Tis the Season for Cooking Galore!

Guest Blog | December 23, 2014 | Energy Efficiency

This blog was written by SACE Communications Intern, Heather Brinton.

Well readers, it’s that time of year again: the time of year when temperatures drop, lights come on earlier, and energy bills go way up. The holidays are upon us and here at SACE we would like to take a minute to share some tips with you that will make your holiday season more energy efficient and environmentally conscious.

Today’s Topic: Holiday Cooking
The holidays bring a time of cheer, a time of laughter, but most importantly, it brings a time of food. Whether you’re deep frying a turkey in the backyard or slow roasting root vegetables in your oven, food has the ability to bring together both family and friends for a time of joy and celebration. We look forward to these festive months and special meals all year, so why not aim to make our traditional holiday cuisine just as tasty as always but with as little energy as possible?

Tip 1: Buy local!
One major thing we can do more efficiently this holiday season is shop at local stores. Whether it’s for food or cookware, buying local and organic uses far less energy than the supplies found at national chain stores. Local produce requires less transportation and benefits the community in various ways. Not only do small, local businesses contribute 250% more support to non-profit organizations and community projects but they also add color and variety to the community.

Tip 2: Correct cookware is key
When shopping for pots or pans, one rarely considers the energy efficiency of a ceramic pot versus a metal pot. It would benefit everyone, whether culinary genius or novice first time cooker, to know that a metal pot loses heat at a much higher rate than that of a glass or ceramic pot. Ceramic and glassware have a heat retention rate that is significantly better than metal, allowing you to turn the temperature down by about 25 degrees Farenheit and still cook quickly and more evenly than with a metal pan.

Another option is to invest in a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers not only cook the food faster but also use less than a third of the energy of a warped bottom or flat bottom pot. This solution is a win-win. You cut down on cooking time, get to eat sooner, and all while being eco-friendly!

Tip 3: Always cook with your lids on!
Adding a lid to a cooking pan helps retain heat, allowing the dish to cook faster. Cooking without lids uses three times as much energy as it would take to cook with lids. This will also help keep in flavor to any dish you are preparing.

Tip 4: Use the appropriate size pots and pans on your stove
Space gets filled fast on a stove top during holiday season. While you’re trying to boil potatoes, whip up some gravy and melt some butter- a little coordination is needed to make sure that the space is used as efficiently as possible. Using an 8” element to heat a 6” pot can waste about 40% of the heat being produced. So be conscious of placement and save a few dollars and some time!

Tip 5: Skip the preheating
Not many people know that it is mainly yeast-laden food, such as bread or pastries that require an even temperature throughout to bake properly. Therefore, preheating an oven for items that require a longer cooking time, like turkey and ham, is unnecessary. These items will be cooking for so long that the 10-15 warmup of the oven makes little to no difference in the outcome of the food.

It is also beneficial to defrost items that you plan to bake, this cuts down on cooking time, leading to less energy use. Another added insight is, when cooking in the oven, to refrain from peeking in at your handiwork as much as possible. A 10 second peek results in significant heat loss from inside the oven. An oven contains so much concentrated heat that you can also turn it off a few minutes before it is time for the dish to come out and it will not affect the end result-perfectly cooked food.

Tip 6: Use that extra oven space!
Cooking dishes side by side will help reduce the amount of time spent using the oven. If you have a slow roasting meat item in the oven, go ahead and set any of your various side dishes in next to it for the appropriate amount of cooking time. Be sure to keep some space between the two dishes as to allow the heat to circulate better and cook both items efficiently.

Tip 7: Clean your oven after use
By going ahead and running the automated clean cycle on your oven after all your dishes have been prepared, you drastically cut down on the energy needed for this process. The oven cleaning cycle requires the oven to heat up before the process begins. After preparing a big, holiday meal the oven is already hot and ready to go, all you need to do is press the start button and voila: a clean oven done energy efficiently!

Tip 8: Dishwashing ABC’s
Today’s dishwashers are much more powerful than they used to be. It has become unnecessary to pre-wash your dishes before setting them into the washer. This year, cut down on water usage by scraping your dishes clean or getting some furry members of the family in on the action. Both your pet and your wallet will be thankful for this.

Another great bit of information to share is to run your dishwasher at night! Most utility companies make use of their cleaner energy reserves at night. So go ahead and wait until after 7 pm to run your cycle and put less strain on the power grid. If you happen to be awake by the time the cycle finishes, open the door and let the dishes air dry rather than wasting more energy by allowing the drying cycle to run.

Tip 9: Invest in Energy Efficient Appliances!
There are countless options when it comes to buying appliances. Whether for the bathroom, the living room, or the kitchen, the selection can be pretty intimidating. If you are investing in a new dishwasher, washing machine, fridge, or another appliance, why not purchase one that will save you the most money in the end? Look for Energy Star appliances – a certification program dedicated to a more sustainable, less consumptive form of everyday energy use. So if you happen to be on the market for new appliances this holiday season, be sure to invest in some that are environmentally conscious and that will inevitably save you money on your utility bills.

The holidays are a time of rest, relaxation and lots of good food. This year, rest easy knowing that by following these few simple tips your wallet will be able to relax and stay as full as your bellies do this holiday season!


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