Are we wasting energy in cooking?
Posted on September 4th, 2012

Dr Hector Perera London

If energy is efficiently used in cooking then there is no wastage. If we are able use less energy and cook then we can say it is energy efficiency. If someone used for example 100 units of gas for cooking rice in 25 minutes but some other person used 40 units or less gas for the same task over 25 minutes then which ever used less energy is saving energy. Practically one cannot achieve 100% energy efficiency; there is always wastage such as due to radiation. Some would say this is a natural wastage but the people who use energy must be careful not to waste energy due to many reasons. If the wastage is inevitable then one cannot help but if the wastage is due to negligence and carelessness then I call it real wastage. Some people leave the empty cooker on full fire and attend to other things or cooks with the gas spreading outside the saucepan. The excess flame spreading out of the size of the saucepan is wastage due to carelessness.

If there were six or four rings on the cooker working this manner then this excess flame heats the surrounding than the saucepan. Naturally the air inside a kitchen is warmer than an outside room due to the heat from the cooker; this is due to radiation of heat. If the air inside the kitchen is quite warm, would you think that would help the cooking faster and better? Most of the time the extractor helps to get rid of the excess heat and any fumes in the kitchen. Sometimes I have noticed, some people do not adequately ventilate the kitchen while cooking. They may not realise that it needs oxygen for burning gas, just carry on cooking without ventilation or with lack of ventilation.

One cannot always achieve complete combustion of gas that means there would be some poisonous carbon monoxide as well building in the kitchen atmosphere. Some people complain headache while cooking and this could due to excess heat and breathing of the polluted gas in the kitchen. One other thing, if there was not enough oxygen to burn the gas, it may react with carbon dioxide in extreme conditions to give carbon monoxide. This reaction used in the production of iron where carbon monoxide is the reducing agent. Some people go outside for a break complaining headache then have a cigarette or two, would it make the situation better for the person? In extreme hot conditions even uncreative nitrogen reacts with oxygen to give oxides of nitrogen.

In places like some parts of Europe, where the general weather conditions are cold, gas and electricity are used for cooking as well as to keep the houses warm. When price of energy keeps on rising, the bills are rising as well and the people either have to cut down energy used for cooking or heating. It is a fact that some families find it absolutely difficult to meet the heating bill and the energy used for cooking and these are the reasons why one must not waste energy in cooking.

It doesn’t mean no cooking should be done at home and eat out such as in restaurants and takeaways. Reducing energy use is also seen as a key solution to the problem of reducing emissions which in turn pollutes the atmosphere. We might think, emission of carbon dioxide accumulates in the atmosphere but it a wrong idea. What about the green plants, they absorb carbon dioxide in presence of sunlight to produce plant food but this takes place only in the presence of sunlight.

 Many years ago our servants in Sri Lanka, cooked on firewood, in smoke filled kitchens but to our amazement, amidst all these hazard conditions they cooked tasty food. I have no doubt they never understood what is meant by energy efficiency, actually I never thought about it either. To get the energy for cooking, they burnt all kinds of firewood. Quite often a dash of kerosene oil on firewood gives instant fire. I have seen no firewood burns at first instant without giving out a trail of smoke but gas and electric fires give out the required heat to cook without any hassle. When you burn firewood, the fire goes outside the base of the cooking pot or pan then this excess heat naturally heats up the kitchen. Can you remember the cooking pots always get blackened by this fire, this soot is due to carbon particle depositing on the pots. What about the kerosene chimney lamps and the kerosene lamp used in the kitchen, they always give this soot particles.

In Sri Lanka, now gas and electricity are available even in quite remote villages as well so they can use any modern facilities such as electric ovens, microwave ovens and grills but still I have my doubt whether the people use gas and electricity efficiently. Now some people have rice cookers so the problem of rice getting burnt is limited to people who do not use rice cookers.

Firewood kitchens and kerosene lamps disappearing

I am talking about the situation prevailed many years ago, that time in some places we lived had no electricity either, only kerosene lamps and firewood kitchens. There were one or sometimes two servants in the kitchen so we never worried about cooking either and I assumed that food is served on the table. I never realised how much effort was made by these so called servants to cook the food with such lack of facilities.

The things have changed for better, now electricity is not something just for the privileged people, cities and towns; it’s available even in remote villages as well, so their life styles have changed for better. Along with these changes new gadgets or facilities are there in the kitchen, in a way the time wasted in the preparation of food has come down. Some people use coconut powder instead of scraping coconuts, now the grinding stones used by servants to grind the spices are quite rarely used because of electric grinders. Not only this but many new facilities are available for easy cooking but how many of them value these new facilities? One would think these would help them in cooking meals at home but now they are stuck to another kind of eating habits, easy way out, takeaways.

One scientific method to save energy

I stated before that I practice this energy saving scientific cooking at home and to me every time I cook it’s a kind of improved chemistry practical. One needs not just rice but things to go with it such as fish, meat and vegetables curries. Who would like to eat the same rice and curries all the time, you need variations. When there are so many varieties of vegetables, fish and meats are there, invariably you try and eat different things. You must visit a market to see how many different kinds of fishes, vegetables and fruits are there in ordinary markets. Sometimes you could see them in local fairs called, “Pola” but now these are getting quite obsolete because of supermarkets. The atmospheres in these local food fairs are quite different to supermarkets. Honestly you need a trolley to push round the place in collecting these foods.

When I mentioned energy efficient scientific cooking, it does not mean the ways to keep the house warm or using energy saving light bulbs, I mean actual cooking. Again baking and using the grill are different kinds of cooking to cooking rice, spaghetti or pasta in cooking pans heated directly on fire. I hope people realise they are wasting gas and electricity while cooking and they must find ways to cut down the wastage. One of the methods is to follow my method of cooking to cut down wastage; in some cases as much as 60% is saved. Why not any environmentalists or energy saving experts find out what I talking about? If my method works millions of people would benefit in saving money wasted or burning on wasting gas. Any comments please?

 

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