How to Use Less Energy While Cooking

There are a lot of little ways to save energy around the house. Most people know the basics, such as turning the thermostat to a lower temperature in winter and wearing a sweater. But it’s easy to not think of your energy use when you’re cooking.


This can seem like a pretty small thing. After all, cooking is not a large part of most people’s day. But it is one of those things you can do to make a difference.

We’ll start with putting a lid on the pan when you’re cooking. If you don’t need direct access to the food, having a lid on the pan means it will cook faster. This is particularly evident when you’re boiling water before adding spaghetti. The water boils much sooner with a lid on.

Having the lid on the pan helps to keep your food at the right temperature for cooking, while you can have your stove on at a much lower level since less heat is lost out the top. If you don’t like to spend a ton of time in the kitchen, this also translates to a shorter cooking time.

Another factor to consider is how long you preheat your oven, or if you even really need to. I very rarely preheat mine, as it takes only a short time for it to reach the required temperature anyhow. I make an exception for anything that is more sensitive to temperature, such as when I bake bread. But meats and casseroles don’t need to start out at that perfect temperature.

A tool I’ve been learning to use is my pressure cooker. It takes a bit of practice, but it can cook many foods in under 10 minutes. It’s one of the few things that I’m considering finding a cookbook for since I have very few pressure cooker recipes.

My slow cooker, on the other hand, is used very regularly. Despite how long it spends cooking, it can use less energy than the oven (depending on the type of oven you have). It’s also very easy to have just about the entire dinner in one pot. Throw in a roast and put the potatoes alongside it.

Another favorite way to make quick, just about one dish meals is to stir fry. The chopping takes extra time, but that means the meat cooks very quickly. As a bonus, it’s one of the few ways I can be sure that my husband will eat his vegetables. The fact that everything only needs a little cook time really helps. If you need a little more intense cooking time, throw a lid on for a little while and decrease the heat so things don’t burn.

And of course, there’s the microwave. Meats generally don’t cook up too well in them, but for reheating leftovers or giving vegetables a quick steam they’re very efficient.

As you build up your cooking habits to use energy more efficiently, you may come to appreciate how fast many of these methods are. There’s nothing like doing something that saves you both money and time.

Some stats I researched and did my best to work out:

Electric Oven $.30 – $.60 per hour
Electric Range-top Burner $.07 – $.30 per hour
Gas Oven $.05 – $.11 per hour
Gas Range-top Burner $.04 – $.08 per hour
Microwave Oven $.01 – $.03 per 10 minutes

from Flex Your Power

Since they didn’t have crock pots listed, I had to do some more research to figure it out. A crock pot runs about $0.02/per hour, whether on high or low, according to this PDF file on Making Cents of Electricity.

Using these figures to guess how much each cooking method can cost:

Appliance Assumed Cook Time Cost
Electric Oven 1 hour $0.30 – $0.60
Electric Range-top Burner 20 minutes $0.02-$0.10
Gas Oven 1 hour $0.05 – $0.11
Gas Range-top Burner 20 minutes $.01 – $.03
Microwave Oven 3 minutes $0.01 or less
Crock Pot 4 hours (on high) $0.08
Crock Pot 8 hours (on low $0.16

Of course, there are a lot of assumptions here, and one of the problems is that I couldn’t get all my numbers from a single source, so it’s kind of hard to say how accurate the numbers for the crock pot are relative to the others. I figure the others should at least be accurate enough in relation to one another, since they share a common source. The PDF showed the crock pot to be using about 150 watts on high, versus 70 on low, so clearly there’s some roundoff in there.

So it’s possible that the gas oven is more cost effective to use than the crock pot, but the crock pot easily beats out the electric one. Just depends on what you have around the house.

And of course I can’t imagine doing any serious cooking in a microwave. I won’t get into the arguments for whether or not they’re healthy to use at all here, except to note that all cooking changes food, not just microwaves. To me they’re adequate for reheating leftovers and maybe a quick steam of some veggies, nothing more.

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13 replies on “How to Use Less Energy While Cooking”

  1. Penelope says:

    Thanks for these wonderful tips! I wanted to let you know that I’ve linked to this site from my party planning blog to help my readers plan an environmentally friendly St. Patrick’s Day party. Please feel free to check us out for free online invitations, party planning tips and more.
    Thanks again!

  2. […] How to Use Less Energy While Cooking Having the lid on the pan helps to keep your food at the right temperature for cooking, while you […]

  3. […] There are a lot of little ways to save energy around the house. Most people know the basics, such as turning the thermostat to a lower temperature in winter and wearing a sweater. But it’s easy to not think of your energy use when you’re cooking. […]

  4. MamaBird says:

    Thanks so much for the breakdown. I was just wondering about energy usage yesterday while using my crockpot. I assumed it was more energy efficient but we have a gas stove so maybe not. Excellent post. Just linked to you via The Good Human, love yr blog.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Glad you enjoyed the breakdown, and thanks for the link.

  6. Lynx says:

    Get a P3-killawatt meter (for under 15 amp currents) and check your slow cooker. Mine uses 166 watts on medium and 215 watts on high so there is a difference. Microwave draws 1500 watts. The light alone on mine is 21 watts so don’t leave the door open!

    Electric range: If you have a standard electric meter that has a disk that is rotating to tick off the energy usage and if you can isolate your electric use (turn off everything else in the house by perhaps disabling the circuits), you can figure out the energy use of your stove by counting revolutions per minute and multiplying by 432.

    rev/min X 432 = watts

    I’d like detailed info on gas usage. Harder to measure. And the cost of propane and natural gas keeps getting higher.

  7. Stephanie says:

    Great information. I had wondered about the actual energy usage since it was counterintuitive, but ANY numbers were really hard to find.

  8. Lynx says:

    I got that formula years ago from someone at the electric company. It’s very cool and comes in handy when there really is no other way to read high usage (at least for the average gal).

    I have had quite a bit of fun with my P3 Killawatt meter, going through the house and evaluating everything in it. I put lots of things on switchable multi-outlet plugs and turn off tvs and everything hooked to them when not in use.

  9. […] Green SAHM (found via The Good Human) has a great article about using less energy while cooking. […]

  10. Brilliant article.

    It’s relatively easy to calculate how much electricity each appliance uses. You look at the charge per kilowatt hour (kph) then your appliance voltage and multiply to get a pretty good read of how much the appliance costs to run for one hour.

  11. Great article. I like how you break down the cost for different uses of cooking appliances. I would have never guessed that a crock pot at several hours uses far less energy than one hour of cooking in the oven.

  12. […] uses less energy than the stove or oven, doesn’t heat the house on warm days (it’s southern California, […]

  13. […] I know some people aren’t fans of microwaved foods, but when you have one and it’s appropriate, you aren’t going to beat the microwave for energy efficiency in heating up food or liquids. […]

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