It’s that time of year again.
Ovens are complicated when it comes to energy consumption– and energy outpouring varies from oven to oven (and the state of that oven when you are using it). A few things are for sure– it’s definitely wastes more energy to cook with foil (hello heat reflector!) and to bake with the oven door open.
We can wish for, you know, a solar oven. Or, indeed, for sun with to power it with. But we can easily reduce, though not eliminate, the energy consumption that an ordinary household oven poses:
1. Pack it in. Seriously people– get a toaster oven if you are going to cook one serving. An oven is meant for large dishes and for cooking mass amounts of food. Cooking a single muffin in a huge oven you took the time to preheat is wasteful. Are you afraid that if you bake multiple muffins you’ll end up eating them all, even if you only need one? Buddy up foods so that you can head off overeating (Because consistent overeating– or in other words, taking more than your share– is wasteful, too). For instance, if you are baking one muffin, do it while you bake vegetables, bread, or toast nuts.
2. Use residual heat. Speaking of toasted nuts, have you heard the good news? Even when you turn the oven off, there is still a hot half hour in which the residual heat in the oven lingers. Use it, people! I often put nuts in to toast or foods that need to dry out a bit (no need to constantly check them either, since the heat is waning regardless).
3. Do you really need to preheat? Most food will start cooking whether the heat is up to a specified temperature or not– roasted vegetables, nuts, potatoes, casseroles, and more are fine without a proper preheat. The only exception to this, is of course, baked goods. In which case you can still put other random food in to cook while the oven is both preheating and cooling down. Want brownie points? Use the rapid preheat button on your oven (ignore this if you live in a 1950’s house) and do center rack baking only.
These tips may sound a bit overcomplicated at first glance. But trust me when I say that they do become second nature, and that you will make mistakes. There will be times, as with me, that you may silently curse when you realize you forgot to put sweet potatoes in to cook with potatoes for breakfast tomorrow.
Also, please don’t think that this makes the oven “carbon neutral”. It does not. The oven is a very wasteful household appliance and these tips are simply meant to reduce the footprint of it. The holy oven should not be taken lightly– and when you cook in it with these tips in mind, it won’t get fired up at every available opportunity. You may develop some weird habits (these are normal, please try these at home) For instance, you may get into the habit of saving the baked potatoes dinner until Saturday when you are baking bread.