19 ways to maximize your oven's efficiency
Should you line the interior with foil? Read on to find out.
Saving money is made all the sweeter when you also rest
assured that you did your part to save power and energy. And although using the oven is not
nearly as efficient as sticking to the stove-top, sometimes you just have to
bake that casserole or cake.
So take a look at these 19 tips to help you maximize your oven's energy-efficiency, as well as to cut your cooking costs.
Your oven is pretty big, and probably has multiple racks. So make the most of your cost of power by chucking more than one thing in the oven. For example, baked or roasted potatoes are a good match for that meatloaf, along with a tray of vegetables for roasting. Or if you're an irreverent baker like me, you can throw dessert in while dinner is cooking.
With the exception of certain baking items, temperature can be pretty negotiable. So instead of waiting until the oven is fully preheated, use the oven to warm up some part of the meal or get a head start on the cooking.
Resist the urge to open the oven door, especially while baking, since you lose a disproportionate amount of heat (approximately 25 degrees) in doing so. Instead, stick to your timer, the oven light, and your nose to see if it's done.
Don't be afraid to move the oven racks around, and to arrange your food accordingly.
- Top Rack: Watch anything on the top rack, since it is meant for high-temperature and quick cooking.
- Middle Rack: Best for moderate temperature cooking.
- Bottom Rack: Use this for slow cooking and low temperatures.
You can save 20% of your oven-related energy costs by using a convection oven, which utilizes a fan to force the hot air around the oven. Not only does this mean shorter cooking times and lower temperatures, but your food will cook more evenly too.
Similar to cleaning the back of your fridge, keeping your oven sparkly clean will direct the heat at your food and not the burnt stuff caked to the bottom. Keeping it clean also ensures that it's easier to clean each time (saving your own energy and the cost of caustic cleaning products), and keeps your home smelling like what's cooking, instead of what burnt last week.
Glass or ceramic baking dishes hold heat much better than their metal counterparts, so you can turn down the temperature up to 25 degrees and the food will cook just as quickly. (The same applies for cooking with glassware on the stovetop too).
Some people line their racks with foil to increase cooking efficiency with the aid of reflection. However, the foil stops air from flowing freely in the oven, which actually makes your oven less efficient.
Similar to jumping the gun and putting your food in early, consider turning off the oven and using the residual heat to finish off your meal. Again, this is best tried with less temperamental foods and nonbaking items.
If you are using multiple pans in the oven, try to stagger them on the racks to maximize the air flow. The more the air flows through your oven, the quicker it will cook your food.
By preparing a double batch, you are maximizing your oven's capabilities, and now you have leftovers that can quickly and easily be reheated with much less energy.
If your oven has a self-cleaning option, turn it on after you have used the oven so it can use the residual heat to get started. Although the self-cleaning itself uses a fair amount of energy, self-cleaning ovens in general are better insulated and will use less energy while cooking.
An oven can be a cavernous space and inefficient use of energy if you are preparing a smaller meal. If the toaster oven or microwave will do, use it and save the energy (and cost). Don't forget about slow cookers, steamers, rice cookers, and pressure cookers (heck, even hot boxes), which all use less energy than an oven -- especially if you are cooking over an extended time. An electric skillet not only performs a number of cooking functions, but can also double as a serving dish in the end (saving the washing energy and cost too).
Where possible, thaw your frozen foods in the fridge before you cook them.
Give your oven the once-over regularly to ensure it is in top working condition. If your door seal is broken or loose, heat (and your money) will escape out the sides. Even simply keeping the door seal clean can make a difference in efficiency.
By isolating the kitchen when the oven is on, you will:
Contain the extra heat to one room only in the summer, saving on cooling expenses throughout the house.
Warm one room of the house efficiently in the winter.
Also, when your meal is finished cooking, leave the door open during the winter and use the residual heat in the oven to keep the kitchen cozy. (Obviously, be careful doing this if there are children roaming freely).
Calibrate your oven by getting an inexpensive thermometer to ensure the oven's temperature setting is accurate. Cooking at the right temperature will not only save your food, but can also save your money if the oven is set high.
Although not everything you cook in the oven can be covered, do cover it with a lid or tin foil (which is reusable) when you can.
And if you are in the market for a new oven, here is a tool to help you determine whether to choose a gas or electric oven next time.
- Soy milk, tofu, and veggie burgers for pennies
- The first step to budgeting
- Stretch those pennies with watered-down cooking
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