1 of 2
A microwave oven is the most efficient way to cook smaller amounts of food.
2 of 2
When the air conditioning is cooling the indoors, use smaller cooking appliances, like this slow cooker, outdoors if possible.
Question: I am a bit of a chef, so I want to update my kitchen with the most efficient appliances. Can you share some ideas for energy-efficient appliances and cooking tips?
Answer: If you’re a frequent cook, you eat up a lot of energy in the kitchen. By using energy-saving appliances and simple kitchen tips, you can reduce energy consumption in that part of the house.
The major energy user is the refrigerator. Odds are, if you prepare a lot of food, you have a large refrigerator and you open it often, letting cool air out and warm air in. Place commonly used items near the front of your fridge to minimize the time the door is open. Keep the fridge fairly full; that helps regulate the temperature. Use water jugs if needed.
Properly located kitchen appliances run more efficiently. Don’t place the refrigerator right next to the cooking range and oven. Their heat makes the refrigerator compressor run longer. Also, don’t put the range or oven under a window; a breeze can carry away heat before it gets into your pots and pans.
For electric ranges, the most efficient heating elements are induction units. These elements produce magnetic energy, which warms magnetic (usually iron and steel) pots and pans. When there is no utensil on an induction element, the element does not get hot.
Induction elements provide heating control almost as precise as gas burners and offer an energy advantage: nearly all of the energy goes into the pot or pan to heat food. With a regular resistance element, heat transfers from the range top to the base of the pot. A lot of heat is lost to the air, never reaching the food.
If you don’t always use magnetic cooking vessels, you may want a range with only one or two induction elements; the others should be resistance or halogen. Halogen elements heat up quickly but are not as efficient. Opt for different sizes, then match the size of the pot to the element size for less heat loss.
When it comes to ovens, electric is preferred by most professionals. It holds more even heat than gas for baking. Another advantage, especially during summer, is that electric does not introduce extra moisture to your house, as gas and propane do when they burn. Extra moisture means more work (and energy use) for your air conditioner.
A convection oven saves energy as compared to a standard oven. Its small air-circulation fan uses some electricity, but the oven cooks much faster, so there is significant overall savings. Not all foods roast and bake well in convection mode, so you can’t use it for all oven cooking.
Want more kitchen energy savings? Use small countertop appliances when possible. A small toaster oven uses significantly less electricity than large oven elements. Countertop electric woks and rice cookers are other good examples.
Keep in mind that, during winter, the heat and humidity from cooking help warm your house and reduce the heating load on your furnace or heat pump. During summer, this same heat makes your air conditioner run more, increasing electric bills. This is a good time to use countertop appliances outdoors to reduce indoor heat.
Microwave ovens are the most efficient way to cook individual food items. They run on lower wattage and offer short cook times. But for cooking larger quantities of food, a large oven remains the best choice. Plan ahead so foods that cook at the same temperature can be baked simultaneously or consecutively, while the oven is hot.
Send questions to Energy Q&A.