As the cold really settles in, we’ve been talking a lot about ways to conserve energy. We’ve also been talking about how to prepare for the big holiday season. What if we told you that you could do both? Even if you’re throwing a massive Thanksgiving or Christmas shindig, you don’t need to break the bank with the energy bill your kitchen generates.
Here’s how to save energy while you’re cooking up a storm (besides getting energy-efficient appliances, that is).
Match the cookware to the meal
I am guilty of using the toaster oven for literally everything I make, which takes a lot of time and is the result of pure laziness. What I didn’t consider until recently is that it’s also an effective way to waste energy, since I’m popping in one course and side at a time. According to Spark Energy, you should match the size of your cooking tools to the size of your meal to maximize efficiency. If you fry an egg in a big pan or make all your dishes individually in the toaster oven, you waste energy. However, if you just need to make one dish, try to use the toaster oven instead of powering on the big oven, which can waste energy, too.
Compact Appliance even points out that using a six-inch pan on an eight-inch electric burner can waste up to 40% of the heat produced. You’re just burning up money this way, and you’re also burning it up if the bottoms of your pans are warped. Make sure to replace your cookware periodically so your pan bottoms are flat—they’ll distribute heat more effectively this way. Copper-bottomed pans also heat up faster than others, so consider picking some up the next time you refresh your set.
Finally, use glass or ceramic pans whenever you can, as you can decrease your oven’s temp by 25 degrees without compromising the speed at which your food cooks, according to Edison International.
Put a lid on it
Keep the lid on your pots and pans while you’re cooking, too, per Compact Appliance. This will keep the heat inside your cookware to cook your food faster and save money; small changes add up to bigger differences.
Similarly, don’t peek into your oven by opening the door while food is cooking. The temp drops 25 degrees every time you do that, so the oven has to work a little harder to get it back up, per Edison.
Plan a way to cook as much as you can at once
According to Edison, you should try to cook multiple dishes in your oven at the same time whenever possible. This is a great time to brush up on one-pan meals, hacks for making multiple things in the oven at once, and tips for doubling up in your Instant Pot and Dutch oven.
Prep before you cook
Edison also recommends doing all the non-electrical work first. Before you turn on your blender or air fryer, make sure all your ingredients are washed, chopped, separated, laid out—whatever you need. Keep your devices unplugged until you need them or use a smart power strip to keep them off.
Defrost your food in the refrigerator for a few hours instead of using your microwave, too, and only preheat your oven when you’re just about ready to cook so it doesn’t sit there hot with nothing in it. If you’re a confident cook, Edison even suggests turning the oven or stove heat off a few minutes before you’re supposed to. With a closed door or lid, the temp should still stay high enough for your food to continue cooking all the way (but if you don’t feel comfortable enough with this one, you should skip it).
Keep it clean
Edison recommends keeping the grease plates on your burners clean or lining them with aluminum foil so the heat is reflected upward, increasing energy efficiency. Clean your whole oven and stovetop before preparing any big meals to reduce build-up and grime that could impact its efficiency. When it’s time to clean it, make sure to run its self-cleaning function right after cooking or baking so you don’t need to heat it up separately later just to clean it.