Every single week day, people come back home after a day of work and almost simultaneously start using lots of energy intensive-things; they turn on the television, the computer, turn on the lights if it’s dark, they plug in their cell phones and gadgets… And then they start cooking food.
We’re all getting more aware of our energy consumption when it comes to cars (hybrids and electric cars are getting more popular) and to lighting (compact fluorescents took over in only a few years), but most of us are still in the dark when it comes to energy-efficient cooking. Here’s a few common sense tips to get your started on the road to low energy cooking.
1. Hot and Cold
The first thing that you should become aware of around the kitchen is hot & cold. It takes a lot of energy to cool something down, and it takes a lot of energy to heat it up. That’s where the savings can be made.
For example, don’t leave the fridge or freezer door open longer than necessary. When the cold air escapes, this means that your fridge or freezer will have to work overtime to bring the temperature back down. Conversely, don’t use more hot water than you need to. Don’t boil a big pan full of water if you only need a little bit!
2. Size Matters
When heating something, make sure that the heat actually goes where you want it to. This means that you should be careful to match your pots and pans to the appropriate burners on your range. Otherwise a lot of the energy you’re using is just heating up the air in your kitchen (which can mean that the A/C has to work overtime in the summer, further wasting energy).
3. Consolidate: One-Pot-Meals are Your Friend
Another great low energy cooking tip is to cook one-pot meals such as casseroles, soups, stews and stir-fries. It’s easy to see why they save energy compared to recipes that require you to use two, three or even 4 burners at the same time. You can find a variety of one pot meal ideas here.
4. Consolidate: Schedule Your Baking
Whenever possible try to bake multiple things at the same time if there’s enough space in your oven and the recipes call for the same baking temperature, or one after the other all on the same day. That way you only have to warm up the oven once, and you benefit from the residual heat left over from the previous recipe.
5. Consider Getting a Slow-Cooker (aka Crock-Pot)
Probably the first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about low energy cooking, the good old crock-pot is hard to beat when it comes to making stew. You just need to make sure to set things up long enough before you need to eat since the cooking temperature is relatively low (that’s what makes it so energy intensive). Here are a variety of crock pot recipes to try.
6. Consider Getting a Pressure Cooker
It allows you to cook food faster, without heating up your kitchen as much, and using less energy. Hard to argue against that! Pressure cooking works because as the air pressure increases inside the sealed pot, the boiling point of water decreases. Only the microwave is more energy efficient (and you can’t do everything in the microwave).
7. Turn Off the Oven Before You Are Finished
Electricity stops flowing to your oven the moment you turn it off, but it will stay hot for a fairly long time after that (depending on how well insulated it is and how often you open the door). This is a good opportunity to save energy, especially with recipes that aren’t too capricious about exact cooking time and temperature.
8. Keep Lids on Pots, Don’t Open Your Oven Door
This one is self-explanatory. Every time you allow heat to escape, you’ll have to use more electricity or gas.
9. Eat more Raw Foods
Salads, raw fruits and vegetables are definitely the best way to go from “low energy” to “no energy”. Usually healthy food too, so dive in!
10. Use the Microwave When Appropriate
Microwaves are more energy efficient than stoves by a pretty large margin. They aren’t appropriate for everything, but if there are things that you cook on the stove out of habit but that could just as well be done in the microwave, you should considering switching.
11. Cook Large Quantities, Then Reheat Leftovers
It’s more efficient to make a huge lasagna (for example) and then re-heat leftovers for a while (especially in the microwave) than to make smaller lasagnas more often.