10 Ways to Use Less Energy in the Kitchen

CC BY 2.0. Baron Valium

It's possible to become an 'energy-efficient' home cook.

The Zero Waste Chef is a fabulous resource for anyone interested in reducing the amount of plastic in their kitchen. Written by Anne-Marie Bonneau, the food blog follows three rules: 1) No packaging, 2) Nothing processed, 3) No trash. Bonneau's articles are insightful, well-written, and full of interesting suggestions that are easy for home cooks to implement.

One of her recent pieces looks at energy use in food production. Did you know that 16 percent of all energy used in the United States goes into the food supply chain, from growing and transporting to storing, cooking, and dealing with food waste? Bonneau offers a number of great suggestions on how to reduce food-related energy use at the consumer level, some of which I've listed below. Most of these sensible tweaks also happen to be time- and money-savers, too.

1. Soak ingredients ahead of time. Foods like beans, lentils, wheat berries, and steel-cut oats will cook far more quickly if you let them sit in water overnight.

2. Thaw out frozen foods ahead of time. Take them out of the freezer in the morning, so they're ready to cook in the evening, no microwave defrosting required.

3. Cook in large quantities. Double or triple whatever your household can consume to cut down on cooking times. Freeze the leftovers. It will save you time down the road.

4. Use heat-retaining pots. Bonneau and I are both big fans of our heavy-duty Le Creuset pots. (I have two and use them every day.) These hold heat well and will keep food warm on the table for a long time. You can also cook foods at lower temperatures.

5. Cool foods before refrigerating. Let leftovers get to room temperature before you put them in the fridge, so as not to bring down the inner temperature of the fridge too much.

6. Chop smaller. By cutting veggies and meat into smaller pieces, they will cook faster and reduce cooking time.

7. Use a small pot on a small burner. Use the least amount of pot you need to prepare a dish (within reason, of course). Conventional kitchen wisdom would say it's better to choose too big over too small, but often we go big without actually needing to.

8. Put a lid on it. Common sense, but still worth repeating -- a pot with a lid boils much faster, can maintain a simmer at a lower temperature, and cooks up more quickly than a pot without.

9. Use a slow cooker or a pressure cooker. Bonneau says a pressure cooker cuts energy use in half. A slow cooker is a low-energy device that produces wonderful stews and braises -- and you can leave it unattended for hours.

10. Put as many things in the oven as possible. If you've heated up the oven, then try to bake or roast the maximum number of items to take advantage of that energy. Chop up some potatoes or root vegetables. Throw some broccoli on a sheet pan. Stick in a whole squash. Mix up a batch of muffins.

You can read Bonneau's entire article here, with many more energy-saving suggestions than the ones shared here.