One thing that we all have in common is that we eat. That means that in most homes on most days we cook. Maybe even more than once! Many of the ways we cook are intended to make our food yummy. However, there are many many things we do just because our parents or grandparents did. So, let’s start to think about saving energy as we prepare our delicious healthy meals.
Let’s start with behavior:
Your oven will heat up in about 10 minutes, so unless you are baking, you really don’t need to pre-heat your oven. And, your oven will hold its heat for a while after you turn it off, so you can turn it off a few minutes before you take that casserole, roast, pie etc. out of the oven.
My grandma was right… Don’t Peak! Each time you open the oven, at least 20% of the heat sneaks out. You can look through the window. Make notes on your recipes so you can remember how long it took to make that cake, cookies, ribs in your oven.
You may have a temperature probe that you use to tell you when your food is cooked. This helps make sure your food is cooked but not overcooked, and reduces how often you open the oven door.
Don’t overcook your food. My personal preference; plus food stays more moist (OK, that’s my preference too); and you use less energy.
Using the convection setting in your oven will reduce cooking time by up to 1/3! That means you get dinner faster, and use less energy.
Can you cook or reheat that item in your microwave, or toaster oven, or on your cooktop? Those are each more efficient than cooking in the oven.
Cook with the lid on the pot. A lot of heat will sneak out the top of the pot as you are heating, simmering, stir frying etc. Cooking with the lid on reduces energy use, and your kitchen will over heat less. As well as heat, there is a lot of moisture coming out of those pots. Moisture that needs to be vented out of your house.
Match the size of the pot to the size of the element. If the burner is much bigger than the pot, you are wasting a lot of heat.
Pots and pans with smooth, flat bottoms cook faster and more evenly than warped ones.
Are you buying a new oven, cooktop or range? Let’s talk about equipment:
Here’s some good news… Self-cleaning ovens are much better insulated than regular ovens, so they are about 8% more efficient, and maintain a more even temperature. The bad news is that running the cleaning cycle is very energy intensive, so don’t clean your oven more often than needed. (Or is that more good news?). If you run the cleaning cycle right after using the oven, you save a bit of energy because the oven is already warm.
Here’s something new… Induction cooktops. They have been around for a long time in restaurants and in Asia and Europe, but are just catching on here. In an induction range, the stovetop itself doesn’t heat up. Instead, an electromagnet heats the pot. It’s very efficient, and quick, and doesn’t overheat your kitchen as much.
Gas ovens and cooktops are still the most efficient choice in Saskatchewan. Induction is the next, then halogen cooktops. Conventional burners are the least efficient.
Several friends have recently re-done their kitchens and have been very excited about putting in large, high volume exhaust fans. That is good for getting smells and moisture out of your kitchen, but remember, that is heated air being pushed out that large hole in the side of your house. Although your neighbors might love to smell your applesauce, brownies, and garlic mashed potatoes, that’s a lot of energy pouring out of your house.
The owner’s manuals for your appliances will have tips for efficient operation. Check it out.
Check the seal on the oven (and fridge and freezer) door. Close the door on a piece of paper. If it’s hard to pull out, the seal is good. Or put a lit flashlight inside (when the oven is cold). If you can see light at the edges of the door, the seals need to be replaced.
That’s a lot of tips. And hey, we didn’t even START to talk about the energy used to produce, process and transport our food! OK, I’m drooling now, and it’s the end of the workday. Time to head home and cook some fresh local food. Oops, that’s a topic for another column.
Source: Buying and Operating Tips: Major Electrical Cooking Appliances. http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca. Accessed 2013 September 3.
Angie manages energy conservation projects for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and is an active member of McClure United Church. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)