In the battle for savings, every little bit counts. And one of the things we like to keep an eye on is energy costs. It turns out that the right cooking methods can cut your utility bills. So if you’ve got a choice, take a look at these energy efficient options.
Toaster Oven or Oven?
If you’re cooking a single item, toaster ovens are the energy efficient way to go. They’re especially useful when the air conditioning is running since it will take the AC longer to cool down the heat from a standard oven. Look for larger toaster ovens to accommodate larger dishes and with a tight fitting doors to keep the heat in. If you can spring for it, a convection fan which moves the air around will avoid cool or hot spots – important for baked goods.
Crock Pot or Oven?
While the hourly electricity consumption is lower for crock pots, they will be running for a longer period time than cooking foods in an electric or less costly gas oven. Larger crock pots are also less energy efficient than smaller ones not only because there’s more food to cook, but they don’t hold heat as well.
If your oven has cook and hold or delayed start options, you might give those a try as a crock pot alternative. For delayed cooking, it’s best to use frozen meals which can defrost for an hour or two before the heat goes on. (Note that some types of foods should not be allowed to defrost at room temp). For cook and hold, “wet” dishes that won’t dry out work best.
Hot Plate or Stovetop?
A typical hot plate draws as much electricity as a stove burner of the same size. And, hot plates are less efficient than a stove meaning that it takes longer to, say, boil water. But some of it depends on the element. Induction stove tops or hot plates are the most efficient boiling water up to 50% faster than coil or radiant elements. Gas stoves, however, are the real winners drawing little electricity (the starter) and because of the low price of gas, cost about half of what an electric stove does to operate.
No matter what you have, remember to match the size of your pot to the size of the burner so that no heat escapes. For gas stoves, keep the flame right below (not touching) the pot or pan. And choose the right pan for the element. Flat bottom pans are best for radiant and even coil electric elements. Induction stoves need a reflective surface so only stainless steel or cast iron can be used. Gas will take any material or bottom type.
Microwave or Oven?
While you can’t cook everything in a microwave oven, they typically require less wattage to operate and cook faster than convention or even convection ovens. Compared to gas, microwave ovens still win unless the cost of electricity is abnormally high in your area. There’s only one task where microwaves don’t save you much in the energy savings battle. Boiling water. You’ll typically use less energy to boil water on the stove than in a microwave.
Newer microwaves have advanced features so you can avoid dried out edges, cold centers and burnt spots. There’s also a variety of cookware designed for microwaves to make things almost foolproof. So get out the manual and get a microwave cookbook to bring home the savings.