As families plan get togethers for the Easter holiday there’s sure to be a lot of discussion about the meal. Staples like a ham, deviled eggs and warm rolls are paired with foods that are unique to each family, which is part of what makes holiday meals so special.
If you signed up to host the family Easter dinner this year there’s probably a lot to get arranged before the festivities. You may already be getting your grocery list together and coordinating with family members to get everything on the table. But one thing you might overlook is how much energy is needed to make a large Easter meal.
Spending time with loved ones shouldn’t require spending more on your energy bill. Use the tips below to host an epic Easter dinner without seeing your electricity use spike.
Tip #1 – Create a Cooking Plan
If you want things to go smoothly and efficiently in the kitchen, you can set yourself up for chef success by creating a cooking plan. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth or elaborate. But taking a little time to plan things out in advance can save you stress and energy when you’re cooking, especially when it’s a large family meal with lots of food.
The cooking plan can include:
- What you plan to cook
- The cooking requirements for each dish
- A general order in which things need to be cooked
- What items can be cooked together
- Ways that energy use can be reduced or eliminated
Get creative on the last point to save the most energy. You can consider things like if you can use a more efficient cooking method or change up the recipe so it doesn’t take as long to cook. The goal is to prep so that you are set up to save energy right from the start.
Tip #2 – Use the Oven Strategically
The oven is where a lot of the magic happens during an Easter meal, and this is where your cooking plan will really come into play. Depending on what you plan to cook, you could save energy if you:
- Start with food that cooks at the highest temperature and work your way down. That way the oven is already preheated for the next dish.
- Load the oven up as much as you can with dishes that have a similar cooking temperature.
- If you’re adjusting the temperature to accommodate multiple dishes, go with the lowest temperature required. Many recipes have a temperature that’s slightly higher than needed to cook.
- Use the oven light to check food instead of opening the door. Cracking the door just a bit can cause the temperature to drop 25 degrees.
- Don’t worry about pre-heating the oven in advance if something needs to cook for more than an hour.
- Turn the oven off (but don’t open the door) about 5-10 minutes before a dish is done cooking. The residual heat should be enough to finish it off.
- Give your oven a good cleaning before cooking. Ovens that are clean and well maintained will cook more efficiently.
Tip #3 – Use Glass or Ceramic in Place of Metal Pans
The lower you can set the oven temperature the less energy you’ll need to use. When the oven is on for hours cooking a large family meal, lowering the temp even a little can make a difference. That’s why we suggest you use glass or ceramic dishes and pans instead of metal. Glass and ceramic hold heat better than metal, which means they can cook food at a lower temperature.
If you use ceramic or glass pans and dishes you can set the oven temperature 25 degrees lower than what’s noted in the recipe.
Tip #4 – Use the Grill Instead of the Oven
You can skip the oven all together for a number of foods if you have a grill. Does your family prefer brisket over ham? Then slow-cooking a slab of beef on the grill will help you save space in the oven for other foods so it’s used less overall.
You can also get creative and find other foods that can go on the grill if you have more room on the rack. Lots of veggies can be cooked on the grill or even appetizers and side dishes like bacon-wrapped asparagus, baked beans and cheesy flatbread.
Tip #5 – Use a Pressure Cooker When Possible
If you can choose between the oven and a pressure cooker, the pressure cooker is always going to be the more energy efficient option. Bonus – you can keep it in the cooking pot to serve the dish so there’s one less thing to clean.
Tip #6 – Don’t Overlook the Microwave
Don’t get too caught up in the idea that you need to use complicated cooking techniques to create a 5-star Easter dinner. If a recipe gives you the option to use the microwave, go for it! The microwave is much more efficient than cooking in the oven, particularly when it’s a small item that requires high heat.
Tip #7 – Choose the Toaster Oven for Small Dishes
Sometimes the microwave is no substitute for oven cooking, but there’s another option. There may not be a lot of space in a toaster oven, but that’s why they’re so efficient. It takes about half as much energy to heat up the toaster oven, and it can cook a small dish just as well as the oven.
Tip #8 – Watch Your Hot Water Use
When you’re rinsing dishes or filling pots be mindful about whether you’re using hot or cold water. Whenever possible keep it cold so that the hot water heater doesn’t kick on. The hot water heater is one of the worst appliances for your electric bill. The older storage hot water heaters are very power hungry. They can account for as much as 14% of an electric bill.
Tip #9 – Make Cold Foods the Main Attraction
Cold foods are perfect for Easter holiday dinners for a few reasons. As the weather warms up, cold foods are refreshing. Appetizers like egg salad finger sandwiches also don’t require any electricity or gas to cook, but there’s another energy saving bonus. Keeping the fridge fully loaded helps it cool the inside more efficiently.
Tip #10 – Use Pots and Pans That Are Appropriately Sized
When you’re cooking on the stovetop, the cookware makes a huge difference. If a pot or pan is too large you’ll waste energy heating it up. And if it’s too small for the burner that you’re using you may use more energy than necessary because of heat loss.
Flat-bottomed cookware is also recommended since it provides better contact with the burners and heats up more quickly. If the pot or pan has a copper bottom that’s even better.
Want to keep saving energy in the kitchen? The Provider Power blog has lots of useful advice like energy saving grilling tips and how to store food for max energy efficiency. It’s just one way that Provider Power helps customers lower their energy costs so they can enjoy a comfortable quality of life.