from 28 august 2005
blue vol IV, #20
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11 Ways to Save Cooking Energy

by Pat Meadows

Eleven ways to conserve fuel used for cooking, in no particular order:

  1. Use of pressure cookers. Pressure-cooking saves about 70% of the energy required to cook those foods which are suited to this method - this includes beans, grains, soups, stews and various other foods. Of course, it saves time as well as fuel.

    The so-called 'second-generation' pressure cookers are very, very safe and easy to use. See: for lots of good information on pressure cookers. There is a learning curve, and you do need to pay a modicum of careful attention while cooking (which should be done with all cooking, really).

    My favorite pressure cooker cookbook is this one, and I recommend it for non-vegetarians (like us) as well as for vegetarians:

    Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure
    by Lorna J. Sass
    Publisher: Morrow Cookbooks (October 20, 1994)
    ISBN: 0688123260

    Lots of helpful information on using pressure cookers, lots of really excellent recipes, and directions for cooking dozens of grains and beans. Lorna knows pressure cooking, and she knows food too! She has also written a couple of non-vegetarian pressure cooker cookbooks, but I find Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure to be the most useful of her books.

    I started by following recipes specifically written for pressure cooking, but now I'm at the point where I can adapt many 'regular' recipes. This is when the pressure cooker really becomes extremely useful.

  2. Thermos cooking - see: and click on 'Survival Foods' in the left frame, then on SAVING MONEY WITH A THERMOS BOTTLE and on THE PERFECT 3.3 CENT BREAKFAST.
  3. Volume cooking: if you are broiling chicken or baking potatoes, make enough for two nights, warming the potato up the second night and eating the chicken cold (refrigerate both in the interim). When you make chili or soup or stew or casseroles, make enough to freeze several meals' worth. Or, of course, you can can soups or stews if you have a pressure canner and know how to use it. (Note that a pressure *cooker* is not a pressure canner. It is not safe to use a cooker for canning.)
  4. Haybox cooking - see: html
  5. You might want to consider making 'bean flour' or 'instant beans'. This is easy and the results are quite good. You can buy these in natural-food stores - Fantastic Foods makes a decent 'Instant Refried Beans' and 'Instant Black Beans', for example. You can do the same thing yourself, flavor it according to your own preferences, and save a whole lot of money.


    I think a Corona or similar hand-mill (with steel and not stone burrs) is the best tool for this. We use an (electric) Whisper Mill to grind flour, but you can't grind beans in it.

    We also have a Corona, and they are useful not only for grinding beans, but also for cracking grains for hot cereal. (The Corona is not good for fine flour, however.) You can buy Coronas at brewing supply stores - here's one example: - then type 'mill' in the search box.

    If you buy a Corona, I recommend that you get the high hopper, if you have a choice. The sketch on that webpage shows it with the high hopper, but I'd inquire to be sure it comes along with the mill.

    Lehmans has a similar mill, but it costs more (

  6. Solar cookers - see:
  7. A microwave can save fuel - compared to a regular stove - for those (fairly few, I think) foods which are suited to it. I steam veggies in the microwave, and cook pudding in it (no scorching), also white sauce, and I heat milk to make our yogurt in it. I also sometimes make meatloaf in the microwave.
  8. Cooking on a wood stove, if you have one and if it is going to be heating your home in any case.
  9. Using a toaster oven to bake rather than the big oven.
  10. Using a Rocket Stove or similar fuel-conserving stove (outdoors only). See:
  11. Trading 'cooking nights' with one or more friends. This can either be done on a 'cook and deliver' basis, or by having dinner together at someone's home.

    Maybe it would be good to start off with a single friend, and each cook one night a week. For example, I cook for both families on Mondays, my friend cooks for both families on Thursdays. This would need fairly congenial people who eat in more or less the same manner (natural food or highly-processed foods, vegetarian or including meat, etc.).

–  Pat Meadows, northern Pennsylvania

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