Green cooking tips and tricks that make meal prep more sustainable and energy efficient.

For many families, the kitchen is the centre-point of their home. It’s where meals are made and shared, where cups of tea are enjoyed, where birthday cakes are lovingly made and guests gather during parties. It’s a hive of activity, so it’s no surprise it’s one of the most energy-hungry rooms of the house. Running appliances, preparing food, cooking and cleaning all add to your carbon footprint. But with just a few fuss-free changes, you can limit your impact on the planet – and reduce energy bills in the process!

  1. Keep your oven clean

If your oven or stove top is covered in caked-on grease, it won’t be running as efficiently as it could. This is especially true with gas burners, which will reflect heat a lot better if they’re not hiding under grime. Make sure your gas burners produce blue flames – yellow indicated the gas is burning inefficiently.

  1. Use the right-sized hob

Make sure any pots or pans you use are the appropriate size for the hob you put them on. If you put a small pan on a large element, you’re simply wasting heat. If you use gas hobs, make sure the flame is contained beneath the pan – any flame licking around the sides is just wasted heat and energy.

  1. Boil better

If you’re boiling water for cooking, get a jump-start with an electric kettle. Getting your water up to speed this way is usually more efficient than relying on heat from the hob alone. Remember, only boil as much water as you need. And use a lid with your pots or pans – this stops heat escaping, so you can turn your hob down slightly while the water continues to boil.

  1. Use residual heat

If you’re roasting veggies or baking biscuits, turn off the oven a few minutes before they’re done or before the recipe indicates. As long as you don’t open the over door and let all the heat out (which you should try to avoid doing at any point anyway), the oven will remain hot enough to finish off the cooking.

  1. Use the right appliances

Your oven may well be your go-to for cooking and reheating, but the chances are you have other appliances that can do the job just as well with less energy. Microwaves are a lot more energy efficient than ovens when it comes to reheating small portions of food, so they’re a handy way to warm leftovers and steam veggies or even cook jacket potatoes. Slow cookers are also an efficient way to cook hearty meals – they use just a little more energy than a traditional lightbulb and produce the most delicious flavours.

  1. And the right cookware

Use glass or ceramic dishes in the oven – they retain heat a lot better than metal dishes do, making them more efficient to use. You might find that items cook faster, or will cook just as well at a lower heat. If you’re using an electric hob, choose flat-bottomed pans so the pan is in full contact with the ring and heat spreads throughout it as evenly as possible.

  1. Let leftovers cool down

Allow leftovers to sit at room temperature for about half an hour before you put them in the fridge or freezer. When warm items are placed in the fridge or freezer, they increase energy usage since they raise the temperature of other items, so your fridge has to work harder to cool it all back down.

  1. Look after your fridge freezer

Firstly, be careful not to overfill your fridge or freezer, or to keep it too empty – doing so means the unit has to work harder to keep its contents cool. Frost build-up decreases the energy efficient of the freezer, so give it a defrost regularly, and if you have an older model with coils at the back, vacuum them twice a year. They’re dust magnets, and the more dust on them the less efficiently the appliance will run. Keep an eye on seals, too, to make sure they’re doing their job properly.

The bottom line

Using energy in the kitchen is an everyday, necessary part of life – there’s no getting around it! But by making a few easy behavioural tweaks you can be sure you’re using energy as efficiently as possible, thereby minimising your carbon footprint and limiting your impact on climate change.

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