Trending cooking tools for high performance kitchens
Old school gas cooking wastes more than half the energy used to cook. That means for every dollar you pay for energy only 40 cents goes to cooking your food and 60 cents is just wasted. Most of it is just lost as heat. In the summertime that means your air conditioner will need to work overtime (and use even more energy) just to remove the wasted heat from your stove.
The newest technologies put the energy directly where it's needed - into the food. Things like induction cooktops, crockpots, and sous vide precision cookers waste very little energy. Almost all of the energy that is used actually goes toward cooking the food. Here's a couple examples of incredible proven technologies that I have in my all-electric home (where by adding solar panels, we have eliminated our energy bills for life!).
Induction ranges are safer, cleaner, and much more efficient than gas ranges. Most importantly, they have a much better cooking range which is why chefs are raving about their performance and ditching their smelly and dangerous gas stoves.
The lowest setting on an induction cooktop can go so low that you can melt chocolate directly in the pan without a double boiler. The highest setting delivers double the Btu (energy as heat) of a commercial gas range, so it will boil a pot of water in half the time. It is so psycho fast that you'll need some time to get used to it.
Here's a video of me searing a steak after cooking it in my Anova sous vide (low temperature) cooker (see below). Notice that I put a dish towel between the pan and the burner to help clean up splatters. http://youtu.be/nOyhL7wGeBY
Sous vide precision cookers
The hands-down most perfectly cooked and best tasting piece of chicken I've ever had was during a meal with my wife at The Publican restaurant in Chicago (I'm salivating as I type this). This was when I was first introduced to the wonders of sous vide or low temperature precision cooking. Holy cow (or 'holy chicken' as the case may be)! The good folks at The Publican shared their secret with me about how they were able to get the whole chicken perfectly juicy and tender from the surface to the bone - both dark meat and white cooked to perfection. Not only was the meat perfect, but the skin had a golden, crisp skin do die for.
The secret was sous vide. Cooking the meat at a stable, low temperature allows the meat to cook throughout at a consistent temperature with almost no risk of overcooking. Even if you cook for a longer time, the meat will not get above the precise desired temperature. The skin is then crisped with searing, broiling or torching. At the time, this method of low temperature cooking was only available in restaurants. Sous vide cookers are now available for home chefs for under $200.
To cook meat thoroughly, conventional cooking requires that the external temperature reach several hundred degrees so that the interior of the meat is cooked to a safe enough temperature to kill pathogens. The result can be rubber chicken or steak on the outside with only a small portion of the meat actually cooked to perfection. Sous vide allows you to precisely hold the meat at the desired fully cooked temperature (i.e. 149 degrees F for chicken) rather than 350 degrees F in an oven. Sous vide cooking allows for 1) meat cooked to the same, safe and delicious temperature throughout and 2) the meat can be cooked at a lower temperature using less energy.
To learn more about sous vide and energy efficient kitchens you can check out HappyHome.HOW. I'll be posting a full review of my Anova sous vide cooker and adding some great recipes at HappyHome soon.
-- -- --
You can learn more at the non-profit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: Here are some more energy saving cooking tips for those who don't have an induction cooktop or a sous vide cooker:
Match the cooking method to the meal
Methods of cooking that minimize the area the must be heated (a toaster oven versus an oven, for example) save energy. On the other hand, sometimes the most efficient cooking methods (like the microwave) will sacrifice food quality. The trick is to find the right balance, or an appliance explicitly designed for a particular type of meal (crockpot, rice-cooker, etc)
Match the pan size to the element size
For example, when using an electric cooktop, a 6" pan on an 8" burner will waste over 40% of the heat produced by the burner.
Buy sturdy, flat-bottomed cookware
The ideal pan has a slightly concave bottom -- when it heats up, the metal expands and the bottom flattens out. An electric element is significantly less efficient if the pan does not have good contact with the element. For example, boiling water for pasta could use 50% more energy on a cheap, warped-bottom pan compared to a flat-bottom pan.
Use high-conductivity materials
Certain materials also work better than others and usually result in more evenly cooked food. For instance, copper-bottom pans heat up faster than regular pans. In the oven, glass or ceramic pans are typically better than metal -- you can turn down the temperature about 25°F and cook foods just as quickly.
Keep Your stovetop clean and shiny
Believe it or not, when burner pans become blackened from heavy use, they can absorb a lot of heat, reducing burner efficiency. You want them to remain shiny so they reflect heat up to the cookware.
Reduce your cooking time...
...before you start by defrosting frozen foods in the refrigerator before cooking. With conventional ovens, keep preheat time to a minimum.
...while you cook by keeping oven racks clear. Don't lay foil on the racks and, if possible, stagger multiple pans to improve air flow. Avoid peeking into the oven as you cook. On an electric burner or in the oven, turn off the heat just before the cooking is finished to prevent overcooking.
...next time by cooking double portions so all you have to do is reheat prepared food. Also, use the self-cleaning option in your oven infrequently and only after you've cooked a meal so it can use the residual heat.
Photos and video courtesy of www.HappyHome.HOW