Your Tuesday Tip: Cooking Light (On Energy)

By Katlyn Manka
Planet Forward intern/Marymount student

Kitchens are notorious for refuse. In my house, our only trash bin was in the kitchen. Most people don’t realize that their kitchen waste stretches beyond trash. More specifically, kitchens are energy sinks. On average, the kitchen accounts for 13% of a household’s energy use, not including energy used to heat water. Including the energy used to heat water, the kitchen is responsible for up to 22% of all home energy costs. Other than electronics, it's the biggest energy use in the household.

Worry not, we have some tricks you can use to cut energy use and get the most out of your cooking.

1. Cook in bulk and consolidate dishes. Instead of cooking tiny portions regularly, prepare dishes together or double the amount you cook. Freeze or refrigerate what you don’t use immediately.

  • When using the oven, cook dishes with similar cooking temperatures together and resist opening the oven door. Don’t heat up the oven to cook one dish as it is an energy waster.
  • Skip preheating. Foods with long cooking times like lasagnas or casseroles cook as the oven heats up. This may not work for baked goods like cake, but it does for recipes that require less precision.

Skip the stove and choose a smaller device to create a hot meal. The bonus with the slow-cooker is the recipes are usually pretty easy and you come home to dinner already cooked. (Fæ/Creative Commons)

2. Consider alternatives to the stove/oven. Smaller cooking devices, such as microwaves, crock pots, toaster ovens and rice cookers use much less energy than conventional ovens and cooktops. If you think a rice cooker is only for rice and a toaster oven is too small, think again! These tiny machines multitask more than you may think (more toaster oven and rice cooker recipes).

  • Salads, raw fruits and vegetables are energy friendly: they don’t require heating.

Skip the heat altogether and serve more raw foods. (Marisa DeMeglio/Creative Commons)

3. On the cooktop, cook smart. Use those burners in the most efficient way.

  • Use the right burner for pots and pans. A burner that’s too large leads to wasted heat.
  • Keep the lids on the pans.
  • Turn burners off before your meal is done. Food will cook off the residual heat. This article on sit boiling has great tips for cooking this way.

If you're renting, you might not think about things like refrigerator coils, but keeping them clean uses less energy. Check with your landlord to see who should do this maintenance. (Mark Florence/Flickr)

4. Refrigerate smart! Cooling food uses as much energy as heating it, maybe more.

  • Check fridge temperature. Reduce spoilage and wasted energy by setting the refrigerator at 35-38°F and the freezer at 0°F.
  • Don’t leave the refrigerator open.
  • Let leftovers cool 30 minutes before storing/freezing to reduce energy use.
  • If you have an older fridge, make sure the backside coils are clean. Dirty coils require more energy to keep your food cool.

Remember, next time you cook, cook smarter. It’ll be gentler on the environment and lighter on the wallet.

(SOURCES: U.S. Energy Information Administration, EnergyStar.govTheTinyLife.com, Mother Earth News, TheGreenists.com, BestHealthMag.ca)

(Photo at top: Match the pot to the burner size to use less energy. Source: Pixabay)

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