The average house has more appliances in the kitchen than in any other room – just to start with, there’s the refrigerator, dishwasher, range and microwave. Then think about all the convenience appliances you probably own – the stand mixer and/or hand mixer, coffee maker, juicer, popcorn maker, food processor, etc.
We use a lot of electricity and/or natural gas in this room. Some energy use can’t be helped – after all, you can’t turn off the refrigerator to save money – but there are plenty of ways we can save energy by changing how we cook and clean.
1. Use the microwave. This seldom-used appliance requires a lot less energy than your oven or stove, so it’s a good idea to use it for more than just reheating leftovers. There are whole cookbooks published on how to do everything from bake cakes to roast whole turkeys in the microwave. One of the best ways to get the most out of your microwave is to cook vegetables in it. They steam quickly with little or no water and readily retain their flavor and color.Another trick is to start cooking a food in the microwave and finish it in a pan or the oven for the best flavor and presentation. Baked potatoes are the perfect example of how this technique can save time and energy. Potatoes take about an hour in the oven on high temperature to prepare. If you can start them with five minutes in the microwave it only takes 30 minutes to finish them in the oven.There are a few tips to follow for microwave success. The most important is testing the time and power level necessary for different foods. Microwaves come in different wattages, so even if a recipe says to cook something on high for two minutes, you may need to alter the time or use a lower power setting to achieve the best results. While testing, it’s always better to undercook than overcook. Be sure to cover your food for faster cooking and less mess. Cutting foods into small, even pieces makes for more even cooking.
2. Use the toaster oven. When you are baking or roasting something small, turn on your toaster oven rather than your regular oven. The smaller appliance uses a lot less energy and doesn’t heat up your kitchen as much. Single layer cakes and brownies fit nicely into most toaster ovens. Single servings of frozen dinners and snacks are great in the toaster oven, as are small servings of vegetables, cookies and appetizers. Of course you can also toast bread in one – as well as make garlic bread or bruschetta or melt cheese on a sandwich!
3. Use hand-powered appliances. Unless you have arthritis or are feeding an army, it’s really not necessary to have an electric can opener when a hand can opener is just as easy to use. The same goes for many other electric appliances: juicers, grinders, scales, wine openers and pasta makers can all be replaced by non-electric versions in most instances. Need to mix a batter until all the ingredients are incorporated? Use a whisk rather than a stand mixer or hand beater. Practice your knife skills and chop or slice your veggies rather than hauling out the food processor.
4. Use your dishwasher wisely. The average ENERGY STAR-rated dishwasher uses 4 gallons of water per load. The average kitchen faucet flows at 2 gallons per minute. In most cases, it will save water to run a full dishwasher than to hand wash a day’s worth of dishes. Remember that with most dishwashers you don’t need to rinse your dishes before loading them – just scrape off large pieces of food.When running your dishwasher, check the settings before hitting start. Turn off the heated dry cycle. Use a lighter or shorter wash setting rather than the default or pots & pans setting. If you have a timer, set it to run the washer at night so you’re not heating up the house.