A college dorm room taught me that I can cook (marginally) palatable meals using a toaster oven. Now that I have a full kitchen, obviously, I prefer to craft my culinary concoctions in the oven and on the stovetop. The drawback? My oven is an energy hog. There are several simple ways to more efficiently operate an oven to save money and energy.
Tips for Purchasing an Oven
- Consider Purchasing an Electric Convection Oven: An electric convection oven continuously circulates heated air around the food. This special design allows this type of oven to distribute heat more evenly than traditional ovens. Cooking time and cooking temperatures are lower and shorter. Energy use is about 43 percent lower.
- Research Gas vs. Electric Oven Prices in Your Area: According to the California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center, 58 percent of U.S. households use electric ovens. However, in virtually all areas of the country, natural gas is cheaper than electricity. The cost of using a gas stove is a nearly half the cost of using a traditional electric stove. If you are going to purchase a gas stove, select one with a electronic pilotless ignition rather than a constantly burning pilot light. Pilotless ovens use 25 percent less gas.
Tips for Efficiently Operating an Oven
- Properly Maintain and Clean Your Oven: Once a month, check the seal on your oven's door for cracks and tears that could allow heat to escape. Also, manually clean your oven by scrubbing/scraping off all the built-up grime and caked-on food from the oven's elements. When an oven's elements are dirty, it can obstruct air flow and force the oven to work harder.
- Use Residual Heat for the Oven's Self-Clean Function: If you're going to use your oven's self-clean function, make sure to do it right after using the oven. The “leftover” residual heat means the oven doesn’t have to heat up as much during self-clean mode.
- Use Glass or Ceramic Pans in the Oven: If you use a glass or ceramic pan in the oven (as opposed to a metal pan), you can reduce the oven’s temperature by 25 °F without having to increase the cooking time. Less heat means less energy usage and a lower electric bill!
- Don't Open the Oven Door when in Use: Every time I have something baking in the oven, I feel compelled to open the oven every couple minutes to check on my food. Each time you open the oven door, the interior temperature of the oven drops by 25 °F. This means the oven is going to have to use extra energy to heat back up to the desired temperature. Additionally, opening the oven door releases hot air into your kitchen which is counter-productive if you're shelling out good money on air conditioning.
- Use Discretion when Pre-Heating: Even though it seems that every recipe calls for pre-heating, pre-heating is not actually required for many foods you cook in the oven. While bread, pastries, and recipes with rising dough need to be pre-heated, you can often get away with not pre-heating roasts and other recipes that have a cooking time of at least an hour. If you are going to pre-heat your oven, make sure to not pre-heat your oven too early in the food preparation process. If you start pre-heating your oven when you still have 25 minutes of cutting, chopping, and mixing to do, your oven is going to be pre-heated too early and you'll be wasting energy (and money!).