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Energy Notes

Keep Your Cool in the Kitchen

Tips on how to make a meal without using energy

When the sun is blazing outside, making a hot meal for your family could cause your air-conditioning system to work harder to keep up with the extra heat generated by cooking appliances.

Here are some simple ways to minimize the amount of wasted heat and still put a meal on the table.

Don’t cook, chill. Try a cool offering: a meal from the refrigerator. Serve up a refreshing salad. Offer a build-your-own sandwich platter with a variety of fillings, breads and spreads that might suit everyone’s appetite. Make a cold dish like ceviche or gazpacho.

And for dessert, a bowl of ice cream or fruit ice will hit the spot.

Give the oven the day off. Avoid using your oven if you can. Not only does the oven use considerable energy, but it also adds waste heat to your living area. Instead, employ a smaller appliance, such as a toaster oven, to brown or bake. It will take less power and not raise your kitchen’s temperature as much.

If you do choose to use the oven, bake two or three meals’ worth of food at once. Refrigerate the extras and use the microwave to heat it up the next day.

Give the stove the day off. A portable appliance such as a rice cooker or slow cooker can handle a whole meal’s worth of food at a fraction of the energy of cooking on the stovetop. Because many of those appliances are insulated, they keep much of the heat they generate contained, leaving your air system with less to handle.

If you do need to use the stove, remember to match the size of pots and pans to their burners, which will improve their heating efficiency. Plus, use a tight-fitting lid. That will keep more heat contained to the pan, which will help cook the food faster.

Take it outside. Nothing says summer like firing up the grill. Hot dogs and hamburgers don’t have to be the only items on the menu, either. Many veggies, and even fruits such as pineapple or peaches, work great on the grill.

Cooking outside will keep 100 percent of the extra heat that cooking produces outside your home, instead of inside, where it taxes your cooling system.