Cooking up energy savings
By James Dulley from February 2014 Issue
I'm updating my kitchen appliances. I am a bit of a chef, so I want efficient tools. What are the best appliances for cooks? Can you share a few energy-efficient cooking tips?—Barb R
The best appliances match the energy used and the overall cooking time to the food you are preparing.
When it comes to standard radiant heat ovens, most professional chefs prefer electric ovens because they hold heat more evenly than gas ovens. Another advantage, especially during the summer, is that an electric oven does not add extra moisture into your house the way a gas oven does. Less moisture means less work (and lower energy use) for your air conditioner.
How outdoor weather affects indoor cooking
The effects of cooking change from winter to summer. During the winter, the heat and humidity from cooking help warm your house and reduce the heating load on your furnace or heat pump. During the summer, this same heat makes your air conditioner run more, increasing electric bills. Any time of year, plan your baking to make similar baking-temperature foods simultaneously or consecutively while the oven is hot.
Convection ovens can save energy because they cook so much faster compared to a standard oven. Even though the small air circulation fan in a convection oven uses some electricity, there are still significant overall energy savings.
When choosing an oven, look for a self-cleaning model because they often have heavier wall insulation.
Microwave ovens, with their short cooking times, are still the most efficient appliance for cooking or reheating individual food items.
Try a toaster oven
For range-top cooking, the most efficient electric heating elements are induction units. They produce magnetic energy that warms magnetic (usually iron and steel) pots and pans, and provide heating control almost as precise as gas burners. Induction elements also offer another energy advantage—nearly all of the energy goes directly into the pot or pan to heat food. When there's no utensil on an induction element, the element does not get hot, and that also prevents energy waste.
Standard resistance heating elements (the familiar metal coil) work better for some tasks, so look for a range with a mixture of both styles. Whichever style you use, match the size of the pot to the element size for less heat loss.
Want even greater energy savings in the kitchen? Use small countertop appliances when possible. For example, a small toaster oven, especially one with a convection option, uses significantly less electricity than a typical large oven. This is true even though the large oven has more wall insulation. Countertop electric woks, rice cookers, and slow cookers are other good choices for energy efficiency.
Mail requests and questions to JAMES DULLEY, Kentucky Living, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com.