Listen, we all vaguely want to be more energy efficient, but sometimes it’s just a lot to remember, or it seems cumbersome, or you keep forgetting to go buy the window sealing kit, and don’t even get you started on how many times you forget to check if you need the fancy little curvy LED light-bulbs with the SMALL screw-in part or the FAT screw-in part.
But I think what we can all agree on is that food is delicious, and also completely necessary. So let’s talk about how to achieve maximum energy efficiency in your cooking without just eating PB&J’s with a side of chips all the time.
This is the best time of year to talk about it too. Crock-pot cooking is a great way to maximize flavor in your meals, but may not always be the most energy efficient method to do so. Which leads us to our first point:
- Fit the cookware to the cooking element. Don’t put the small pot on the large stove circle. Here’s some science-y numbers to back that up: according to SmarterHouse (smarterhouse.org/cooking/energy-saving-tips), a 6” pan on an 8” electric burner wastes more than 40 percent of the heat produced by the burner. On the flip side, try to match the pot to the amount of food as best you can. Don’t even pretend like you never used the giant skillet for the box of macaroni just because it was in front when you opened the cabinet. Also, if possible, invest in high-quality cookware with sturdy bottoms. More numbers, and this one hit close to home for this writer: a pan with a warped bottom can use 50 percent more energy to boil water. The ideal pan has a slightly concave bottom, because when it heats up, the metal expands, which flattens the bottom. Copper-bottomed pots also heat up faster. For the oven: glass and ceramic are more efficient materials than metal, allowing you to cook foods at 25°F lower in the same amount of time.
- Maintain your appliances. Nobody LIKES cleaning stoves, ovens, and microwaves, except maybe your mom, but maintaining cleanliness can help with efficiency. When burner pans fill up with food waste, that waste absorbs heat, which reduces burner efficiency. If they’re shiny, they reflect the heat back up to the pan. Microwaves work best when there are no pre-existing food bits inside. So blast some power music and get to scrubbing. As far as ovens go, use the self-cleaning feature rarely, but when you do, start it immediately after you cook something so that the oven is already hot.
- Save time. Make sure your frozen foods completely defrost. Make sure that meat comes to room temperature before cooking it. This not only speeds up the process, but also helps the meat cook evenly. If roasting vegetables, cut them into smaller pieces so they will cook faster. A surprise from treehugger.com: skip preheating the oven, unless you’re baking pastries and bread, and get a few extra minutes of cooking time by putting food directly in the oven as soon as you turn it on. Take advantage of having the oven on. Cook double amounts so that you have leftovers; it takes less energy to reheat than to cook. Finally, save a couple dollars a month by cutting the heat early, especially if you use an electric stove and oven. The residual heat will continue to cook the food. An oven will keep baking if you resist the urge to open the door.
- Or just eat PB&J with chips on the side. Because let’s not kid ourselves, that’s delicious sometimes.
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