Less water to boil means less energy!
Minimum water—pasta—about 300ml (1-1/3 cup) per 100g pasta
Minimum water—steam potatoes, vegetables, eggs in 100ml water
The fewer the pots, the less the energy needed!
The fewer the burners, the less the heat used.
A small pot takes less time to heat up than a large pot!
A pot at room temperature takes less time to heat than a cold pot.
Cooking with Very Little Energy
With the methods below, you can cook on a fraction of the gas and electricity that you use today, and save money too! Adapt, experiment and refine them to fit your cooking needs.
These methods can help you relax and enjoy cooking more because the pots do not have to be watched or timed so carefully when you cook on afterheat—once it is boiling you turn off the burner and go read or do something else while it finishes cooking. Soft-boiled eggs still have to be timed, yes, but pasta is not critical, nor rice, nor other grains, nor potatoes or porridge. Afterheat is soft heat—it does not overcook the food. Vegetables—I put them in on top of the rice or potatoes the last few minutes before serving—for example, broccoli about 3 minutes before the meal. Covering the pots with a towel or pot cosy (see below) on the table keeps them warm even if guests do not come to table right on time! So less stress and a more enjoyable meal. In other words, with these methods I save my own mental energy too!
Cooking pasta with minimum water
In the ordinary method for cooking pasta, we boil a huge amount of water, and then pour off most of this boiling water after the pasta has cooked—a tremendous waste of energy in today’s world. In the method below we use the minimum amount of water, and thus the minimum amount of energy. Try it!
■ Place the pasta in a pot that has a tight-fitting lid and add water:
o For spaghetti and other dry pasta: about 300ml water per 100g pasta.
o For fresh pasta: about 200ml water per 100g pasta•
■ Bring to a boil, stirring as the pasta softens so that it does not stick. If necessary, add water so that the pasta is completely covered by water. (Any pasta sticking up above the water will be dry.)
■ Turn off the heat and cover loosely with a towel to keep the heat in. Be careful the towel doesn’t burn!• Ready after 10 minutes or so—the normal time.
Ideally, the pasta is perfectly cooked and there is only a little water left over in the pot at the end. With this gentle method, pasta does not overcook and the timing is not so critical. With practice you will learn how much water you need, and how to cook it for a small pot or for a big party and with different kinds of pasta. Practice on a small pot first!
Cooking slowly on afterheat
Bring the rice, beans, soup, potatoes or whatever to boil in a covered pot, turn down the heat and let it simmer, as usual.
■ Before it is done (5 to 15 minutes before, depending on your stove) turn off the heat entirely, cover loosely with a kitchen towel to keep the heat in, and let it finish cooking using its own heat.
■ For porridge, couscous and foods made with milk: turn off the heat entirely shortly before it boils, to keep it from boiling over.
Be careful the towel doesn’t burn! With this gentle method, vegetables are still firm, fish does not get tough, and milk does not burn. With practice you will learn how early you can turn off the heat. If the food is not done, bring to a boil again, turn off the heat and wait a few minutes more.
Cooking in one pot instead of two
You can steam vegetables (or fish or tofu) on top of rice, pasta or potatoes, in the same pot:
■ Bring the rice or potatoes to the boil in a covered pot, turn down the heat and let it simmer a few minutes (say 5 minutes), as usual.
■ Add your vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans or whatever) directly on top, put on the lid, bring to a boil again and finish cooking (turning off the heat before it is done to utilize the after-heat, as usual).
This method also works with pasta, with soft vegetables such as spinach or courgette (zucchini) slices on top. Pasta only needs 8–10 minutes cooking time, so the vegetable must be one that cooks in this time, too.
This method saves using a second burner and a second pot (including the energy to heat them up), and the washing-up!
Using a pot at room temperature
When I take a pot with leftovers out of the pantry or refrigerator to heat up it up for the next meal, I usually try to do this an hour or so before the meal. Why? Because a cold pot requires energy to be brought up to room temperature and heating the cold pot on the stove often requires as much energy as heating the contents itself. So about half the energy can be saved by letting the pot and its contents warm up by itself in the kitchen.
When I have no time to wait, I instead transfer the contents from the cold pot to another pot that is already at room temperature (or possibly even warmer, having been used to cook something else just before). This saves heating up a cold pot.
When using a microwave, you can transfer the food to a bowl at room temperature to save heating the cold bowl (but most plastic containers weigh so little that this only applies to glass plates and bowls).
I used a towel to insulate a pot on the stove after turning off the burner because it was simple and quick. Here are other variations that hold the heat even better or have other advantages. PS: I use the pot cosy or double potholder after I’ve served the food, too, to keep the pot warm on the table or on the stove.
Pot cosy: Make an
insulator for smallish pots by taking a tea cosy and
cutting open the seam on one end so that it can fit
down over the pot handle, which sticks out.
(simple model): take two large potholders (10 x10
inches, 25 x 25 cm), lay the one over the other to be
double in thickness. Sew or fasten with a safety pin.
Placed on top of the pot, this insulates almost as
well as a kitchen towel even though it doesn't cover
the sides. It has the advantage of not being at risk
of being burned.
(better): take an old bath towel (may be worn,
preferably dark in color so as not to show food stains
so much), cut a piece about 75 x 25 cm (30 x 10
inches) or 50 x 50 cm (20 x 20 inches). Fold it in
twice so that the folded size is 25 x 25 cm (10 x 10
inches). Sew a straight seam around three of the
sides, leaving the fourth open for putting a hand in
when using it (this also allows turning the potholder
inside out after sewing so that the seam is on the
inside). This double potholder keeps a pot warm a long
time and is easy to wash. It is my favorite.
Cookbox: Take a large carton or wooden box and insulate with anything (an old blanket, etc, even crumpled up newspapers work). Leave plenty of room for the pot to be placed in the centre. Make an insulated lid for the box, 3–5 cm (1–2 inches) thick or more, or use the insulation (blanket, etc) to cover the pot. An old styrofoam cooler, big enough for your usual pot, may work perfectly. Boil up the rice (or whatever), place in the box and wait. This is an old method used during the war, and still used today by some to cook Christmas rice pudding, which otherwise tends to burn on the bottom.
Copyright 2017 Archie Duncanson, Pokalvägen 6-5tr, 11740 Stockholm, Sweden.