Home cooks of all skill levels can save money by using their kitchens more efficiently. By modifying cooking habits, making better use of existing appliances and purchasing new appliances that are energy-efficient, home cooks can save money, extend the working life of cookware and lessen the time spent cooking. These tactics are part of Green Cooking, which is about reducing waste, using less energy, less water and making less noise during the cooking process. Incorporating Green Cooking principles, the average household can minimize their home’s energy consumption and save hundreds of dollars per year on utility bills.
Using the following tips, you can maximize the efficiencies of your kitchen’s appliances and refine your cooking habits to save energy, save money and “cook green.”
1. Full-size ovens are not very efficient when cooking small quantities of food. When cooking small-to medium-sized meals, use a smaller toaster oven. In general, the smaller the appliance, the less energy used, so choose the smallest appliance suited to your cooking task. The more energy-efficient an appliance is, the less it costs to run.
2. Keep kitchen appliances and cookware clean. When surfaces are clean, you maximize the amount of energy reflected toward your food, cooking more quickly and evenly.
3. Utilize residual heat. Turn off the oven or electric stove top a few minutes before the end cooking time. The appliance will remain hot enough to complete the cooking process.
4. Energy-efficient appliances may sometimes cost more to purchase, but savings on utility bills will be realized in the long run. Try to gradually replace your old appliances with more energy-efficient models. Look for appliances with the Energy Star designation indicating that the appliance is up to current energy-efficiency standards. New and better appliances continue to be developed, cooking food faster and with greater convenience. And faster cooking times mean less energy use.
5. If you have an electric stove top, make sure your pan completely covers the heating element and is the same size as the burner. Use flat-bottomed pans that make full contact with the elements. For example, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch element wastes 40 percent of the element’s heat output. With gas burners, make sure the flame is fully below the pan; otherwise, heat is lost and energy is wasted. The moral is, if you use a small pan, use a small burner and vice versa.
6. Don’t preheat the oven unless a recipe (such as bread or pastry) requires it. A good rule of thumb is that any food with a cooking time of more than 60 minutes can be started in a cold oven.
7. No peeking. Every time you open the oven door, it can lower the internal temperature as much as 25 degrees. Use a timer to set the cooking time, and be sure your oven window is clean enough for you to see how your dish is progressing. Be sure to check the seal on your oven door to make sure it is working properly.
8. In the oven, stagger dishes at different rack levels to ensure proper air flow. Good air flow helps the oven work more quickly and efficiently. Rearrange oven shelves before you turn the oven on. Doing it after the oven is hot not only wastes heat, but is an easy way to burn yourself.
9. Piggyback dishes on top of each other, either by using the same heat source for two or more chores, or by baking such items as cookies using retained heat from prior baking or roasting. Multitask wherever possible. Cookware such as a Chinese steamer, can cook different dishes on different tiers simultaneously and inexpensively.
10. Choose your cookware carefully. Glass and ceramic cookware conduct and retain heat better than metal. If a recipe calls for a metal baking pan, you can usually switch to glass or ceramic which will allow you to lower the cooking temperature by 25 degrees.
11. By warming food first (either on the counter or in the microwave-it uses less energy than an oven) you can cut down on the amount of time your oven is on.
12. Take Cover! Water boils more quickly and foods cook faster if there is a lid on the pan, keeping the heat in. Also, don’t boil more water than you will be using.
13. Cooking frozen foods uses more energy – thaw them out first. Thawing in the refrigerator is best because it helps the efficiency of the refrigerator, cooling it down and reducing the energy required to keep it at its working temperature.
14. Cook with a microwave when possible. Microwaves use between one-fifth and one-half as much energy as conventional stoves. They are most efficient at cooking small portions and for defrosting. To cook food in the microwave faster, place it on the outer edges of a rotating tray rather than in the center, allowing more microwaves to interact with the food. Food cooks faster as the surface-to-volume ratio increases. When cooking potatoes, for example, thinner slices will cook faster than cubed or quartered sections. During warm weather when air conditioning is in use, microwaves generate less radiant heat reducing the energy load on your air conditioner.
15. Use pressure cookers. They use 50-75 percent less energy than ordinary cookware and it’s the easiest and fastest method of cooking..
16. Induction cooking uses 90% of the energy produced compared to only 55% for a gas burner and 65% for traditional electric ranges. Induction cook tops have the same instant control as gas and are the fastest of all cook top types to heat and cook food.
17. Use electric kettles to boil water. They consume half the energy needed to boil water on the stove.
18. Turn down the heat after water boils. Lightly boiling water is the same temperature as a roaring boil.
19. Toaster ovens, although generally not very well insulated are good choices for small to medium portions of food that cook relatively quickly. For baking and broiling, they use about one-third the energy of a regular oven.
20. Slow cookers also reduce energy use in cooking. Slow cookers such as crock-pots will cook an entire meal for about 17 cents worth of electricity.
21. Convection ovens consume up to one-third less energy than standard ovens. Heated air is continuously circulated by the oven’s fan, for more even heat and reduced cooking times.
22. Pressure-cooking is the easiest and fastest green cooking method. A new pressure cooker can reduce your energy consumption for cooking by more than 50%.
23. Electric skillets, like a deep griddle with walls, can steam, fry, saute, stew, bake, or roast a variety of food items – some can even double as serving dishes.
24. Soak dinnerware and cooking utensils that are heavily caked with dried food in cold water with a small amount of soap. This eliminates the need for prolonged scrubbing and using large amounts of water.
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Photo. Matthias Zomer