Did you know that it’s possible to save 40-50% of the fuel needed to cook, without buying any new equipment?
‘Fireless cookers‘ (also known as ‘hay boxes’) are making a comeback, having been a popular way to save energy during the war. They use heat retention to cook, insulating the pot so that the heat is kept in the food for longer.
Here’s an example of a method: prepare a soup as usual, but as soon as it reaches a strong boil, turn off the heat and quickly transfer the pot to your fireless cooker. The food will continue cooking with no further input of fuel, thanks to the insulation.
How to Make a Fireless Cooker
To make a fireless cooker, you can use whatever you have available, as long as it’s insulating – perhaps a large cardboard box filled with towels around the pot, and an old quilt on top; a wooden box with straw inside; or a cool box insulated with old clothes. Here are more detailed instructions.
Adventurous cooks might also like to try solar cooking, which uses sunshine to cook food, collecting the heat with mirrors. Here in Stanford in the Vale we’ve had solar barbecues, and have cooked foods such as stews, potatoes and cakes using only sunshine. Solar cooking combines well with fireless cooking, because once the food is in the fireless cooker it doesn’t matter if the sun disappears! Solar cooking has enormous potential, especially in sunny countries, and there are hundreds of designs. For more information about solar cooking, email Zoe.
Saving Energy with Conventional Cooking
There are more conventional ways to save energy when cooking too, of course:
* A microwave is the most energy-efficient conventional cooking appliance (but controversial in terms of nutrition), followed by a hob, and lastly an oven.
* A toaster is more efficient than a grill.
* Steamers with multiple layers can be used to cook an entire meal on one hob ring – boil something in the bottom, while steaming other foods in the layers above.
* Cut food into smaller pieces which will cook more quickly.
* To improve efficiency when using an oven, fill it up so you use as much of the heat as possible. Cook a large quantity and freeze some to reheat later in a microwave, or fill the oven space with extras like potatoes and toasted seeds. Keep the oven door closed when cooking – it takes energy to warm back up each time you open it. Turn your oven off 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. It will stay hot if you don’t open it.
* To cook more efficiently on a hob, use just enough water to cover vegetables, and always put lids on pans to keep the heat in. Turn down the ring once the cooking temperature is reached.
* Defrost frozen food in the fridge overnight – defrosting food in advance typically halves the cooking time.
* Only fill the kettle with the amount of water you will use.
Efficiency tips from usswtich.com
From the Sustainable Wantage Newsletter, August 2016.