Building the Ultimate Green Kitchen

Unplug appliances when not in use.

Because cooking appliances do not use a lot of energy compared to other appliances, Energy Star doesn’t rate them. But this does not mean it’s prudent to buy a six-burner stove and set up a fry station. New combination ovens and induction cooktops save significant amounts of energy and improve indoor air quality, says Katie Ackerly, a researcher at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and coauthor of Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings. There are also ways to conserve energy in the kitchen with standard appliances:

» Match the method to the meal. If what you are making fits in a smaller appliance like a toaster oven or an indoor grill, don’t use the oven—smaller units require less energy. Also, unplug appliances when not in use or they will continue to drain energy.

» Match the pan size to the element size. A small pan on a large burner wastes up to 40 percent of the heat produced by that burner.

» Buy sturdy, flat-bottomed cookware. Boiling water in a cheap, warped pan uses 50 percent more energy compared to a flat-bottomed pot that’s heavy and slightly concave. Quality cookware distributes the heat evenly.

» Use high-conductivity materials. Glass and ceramics are the best at conducting heat when cooking with a standard electric or gas stove.

» Keep the stovetop clean and shiny. Anything left on the stovetop or inside the oven will absorb heat. By keeping your appliances clean, you will reflect more heat.

» Reduce cooking time. Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator before cooking. Food cooks better when air can circulate: Instead of putting two pans on one rack, stagger them on different racks. And no peeking—opening the oven lets heat and energy out.

» Consider cooking double portions. Reheating uses less energy than cooking multiple meals from scratch.

Induction cooktops are the first stoves that have made any great strides in energy efficiency. (They’re 84 percent energy efficient, while a standard gas or electric range is only 40 percent energy efficient.) So if you really want to go green, you might consider buying one of these new, high-tech products.

Induction cooktops use electromagnetic energy to heat your food, by transferring the energy into the cookware you put on top of the stove. Because the energy goes directly into the pan, no heat escapes around it. The units heat things rapidly, and the cooking temperature is easy to control and adjust. Here’s the rub, though: Because induction cooking is based on magnetic fields, it will only work with pots and pans made from magnetic material like iron or steel. An easy way to check if cookware is compatible with an induction cooktop is to see if a refrigerator magnet will stick to it.

Bosch 800 Series 4 Burner Induction Cooktop,
prices start at $1,900

Bosch’s induction cooktops feature an alarm that sounds if a pot boils over and an automatic system that turns off the cooktop if it is left without any action or if the surface reaches more than 572 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooking elements automatically adjust to smaller pot sizes.

Avanti Induction Hotplates,
prices start at $104

Induction cooktops can be pricey, and may not be worth the money if you have a small space or live alone. Avanti’s portable induction hot plates cost about $100 each and provide the same benefits as larger models, plus are easy to transport.

GE Advantium Speedcook Ovens,
prices start at $1,649

It’s five ovens in one: Speedcook, microwave, convection, conventional, and warming. By combining microwaves with halogen light waves, it can cook foods four to eight times faster than a standard oven, with no preheating necessary. You can also opt to microwave only, which is not a bad idea: A microwave uses two-thirds less energy than a conventional oven.