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Ten Tips for energy efficient cooking

Posted by Alex Barrett on 13 June 2016 at 11:10 am

Cooking uses a lot of energy. Uswitch report that “The cost of cooking accounts for about 4% of the average gas and electricity bill.” Other estimates can be even higher. Luckily there are a lot of things we can do to reduce energy use in the kitchen. Here are our ten tips for energy efficient cooking:

  1. Use the microwave

Different cooking methods use different amounts of energy, and the microwave is one of the most energy efficient. OVO energy report that: “Cooking in a microwave for 10 minutes a day will cost about £3 per year, Cooking in a slower cooker for 8 hours a day will cost about £14 per year, Cooking on an electric hob for 30 minutes a day will cost about £90 per year.”  

The Microwave cooks very quickly compared to other ovens, so that can be a big advantage. So rather than boiling vegetables in a pan, try cooking them in the microwave for a couple of minutes. If you have a way of generating renewable energy then this option gets even better, as you can use clean electricity to power the microwave, rather than burning gas.

  1. Boil water in the kettle, rather than a pan

Rather than leaving a pan on the hob for several minutes while you wait for it to come to a boil you can use the kettle to give it a head start. It takes less energy to keep water at the boil if it is already hot.

  1. Cook as much as possible at once

If you are going to be heating up the oven, or using a hob, try to cook as much food as possible. This will save you energy, but also time and effort. It is far more energy efficient to do one massive roast or stir-fry, and then freeze the leftover food. It can then be reheated in a microwave as it is needed.

This is most effective if you are cooking for one or two people, and so probably not making full use of your oven’s capacity. If you are cooking for a larger family then you may already be using all of the oven space, as you do need to ensure that air can still circulate within the oven.

  1. Open the oven as little as possible

This one is obvious, but every time you open the oven door some heat will escape, and your oven will have to work harder to maintain a stable temperature.

  1. Cut food into small pieces

The smaller a piece of food the faster it will cook, as it will have a larger surface area to volume ratio. There will be more surface exposed to the heat source, and so heat will penetrate to the interior more rapidly. If you are cooking a larger piece of food, such as a joint of meat, you can try putting metal skewers in it. These will get hot and conduct heat to the interior, speeding up the cooking process.

  1. Use the right size pan for the hob, and the meal

Water is difficult to heat up, so use a pan that is the right size for your meal. You don’t want to waste energy trying to get a very large volume of water to come to the boil if you could make do with a smaller amount. It is also a good idea to match the pan to the size of hob. A large pan on a small hob won’t be as effective, as only a small part of the pan will be heated up. Likewise putting a small pan on a large hob will result in a lot of heat going to waste, as it never comes into contact with the pan.

  1. Put food in the oven while it is preheating

Unless timing and temperature are critical for your recipe, then you probably don’t need to wait for your oven to heat up before you start cooking. The oven might not be at temperature yet, but it will still provide some energy to your food, and give it a head start cooking.

You can also switch the oven off shortly before you are finished, as heat will be retained, and the food will continue to cook. This is another place where a microwave oven has an advantage. Microwaves interact with the water molecules in the food, causing them to rotate and so heat up. This continues for a short while after the oven stops, which is why food often needs to stand for a few minutes. It continues cooking for a short while after it has left the microwave.

  1. Leave food to defrost completely before you cook it

Unsurprisingly food at room temperature takes less energy to heat up than frozen food does. If you can leave something out to defrost then it will take less energy to cook than if you are cooking it from frozen or defrosting it using a microwave.

  1. Source local and sustainable food

Consider where your food comes from. Is it grown locally or does it have a lot of food miles before it even gets to your kitchen? Was it produced using sustainable farming practices? Is it Fairtrade? Some types of food take much more energy to produce than others. Meat farming is far more energy intensive than arable farming, so you could try cooking vegetarian meals a few times a week, to cut down on your impact to the environment.

  1. Keep the kitchen clean

An electric hob needs to be kept clean in order for it to work efficiently. Dirt will reduce the heat flow from the hob to the pan and so increase the amount of time it takes to cook its contents. Likewise any material in the microwave will be heated up when you switch it on, so cleaning up spills as soon as possible will mean that all of the energy is directed at your food, rather than the waste.

References

  1. Uswitch
  2. OVO Energy
  3. Treehugger.com
  4. Smarter Houses
  5. The Energy Saving Trust

Image credit: Alex Barrett 2016

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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