Use Less Energy in the Kitchen - Green Cooking Tips

March 30, 2011 Four comments View all articles in Home

Left unchecked, your kitchen and the ways you prepare your delicious, satisfying meals have the potential to sabotage all the eco-friendly efforts you make elsewhere in life. There is such a thing as eco-friendly cooking, however, and it can lessen the energy footprint of your kitchen and your daily meals. The following tips for cooking eco-friendly are simple, fast, and practical. What's more, you don't have to be a chef to try them out!


Put the [electric] kettle on: An electric tea kettle saves about one-third of the energy of a conventional one. And for boiling water, an electric kettle is up to twice as efficient as a pot on the stove. So don't just use your electric kettle for tea, use it to boil water for pasta, rice, or steamed vegetables.

Grill it: An outdoor grill takes less energy than your stove and will keep heat out of the house, which reduces costly strain on the air conditioner.

Cut it up: Shorten the cooking time and decrease the required energy for denser foods like meat and potatoes by cutting them into smaller pieces before cooking.

Multi-cook: Simultaneously cooking more than one food item in a single pan will decrease time and energy use. For example, you can boil pasta and eggs at the same time, even if they're not for the same recipe.

Keep a lid on it: Covering a stovetop pot or pan encloses the heat and saves up to two-thirds of the energy. So unless it's integral to the recipe, as for a reduction sauce, keep the heat from escaping by covering your pots and pans.

Bake in ceramic or glass dishes: Ceramic and glass conduct and retain heat better than metal, which means you can reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees (Fahrenheit) and cook your food in the same amount of time.

Cook with residual heat: When roasting vegetables or baking cookies, you can turn off the oven a few minutes before the recipe indicates; the oven will remain hot enough to finish cooking, but you'll be significantly reducing energy use in the process.

Clean your metal burners: They'll reflect heat better.

Thaw first: When cooking with frozen food, be sure to thaw it first (unless otherwise indicated). There's no sense in making your oven work harder to cook something that's still half-frozen.

Use more human power: It's the cleanest burning fuel! Consider getting a manual coffee grinder, a hand beater, a food mill, a mortar and pestle, or a plain old knife instead of a fancy food-processer.

Use high-quality cookware: Heavyweight stainless steel, copper, cast-iron, and anodized aluminum pots and pans heat evenly and thoroughly. Not only do they require less energy to heat up and keep warm, they last longer than cheap cookware, as well.

Skip preheating when possible: Usually, foods with cooking times of more than 45 minutes, such as lasagna, baked potatoes, or casseroles, can be started in a cold oven. Part of the cooking is done as the oven heats up, so the energy expenditure is reduced. Most baked goods like cookies and breads do require a preheated oven, however.

Keep the oven door shut: Every time you open the door of a hot oven, it loses between 25 and 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) and lengthens the cooking time and increases energy use. Make sure you keep the glass window clean so you can still keep an eye on your food without opening the oven door.

Turn down that flame: Only turn up the flame on your gas stove high enough to heat the bottom of the pan; any flame that doesn't hit the pan is wasted.

Use a pressure cooker: Foods like dried beans, whole grains, and stews take an infamously long time to cook on the stovetop. Put them in a pressure cooker, however, and you'll speed up cooking time and reduce your energy use up to 75 percent. A pressure cooker will also keep your kitchen cooler, which means your air conditioner won't waste energy compensating for a hot stove. A pressure cooker also helps foods retain their nutrients, intensifies flavors, and requires less salt and seasoning.

Choose the right size: It takes more energy to heat a large pan than it does to heat a small one. So make sure you use the smallest pot that accommodates what you're cooking, and a burner size that matches.

Use a toaster oven: When you're cooking just a few fish fillets or baked potatoes, a toaster oven is better than a conventional one because it uses only a fraction of the energy and takes less time to reach the desired temperature.

Use a microwave: Microwaves often use up to 80 percent less energy than conventional ovens, and they're also usually more time efficient. Foods will cook even faster in the microwave if you put them on the outer edges of the rotating tray instead of in the center.


Yelena on April 1, 2011 at 11:12 a.m.

These are great suggestions, except for the microwave. The microwave is toxic. Experiments reported in a medical journal (The Lancet 12/8/89) show that it alters food enough to cause, upon ingestion "structural, functional and immunological changes" in the body. Microwaves transform the amino acid L-proline into D-proline, a proven toxin to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys. I'm done with the microwave.

Travis on April 1, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.

Why no mention of a solar oven???

Chasing Green on April 1, 2011 at 2:30 p.m.

Thanks for the idea Travis. We actually plan on covering solar ovens on their own sometime soon.

Neil on March 17, 2012 at 12:13 p.m.

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