By John Bruce
Keep your cool this summer when preparing meals. You can save money and reduce your carbon footprint with these 10 easy tips for going green when cooking summer meals (and year round, for that matter).
- Cook outdoors when possible to reduce the load on your air conditioner. Try a solar cooker or oven. Solar cookers and ovens are by far the most energy-efficient cooking appliances. They require no fuel, reduce unwanted summer heat in your home by taking cooking outside, and can accommodate any food a slow cooker can. Some solar ovens can reach 500 degrees. To learn more, visit www.solarcooking.org.
- Toaster ovens, convection ovens, and slow cookers get the job done with less energy than conventional stovetops or ovens, especially when preparing smaller meals
- Use a small a pan, as little water, and as little pre-heating time as possible.
- Bake in glass or ceramic ovenware instead of metal. You can turn the temperature down by 25 degrees, and foods will cook in the same amount of time.
- Avoid thawing food in the microwave. Thawing food in the fridge is far more energy efficient, contributes to the fridge’s cooling, and is safer than thawing food on the countertop or in the sink.
- Don’t open the door and peek in the oven. Use the oven window instead!
- Clean burner pans (the pans under the burners that catch grease) regularly. They’ll more effectively reflect heat to the cookware. Dirty burner pans absorb heat and reduce efficiency.
- Use flat-bottom cookware that rests evenly on the surface of electric coil burners, solid-disk elements, or radiant elements under smooth-top ceramic glass.
- Use residual heat. Turn the stove or oven off before cooking is done to allow cooking to continue while reducing energy use. An electric burner element can be turned off two minutes before removing the cookware, since it remains hot. Ovens can be turned off 20 minutes before cooking’s done.
- Consider substituting one or more stovetop burners with an induction cooker. The typical efficiency of an induction cooker is 84 percent, gas stovetops are 40 percent efficient, according the U.S. Department of Energy. What’s more, induction cookers (which require magnetic cookware such as cast iron or enameled steel) produce as much heat as gas and are less costly to operate than a conventional electric burner. Visit www.theinductionsite.com to learn more.
Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Cookers International, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
John Bruce is a freelance writer based in South Carolina. He writes on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.