Energy Saving in the Kitchen

This week, for the B&Q Great Energy Race, I am looking at food and how we can save energy in the kitchen.

Energy usage from cooking accounts for around 4% of the energy usage in the average house. I was surprised this was so little, but as they say, every little helps, and there are lots of measures we can take to save energy in the kitchen, and it all adds up.
So are we destined to spend a month eating raw food, or are there lots of clever ways we can reduce our energy usage in the kitchen??

I think about food and cooking A LOT, and I love cooking, so I am really keen to explore the ins and outs of every usage in the kitchen-in terms of storing food, cooking it, and then clearing up all the resultant mess!
I have been giving this some thought over the last few days, and have mostly come up with more questions than answers-questions like these:

  • A-listed appliances are obviously the Holy Grail in terms of energy usage, but if you have old, less energy efficient ones that still work perfectly well, does the carbon footprint of replacing them outweigh the energy saving benefits of doing so?
  • Is it better to just boil the water you need for a cup of tea, or to boil three times as much, as then fill a thermos with water to make tea with later?
  • I am told that a slow cooker uses about the same amount of energy as a standard lightbulb, which sounds pretty energy saving to me, BUT if you have it on for 8-10hours, does this equate to the same amount of energy used as a conventional cooker for an hour?
  • Which uses less energy and water-washing up by hand, or using a dishwasher?
    Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 10.55.50

I haven’t exactly been losing sleep over these questions, but as with most things, I am quickly discovering that things are never quite as simple as they first appear!

Anyway, to start us off, here are some of the things I already do in the kitchen to save energy, and some things I am planning to implement.

  • When you have finished cooking in the oven, leave the door open, so that the heat can disperse into the kitchen and warm it up
  • As long as you are not cooking a cake (and it might therefore sink) I reckon you can turn the oven off 10 minutes or so before the end of the cooking time, and the heat will stay pretty constant until you open the door to take your meal out (don’t quote me on this, I have not scientifically assessed it, and the Food Safety types may very well be spitting out mouthfuls of tea in rage and indignation at such a suggestion)
  • If you want a casserole or are cooking cheaper cuts of meat, that need slow cooking, use a slow cooker (although I will be doing some in-depth investigative journalism into this during the week-excited? I am!)
  • If you have a dishwasher, make sure it is full before you turn it on, and use the Eco-setting if it has one
  • If you are washing up, use a bowl and don’t keep the tap running all the time
  • When cooking pasta and rice, I am reliably informed that you can just bring the water up to the boil, pop on a lid, turn off the heat and leave it to cook like this. Apparently it adds an extra 10 minutes or so to the cooking time
  • If you have the oven on, try to use it as efficiently as possible, and plan ahead, so that if possible you can have things cooking on both shelves-one meal for now, and one for later (now that really is moving into the realms of uber-efficiency and domestic god/goddess-liness)
  • Use the toaster, not the grill
  • Only boil the water you need in the kettle (although as I already said above, this has raised one of the ‘burning questions’, and that in itself raises yet another “Is life to short to be anally storing hot water in a thermos?”)
  • This may be slightly controversial, especially, again, for the Food Safety police, but don’t pre-heat (ignore this for cakes though). Put your food in the cold oven, and allow it to heat up as the oven heats up
  • Put lids on saucepans (and then don’t forget to turn the heat down!)
  • Don’t throw the hot cooking water down the drain, leave it in the pans to cool down, thereby releasing it’s residual heat into the kitchen, rather than heating up your drain!

So come on then chaps-your turn! I want:

  • answers to my ‘burning questions’
  • your hints, tips, ideas and gadgets for energy saving in the kitchen
  • any burning questions of your own, and areas you want my hard-hitting investigative journalism skills (?!) to look into over the next week
  • any useful websites/books etc

We’ve got a Great Energy Race to win, and a planet to save, so lets do it 🙂
(Cheesy motivational speech bit)

37 thoughts on “Energy Saving in the Kitchen

  1. Hi Jen, interestingly much of this makes me hark back to my childhood in the 50’s. I know this is hard to achieve for a household where both parents work now but everything then was very organised round a weekly rota. My mum and my gran both had a baking day and a separate bread baking day. On these days the oven was full up with things cooking at the same time. Including the “flat bottom” bread that cooked on the oven floor. Casseroles etc were also cooked in ovens with the other shelves having other things on too. Food was never wasted, all leftovers were used up. We didn’t have central heating, in fact the house still didn’t even up to 2004. We put on an extra wool pullover, we wore vests etc. to keep warm. Even now in my much newer house we try not to have the heating on too much. I’m afraid today people expect their houses to be like mid summer inside. A different mindset is needed. Sorry rant over! Hope you’re warmer today and have got the jeans back! Good luck with it all!

    • Jeans are back on! Thank goodness, as it is really quite cool today. Some great tips, Thankyou! I had a baking day at the weekend-blog post to come 🙂

  2. He Jen – I await the answers with much interest! I am aware that Pressure Cookers are making a comeback and like Slow Cookers (ironically) I gather they are supposed to save energy. I would be interested to know if that is the case? I haven’t used a Pressure Cooker for years but I gather that they are extremely popular in some areas of South America.

    • Love my slow cooker, but have always been a bit wary of pressure cookers for some reason! Might see if I can track down in the Buy Nothing Group!

  3. Did a mock up of a haybox at the weekend,to see if it was worth the effort, using a plastic box and old cushion inners. Started off a rice pudding on the hob then transferred to the box for 4 hours. It was very nice and no skin!!! The next one will be bigger with better insulation and room for 2 dishes. I remember reading about these when I was about 9.

  4. Brilliant post! I was surprised at how low the percentage of domestic fuel used for cooking is and shall be interested in comparison of cost for using a slow cooker. i use mine a lot for jacket spuds.

  5. Hi Jen
    I remember asking the same question when I first got one about the actual energy efficiency of a slow cooker, when it is on for 8+ hours at a time. I read an interesting online report from an ordinary domestic cook where she looked at the maths of it all and discovered that a slow cooker actually uses less energy in 8 hours than a conventional oven uses just to heat to its required cooking temperature!! Since then I have tried to do as much as possible in the slow cooker and have experimented widely – jacket spuds, roast joints, cakes, the lot – it all goes in there! It’s got to the stage where I almost resent having to put the big cooker on for something that really can’t be done in the slow cooker…. sad, eh?!!

    • Wow! Sounds like you are a slow cooker pro 🙂 How long do you do jacket spuds for? And do you still get a crispy skin? Would love a cake recipe if you have one to share?!

  6. I keep asking other people most of your burning questions as they are mine too. My cooker is a 1970’s vintage gas cooker which was being cleared out of an elderly person’s house some years ago when I was in need of a new cooker. This was meant to be a stopgap… The oven is not as reliable as it was so sometime I’ll have to replace it although everything else works just fine. It is the same with the car – do we replace a very elderly car in great working order merely to use a small amount less diesel and spend many £1000s into the bargain. We drive less than 4000 miles per year on average and most journeys are under 3 miles. The engine is barely warmed up by the time we get to our destination.

    I’ve also thought that having the slowcooker on for many hours might cost the same or more in money and in energy as using the cooker for a shorter length of time. The bonus is not having to be around to stir or watch it and also that the inner crockpot is easier to clean than a saucepan or baking/roasting tin.

    I’m looking forward to seeing if anybody comes up with some answers : )

  7. Some really interesting questions asked here Jen! I am interested to read your piece on slow cookers, as I love mine but I do wonder how much energy they use. Also I sometimes put my food in a cold oven and just wait, works well enough for me 😉

  8. Have you looked at Halogen cookers? They are suposed to cook quicker than an oven. We inherited one (the MiL couldnt use one she bought as the lid was too heavy for her), Ive used it a couple of times, but as OH and I dont usually eat the same things, Im reckon mine will be going on ebay in the not too disant future.

  9. Jen just had another thought, my microwave is a combi one, which means it can act like an oven, often use it to cook a cake as it’s smaller and therefore doesn’t have as much space to heat. Or have the small’s watched cake cook in a microwave, it’s quite interesting for them if done in a Pyrex bowl!

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  11. One of my best purchases was a new combi microwave cooker. It is 1000w compared to my main oven which is 3000w. It has a fan oven, grill & microwave which can be used individually or in various combinations. I can cook a large chicken, roast vegetables, warm the plates, cook a pudding all within the space available. It heats up quicker if you wish to pre warm the oven, don’t personally bother with that, just bung the stuff in when I switch on the oven. The combination allows quicker cooking times for most.
    I have hardly used the main ovens at all since I purchased it. I will know more about the energy consumption when I get my next quarters electric bill

    • That’s really interesting Mike. I think our micro is actually a combi one, but for some reason I am a bit scared of using it… AND it somehow doesn’t feel like ‘real’ cooking, which is just silly really. Interested to hear you are getting on so well with yours. Might grasp the nettle and give it a go!

      • Hi Jen, I was a bit sceptical like you on the use of the combi microwave but I gave it go this week with butternut squash. 10mins microwave and then 10mins grill to give it the roast feeling and it was very nice and much quicker that the oven! My advice though is to make sure that you have nothing on top of your microwave when you use it as grill… We made that mistake and we now have the imprint of a supermarket bag on it…

      • That’s really useful, thank you (especially the bit about moving the stuff on top..!). Will have to try and dig out the instruction manual!

  12. Now we’re talking. A tip from here is to use the hot water from one dish to cook the next. For example, use the rice water to cook the veggies.

    Of course, there is one thing you can do in the kitchen that knocks all these other wonderful tips into a cocked hat. Drum roll, drum roll…

    …Stop eating meat!

    Not managed it myself yet, but trying. Difficult with kids who don’t like spicy food and one of whom is allergic to nuts.

    See my blog for more tips:

  13. Wow. Are you reading my mind??

    I have just been pondering some of these questions myself and it seems there is very little definitive information around.

    Another question I have been considering – is it cheaper to cook something in the microwave than on the hob, for example rice.

    • I will do some investigating Kerry! As far as I can ascertain from my initial bits of research, microwave uses less energy than hob, which uses less energy than oven!

  14. Kettles: I only boil what I need and so empty the kettle each time. But, whilst brewing my tea I fill the kettle ready for the next use and so scavenge some of the residual heat in the kettle (that would otherwise be lost) into the water.

  15. you can use the top of the microwave for warming plates etc. – as well as decorating the cover with supermarket logo’s

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