Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Energy Saving Oven Cooking

In the sourdough bread post Zillah commented that she and her DH were experimenting with saving energy by baking their bread without pre-heating their oven. We all know that there are so many things we can do, little every day things, which will save on carbon and being careful with how we use our ovens is just one of them. I too put stews, rice puddings and now bread (thank you Zillah) into a cold oven. I also turn my oven off fifteen minutes before the meal is ready because any oven will retain a good amount of heat for up to thirty minutes without it cooling down enough for it to affect your food.

I don't know what the situation is in Australia and the United States, but in the UK fuel prices are in a constant state of fluctuation. Poor weather in Britain and in Russia, where the vast majority of the gas we use in this country comes from, has meant that prices are hiked up during the winter, economic slow downs and political strife affect all our energy costs, and to be honest I can only see things getting worse. High energy prices and the recent economic downturn, ignited by tortuous levels of personal debt, have made the cost of living in Britain very high indeed. My point is this, saving as much energy as we possibly can is no longer the preserve of bike-riding vegetarians who wear hemp trousers. Saving as much energy as possible is the absolute duty of any householder with a modicum of common sense. Carbon emissions have detrimentally affected our weather and the weather has detrimentally affected fuel prices, this coupled with the fact that natural gas (and all fossil fuels) are a finite resource means that energy prices can only get higher. This is why we homemakers should become pettifogging tightwads when it comes to how we use this precious and expensive resource within our homes.

I've been looking at energy saving cooking methods which I can use easily in my home for a while now. And, although I love the boffins at Self-Sufficientish I cannot see me making a hay or solar oven any time soon, neither can I see a Rayburn dropping into my lap in the near future (mores the pity). All I've done is try to use the everyday household appliances I own in a more efficient way. I have a gas hob and an electric oven on a green tarif, so it is in my interest to use my oven quite a bit. Here are my top tips.

  • Do not pre-heat your oven unless you're baking a cake. Roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings generally go in the oven whilst the roast is cooking anyway, so cakes are really the only food you'll need to have the oven pre-heated for (I think).
  • Turn the oven off fifteen minutes before the food is done. Your oven will retain the heat.
  • If your oven has a digital timer turn the oven off at the plug until you need to use it.
  • Roast your meat with the vegetables and potatoes in the same tray. In the winter roast chops or chicken pieces with parsnips, carrots, leeks, onion, garlic and potatoes. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and season well, bake on medium for an hour and you've got a lovely meal with only one pot to wash up. You can do the same with summer veg too!
  • Get to know the various stews of the world as, just like the above, there is no need with a stew to cook your spuds and veg separately. You may want to invest in a slow cooker.
  • Predict the pudding! Plan your meals so that puddings and main courses can be cooked in the oven together.
  • Did you know that you can cook pasta and meatballs in the oven in one pan? Simply forgo spaghetti and use macaroni or penne instead. Place your pasta in a casserole dish with a good amount of passata then pop in your meatballs. Bake for forty minutes on medium, sprinkle with cheese and hey presto!
  • Consider either doing your baking when the oven is on for your evening meal, or doing most of the cooking for your evening meal when you have the oven is on for your morning's baking. Try to make your oven do two jobs at once.
  • Finally, I have a book full of cooking leaflets from the second world war. In it, the government of the day recommends steaming the evening's pudding at the same time as cooking the stew *and* in the same pot. So put your pudding on top of your hotpot and win the carbon emissions war ladies!
These ideas are simply ways in which to use your oven more efficiently, some people, especially those of us with electric hobs, may want to reduce the use of their ovens and do the majority of their cooking on their hobs. I'm pretty sure there are ways and means of doing this very easily, especially if you steam and stir fry. I'd be really interested to know your top tips too!


Anonymous said...

Oh and always use lids on saucepans, that way you only need them set at minimum heat.

Mrs.B said...

Oh, excellent ideas! See, this is why you simply must be in the blog world. (o:

The lids is a good idea too, I do that as well. ::waves hello to Sarah::


Jenny said...

We have always had clean and plentiful hydro electricity here but the government in its wisdom felt we should share with another state so now I think that some of our electricity is produced from smelly coal and they have threatened restrictions or at least significant price rises.
I'm going to try your bread recipe and I won't preheat the oven, the heating time could be the rising time anyway.
I tend to do baking in the evenings when the oven is also being used for cooking dinner unless I'm doing a big baking session for a birthday. I think Delia has a recipe for risotto done in the oven.
I try not to use the oven unless I can think of more than one job to use it for.

Zillah said...

We have a great big, swish-looking oven which is terribly inefficient. All looks and no substance, if you know what I mean! So we've found these things useful.

We've invested in a Remoska. It's an Eastern European surface to oven. You can get them from Lakeland, and it's GREAT! You really can roast a whole chicken in there, and their energy consumption is very low. I use our for roasting a pepper, or baking a couple of potatoes, jobs I'd hesitate to fire up the Beast for.

If we're cooking something for a long time in the oven we put a baking stone in. It increases the thermal mass of the oven, meaning it retains heat better.

Also, if you have room thermostats, you can turn down the temp in the kitchen if you're doing a big cook in the evening.

I'll be back if I think of any more.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sarah and Mrs B
Lids on and steamers are great for hob cooking. I also use one pan for two or three vegetables. Who says you can't cook broccoli, carrots and peas together?

Hi Jenny
I've tried that mushroom risotto and it is very good. You could stick it in whilst you were baking the bread for the same meal and it would be a good use of the oven.

Hi Zillah
Oh Blimey! You've got a Remoska, I'm so jealous!!!! I've been hankering after one of those for ages. I like the stone idea too.

Zillah said...

Go on, embrace the remoska! I think it wouldn't take too long for it to pay for itself in saved electricity. You can bake bread in it too!