With energy prices skyrocketing around the world, many of us are bracing for a winter of shocking bills. Now is the time to get smart in the kitchen, however, and you can take some small measures to ensure you use less energy when cooking. Here are 15 kitchen energy hacks to reduce your bills this winter.
Some of these may seem obvious, but it’s the little things, that when they are all put together can make a big difference when your energy bills come through the door this winter.
Fill the Oven
Make sure the oven is full when you turn it on. So don’t turn it on just for one dish. Making roast potatoes or chicken? Stick a loaf of bread in there as well. Use all the shelves in the oven and plan ahead. Only turn the oven on when you have enough food to fill it. Using fan-assisted oven settings will help also, they will reduce cooking times. Give your oven and grill a good clean as the build-up of grease on the doors and heating elements can make it less efficient.
Feel the Pressure Cooker
The kitchen stalwart of the 1980s may have fallen out of favour in recent years, but maybe it’s time to get back to your pressure cooker? Winter is when you want to eat more soups and stews and the pressure cooker can reduce your energy consumption. Other energy-efficient appliances to use include the slow cooker and the air fryer, so if you have them and don’t use them often, it makes sense to include them in your weekly meal planning and shopping list considerations.
Use Residual Heat
Think about the waste of energy every time you allow the oven to cool with nothing in it. Turn off the oven ten minutes before your food is ready and the residual heat will continue cooking. The same goes for when you are cooking pasta. You can boil the water with the pasta in it and then reduce to a minimum with the lid on the pot to continue cooking. This is a controversial method but you can’t deny its efficiency. Boil eggs like Heston Blumenthal: place the eggs in as small a pan as possible on maximum heat and cover with a lid. When the water boils, remove from the heat and let it stand for six minutes.
Use the Exact Amount of Water
Minimise the amount of hot water you throw away by using the right amount and no more. You’d be surprised how little water you can use. Think about risotto and how it cooks by slowly adding the water in ladles. Take the same approach to whatever you are cooking and your food will cook using a lot less heat and energy.
Use the Dishwasher
Every time you put on the dishwasher, add a couple of glass jars for cooking. You can cook so many things in the dishwasher, depending on the temperature and cycle. Think of it like a giant sous vide. Food that cooks really well includes fish and shellfish, eggs, chicken and vegetables like green beans, asparagus and potatoes.
The tried and tested energy saver also ensures your veg is crisp and crunchy and that it retains essential nutrients and vitamins. Boil pasta or potatoes on the bottom and add tiers so the residual steam cooks the vegetables. You can use a colander with a lid over it, placed over your boiling pot if you don’t have one.
The wok was developed in parts of South Asia, where firewood was scarce. They are therefore perfect for reducing your energy consumption. Plan more stir-fries and Asian-style dishes, with crunchy vegetables for delicious and easy midweek dinners.
One Pot Wonders
Cooking your entire meal in one pot is a good way to save energy. Check out these recipes for one-pot meals for easy, energy-efficient meals that are surprisingly delicious. Food doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious.
If you have been thinking of upgrading your cooking hob, maybe now is the time to go for induction cookers. There is a significant outlay involved as you will need induction-compatible cookware but as some of the world’s best chefs will attest to, induction is not only more efficient but it gives you more control while cooking.
Nigella’s “micro-wav-e” is storming back into use after a number of years in the wilderness. The microwave is the most energy-efficient cooking appliance in your kitchen as devotees like David Chang and Jack Monroe tell us and you can use it to prepare an endless list of dishes.
Once you get into the habit of hand rolling your own fresh pasta, you’ll never look back and store-bought dried pasta will be a thing of the past. Homemade pasta, whether it’s fettuccini, gnocchi or tortellini cooks in a fraction of the time it takes dried pasta to cook so it’s more energy efficient. It’s more delicious and so much fun to make too.
Fill Your Fridge
Your fridge and freezer are more efficient when they are full so stack them full of food and if you don’t have enough to put in there, fill some containers with water. You will have cold water for drinking and ice in the freezer always. Move your fridge away from the wall and ensure that the appliance has sufficient space to allow air to circulate. Keeping your fridge flush to the wall can mean the cooling elements in your appliance have to work extra hard and consume more electricity to do so.
Salt Cure Meat
You can cut meat into thin slices and salt cure it by placing it in a container and covering completely with salt. Place in the fridge for one to five days and you’ll have your own salt-cured prosciutto or bresaola without the need to fire up the oven to cook it. Try salt-curing an egg yolk for an umami-rich addition to your dishes.
Soak Beans and Rice
Obvious, but worth repeating. Soak beans and rice overnight before you cook them and you’ll use about a tenth of the energy to cook had you not done so. Use stock instead of water for an extra flavour kick and your beans and rice will cook in less than half the time. Rice contains arsenic which forms naturally in the water under which rice is grown and can be removed by soaking it overnight and then flushing it with hot water before cooking. Some beans such as red kidney beans can contain toxins and soaking them can help remove them.
The ancient technique transforms ingredients into delicious food as well as allowing you to store and keep food for months, or even years without refrigeration. The technique, which is a major part of modern gastronomy uses natural bacteria and processes to prepare food for consumption without the need for cooking and so by introducing it into your kitchen you can reduce energy in the long term.