Cut Your Consumption: Energy-wise Cooking

Are you a mindful cook? Sure, sourcing locally and sustainably produced foods can make a world of difference in your health and can also help to reduce the environmental costs of long-transported foods, but how you choose to  prepare your foods also makes a difference

We hear a lot of talk about energy consumption as it relates to how far our food travels to our plates.   Indeed, local, sustainably produced foods make up about 80 – 90% of the foods on my family’s table.   Yet, how far your food travels before it hits your plate tells only part of the story.   On average, the energy you use to prepare your food in your home constitutes about 25% of your food’s total energy footprint.   Essentially, that you can make a bigger difference in greening your plate by cooking efficiently and mindfully than by eating locally alone.   As an added benefit, cooking more efficiently will translate into some real savings for your family’s budget.

Cook Less and Eat More Raw and Fermented Foods to Save Energy

If you’re not turning on your oven, range, slowcooker or other kitchen appliance, you’re not using any energy save your own elbow grease.   By making an effort to cook less and consume more raw foods, you’ll not only consume less energy in your kitchen but you will also reap nutritional benefits as well.   Many micronutrients are damaged or destroyed by heat, so raw foods and fermented raw foods like sauerkraut, preserved lemons, probiotic apple and beetroot relish are rich in vitamins and food enzymes which are essential to a wholesome diet.

Mind Your Pots, Pans and Lids

If cooking on your range, take great care to match your pots and pans to the appropriate burner size.   Using too small a pan for a burner will result in significant heat loss while using too large a pan for a burner will result in uneven cooking.   Similarly, lidding your pots and pans reduces heat loss while to cook foods more quickly and more evenly than cooking in pots and pans without lids.

Prepare More One-pot Meals

By preparing one-pot meals such as casseroles, soups, stews and stirfries, you can help to minimize energy consumption in your kitchen.   Consider this simple meal of roast chicken, steamed vegetables and mashed potatoes.   At a minimum, you’d need to use your oven and two burners on your range and you’d probably use at least three different cooking pots and, possibly more if you use your mixer to mash the potatoes.   By contrast, a chicken soup with vegetables and potatoes would only require a single burner on your slowcooker.   By using multiple, energy-consuming appliances to prepare a single meal you could easily double or triple the energy consumption of a one-pot meal.

Save Your Baking and Roasting for One Day a Week

An oven burns an awful lot of energy.   An gas oven will cost about a nickel or a dime to run for an hour, but an electric oven will cost about $0.30 to $0.60 to run for an hour.   If you’re baking or using your oven for an hour 5 times a week, you’re looking at a cost of   up to $12 each month, which may seem minor, but minimizing its use not only will save you that $12, but also reduce your consumption of energy.   Instead of eliminating baking (I mean, really now, would you want to miss out on goodies like Sprouted Wheat Bread, Easy Roast Chicken and Pumpkin Custard), simply take one day a week to bake, roast and use your oven.   By scheduling a baking day and preparing all your baked and oven-cooked foods that single day you can maximize the space in your oven by baking different items together at the same temperature, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of the residual heat in the oven, thus reducing energy loss caused by preheating.

Use Kitchen Appliances Wisely

In discussing energy-efficient cooking, you’ll hear a lot about slowcookers.   A slowcooker will generally reduce your energy consumption and costs by comparison to an electric range or oven and is comparable in energy cost to a gas range or oven.   For example, when I prepare roast chicken stock in a slowcooker I’ll generally simmer it for 24 to 36 hours depending on when I have time to strain it.   The slowcooker method costs me less than a dollar; however, simmering it stove-top for 12 – 14 hours costs over $4.   If you have an electric range or oven, a slowcooker will generally save you both energy and money.

Comparable Energy Cost of Cooking Appliances

Appliance Energy Cost Per Hour1
Electric Oven $0.30 -$0.60 Per Hour
Electric Range $0.07 – $0.30 Per Hour
Gas Oven $0.05 – $0.11 Per Hour
Gas Range $0.04 – $0.08 Per Hour
Crock Pot or Slowcooker $0.01 – $0.03 Per Hour
Your Own Two Hands FREE!

Energy Cost of Preparing Chicken Stock

Appliance Cooking Time Approximate Total Energy Cost
Electric Range 12 – 14 hours $0.84 – $4.20
Gas Range 12 – 14 hours $0.60 – $1.12
Slowcooker / Crockpot 24 – 36 hours $0.24 – $1.08

Energy Cost of Preparing a Pot Roast

Appliance Cooking Time Approximate Total Energy Cost
Electric Oven 3 – 4 hours $0.90 – $2.40
Gas Oven 3 – 4 hours $0.15 – $0.44
Slowcooker   / Crockpot 10 – 14 hours $0.10 – $0.42

1. Data sourced from Flex Your Power, except Slowcooker Data which was calculated at Nourished Kitchen.