regardless of what type of cooking you choose, is to cook thoughtfully. Use as little liquid as possible, cover your pots with a lid when possible, and choose the right burner size to fit your pot. Keep your works surfaces clean to avoid potential fires or (in the case of gas) to be more efficient. Many dishes, such as roasting a turkey or cooking a casserole, don't require preheating. You can turn the burner or oven off a few minutes before the timer sounds, and the residual heat is probably enough to continue cooking your food to completion. (I've done this with pasta and high-temperature roast pork loin and it's worked well...let me know if you experiment!) Cook ahead to make meal starters for future meals, plan to use your leftovers, and read your recipes before beginning. Becoming aware of wasted energy through heat is enough to start thinking about your cooking processes, and thinking through your own processes may make it easier to come up with ways to use less energy. Here's an article on Energy-Wasting Myths to read if you'd like more information!
I look forward to hearing ways you save energy when you cook! #wastereductionweek2016
Enjoy your day,