The holidays are a time for delicious food shared with company. Most of us will be hosting holiday parties, entertaining family, or making traditional holiday goodies to pass around with friends and family. Whatever your tradition, chances are you’ll be spending a little more time in the kitchen in the coming month or two than you would be otherwise.
Unfortunately, this extra time in the kitchen means higher energy bills. Both electric and gas stoves and ovens use quite a bit of energy so if you’re not making the most of the energy they use you could be throwing money away. Here are a few ways you can maximize your holiday cooking so that you’re saving as much money as possible.
- When cooking a turkey you typically stuff it in the early morning and then put it in the oven to roast for a number of hours. Since you’re utilizing a long, slow cooking method, there’s no need to preheat your oven. That extra 15 minutes it takes for your oven to preheat without any food in it is just wasting energy. Put all of your large and slow-roasting meats directly in the oven and preheat while the meat is inside. Since you do usually need an already hot oven when cooking breads and pastries just plan ahead so that you put those items in later in the cooking process after the oven is already warmed up.
- Resist opening the oven door. We all want to peek on progress of the food, but resist the urge to open the door. Each time you open the door you can easily lose 25 degrees of heat. This just means longer cooking time and wasted energy.
- Cook several items at the same time to cut down on cooking time. Your oven is probably pretty big and it can fit a number of dishes at the same time, so make use of the space. A lot of people worry that you can’t cook foods that call for a different cooking temperature at the same time, but as long as the temps called for are somewhat close it won’t pose a problem. You can cook something that calls for a 375 degree oven in a 350 degree oven just fine. All you need to do is compensate with a little added time and plan ahead. This makes a lot more sense than cooking one thing at 350 and then waiting until that’s done before increasing the temp to 375 to cook the second item.
- In most ovens, but especially electric, you can actually turn off the oven during the last few minutes of cooking and still retain almost all of the heat to finish cooking your food. Of course, this works best if you resist the urge to open up the oven door.
- Match the size of your pan to the cooking element on the stove. The closer the size of the bottom of the pot or pan is to the electric element or gas flame size, the more energy is transferred directly to the pot and isn’t being lost to the outside air. The California Energy Commission says that a 6″ pan on an 8″ burner will waste more than 40% of the energy! That’s a lot of waste, so pay attention to what you’re cooking with and where.
- Keep your burners and reflectors clean. A clean area surrounding the burners will provide better and more efficient heating. When it comes to electric stoves, those metal reflectors under the burners can get dirty real fast. They are cheap and can be easily replaced by visiting any major department store. High-quality and clean reflectors can save up to a third on the energy used.
- Utilize residual heat with electric burners. If you have an electric stove you already know that when you turn the burner off the element stays very hot for quite some time. Use this to your advantage and you can turn off your burners a little early and still capture the residual heat while finishing up your dish.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.