10 Tips for Energy Efficient Baking

I don’t use my oven an awful lot, and in fact I don’t even have one at my cottage. But there is something about the holidays that demands homemade baked goods. Before you start making all those wonderful Christmas cookies and mince pies, give some thought to how to use your oven in a more energy efficient manner.

Sometimes being green is simply a matter of re-thinking the way you use that big power drawing oven you already have. When you think about using the right tool for the job, sometimes it’s worth investing in small appliances that use less electricity, and will save you money in the end. Here are some tips to let you navigate the choices available which will be useful to you even after the holiday season is over.

1. Use a toaster oven

My mother lives alone and she was feeling increasingly guilty about turning on her large oven just to bake a potato for herself, or make a single batch of cookies for her grandchildren. I bought her a good toaster oven and she uses it all the time. Granted, you can’t fit a big cookie sheet into her toaster oven, but it will easily bake pies and cakes. It heats more quickly, and draws significantly less power.

2. Use a convection oven

I’ve become a convert to the convection setting on my gas oven since I read Kate Heyhoe’s wonderful book Cooking Green. The cooking time can be reduced and you can cook at a lower temperature, which often results in lighter baking.

3. Preheat the oven when you are ready

Preheating the oven has caused a lot of debate over the years on TreeHugger. There are plenty of things that can be started in a cold oven, but generally baking requires a hot oven. However, just because the first step in the recipe usually tells you to turn on the oven, it doesn’t mean you have to do it then.Turn the oven on about ten minutes before you are ready to bake, otherwise you are simply wasting energy.

4. Don’t Peek!

Remember when you were a kid and you left a door open, your dad would yell that he wasn’t heating the neighbourhood. Well, think about that every time you open the oven door unnecessarily. You lose about 25 degrees of heat every time you open that door to peek. That means you should have your oven racks in the right place before you heat the oven, and you should keep the window clean so you can see what is happening without having to open the door.

5. Maintain Your Appliance

John at TreeHugger weighed in on keeping the oven clean (as well as preheating). I have to admit that before I read his post, I had no idea that a clean gas oven cooked more efficiently. Try cleaning your oven with this simple, non-toxic, and no-scrub cleaning solution of just baking soda and water! Cooking Green suggests that you should ensure that the seal on the oven is tight to prevent heat loss. And don’t put foil down on the bottom of the oven, you need air flow for efficient heating.

Next: Tips 6-10 (including creative ideas to get you thinking outside the oven box!)

6. Re-evaluate your bake ware

It might be time to invest in some new bake ware to improve on your baking efficiency. Metal pans heat up quickly, but they also lose their heat quickly. Try using a glass or ceramic pan and you’ll find that you can cut down on the cooking time, and you can reduce the temperature of the oven. I have two bread pans, one pyrex and the other metal, and when I use them at the same time, the difference is quite obvious. The loaves in the pyrex generally rise more, and the sides and base of the bread (which you can see) generally cooks more evenly, and doesn’t stick to the pan as often.

7. Do some simultaneous baking

You need to use a bit of common sense here, baking a sheet of cookies under a spitting roast of beef will result in some beefy tasting cookies, but there are plenty of things that you can bake at the same time. If you already have the oven on for a casserole, why not slip in a pie for some piggy-back baking rather than keeping the oven on to do it consecutively.

8. Double the recipe

I often advocate making a double recipe of food to allow for leftovers for later dinners or lunches, so why not do the same with baking once you already have the oven on? My mother keeps about six different kinds of homemade cookies in her freezer and when she wants them, she just takes a couple out and by the time she has eaten her dinner, the cookies are thawed and ready to eat.

9. Use passive heat when you can

If I have used the oven for dinner and I want to serve warm pie for dessert, I’ll put the pie in and turn the oven off and let the residual heat warm it up. Cooking Green suggests putting items you want to stay hot straight from the oven into the microwave and allow the seal and the insulating properties of the appliance keep it warm.

10. Forget the oven entirely

For those of you who are a bit more adventuresome, try baking with an insulated hot box, solar power, or using a clay oven. I live in Canada, where it is now dark, overcast and soon to be snow covered, so solar power isn’t really an option for me, but if you can, give it a try. Or go the route that Emma did and use your barbeque to make bread. This week I’m going to try making a cake in my crock pot.

By Kelly Rossiter, Planet Green

75 comments

Holly Lawrence
Holly Lawrence7 years ago

Very helpful..I thank YOU!

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John S.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thanks, I normally bake in the winter when I also need the heat. In the summer I use the barbecue. I also have microwave ovens that use much less energy.

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Kerrie G.
Kerrie G8 years ago

Thanks for the tips!

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Jan C.
j C8 years ago

One idea you left out to make the most of the oven heat... in the winter (which is when I primarily bake) I will crack the oven door open when I'm done baking (the oven is turned off, of course!) The warmth of the oven helps warm the kitchen, so the heat pump doesn't have to do it.

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Anna P.
Anna P.8 years ago

Thanks for the great tips/ideas

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Pauline C.
Pauline C8 years ago

I find cooking with the microwave efficient and easy. Although I would refrain from cooking scrambled eggs in there because I have a psychological aversion to the idea, potatoes for mash works well-five minutes in the micro compared to 10-15 minutes on the stove.

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Judith C
Judith C8 years ago

Good tips

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Elena E.
Elena Ella8 years ago

Thank you for the article!

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Nona E.
Nona E8 years ago

Thanks for the tips. Especially like simultaneous baking and using residual heat.

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Linda J.
Linda J8 years ago

I never use my oven.Not even on holidays.However I do use the convection oven when I need to.I need to do the solar way though.

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