19 Tips to Cut Costs by Using Your Oven Efficiently

By Nora Dunn on 26 October 2009 (Updated 22 April 2013) 17 comments

Saving money is made all the sweeter when you also rest assured that you did your part to save power and energy. And although using the oven is not nearly as efficient as sticking to the stove-top, sometimes you just have to bake that casserole or cake. So take a look at these 19 tips to help you maximize your oven’s energy-efficiency, as well as to cut your cooking costs.

Multitask

Your oven is pretty big, and probably has multiple racks. So make the most of your cost of power by chucking more than one thing in the oven. For example, baked or roasted potatoes are a good match for that meatloaf, along with a tray of vegetables for roasting. Or if you’re an irreverent baker like me, you can throw dessert in while dinner is cooking.

Jump the Gun

With the exception of certain baking items, temperature can be pretty negotiable. So instead of waiting until the oven is fully preheated, use the oven to warm up some part of the meal or get a head start on the cooking.

No Peeking!

Resist the urge to open the oven door, especially while baking, since you lose a disproportionate amount of heat (approximately 25 degrees) in doing so. Instead, stick to your timer, the oven light, and your nose to see if it’s done.

Know Which Rack to Use

Don’t be afraid to move the oven racks around, and to arrange your food accordingly.

  • Top Rack: Watch anything on the top rack, since it is meant for high-temperature and quick cooking.
  • Middle Rack: Best for moderate temperature cooking.
  • Bottom Rack: Use this for slow cooking and low temperatures.

Go Convection

You can save 20% of your oven-related energy costs by using a convection oven, which utilizes a fan to force the hot air around the oven. Not only does this mean shorter cooking times and lower temperatures, but your food will cook more evenly too.

Keep It Clean

Similar to cleaning the back of your fridge, keeping your oven sparkly clean will direct the heat at your food and not the burnt stuff caked to the bottom. Keeping it clean also ensures that it’s easier to clean each time (saving your own energy and the cost of caustic cleaning products), and keeps your home smelling like what’s cooking, instead of what burnt last week.

Use Efficient Baking Dishes

Glass or ceramic baking dishes hold heat much better than their metal counterparts, so you can turn down the temperature up to 25 degrees and the food will cook just as quickly. (The same applies for cooking with glassware on the stovetop too).

No Foil

Some people line their racks with foil to increase cooking efficiency with the aid of reflection. However, the foil stops air from flowing freely in the oven, which actually makes your oven less efficient.

Turn It Off Early

Similar to jumping the gun and putting your food in early, consider turning off the oven and using the residual heat to finish off your meal. Again, this is best tried with less temperamental foods and non-baking items.

Stagger Pans

If you are using multiple pans in the oven, try to stagger them on the racks to maximize the air flow. The more the air flows through your oven, the quicker it will cook your food.

Do a Double Batch

By preparing a double batch, you are maximizing your oven’s capabilities, and now you have leftovers that can quickly and easily be reheated with much less energy.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Self-Clean After Cooking

If your oven has a self-cleaning option, turn it on after you have used the oven so it can use the residual heat to get started. Although the self-cleaning itself uses a fair amount of energy, self-cleaning ovens in general are better insulated and will use less energy while cooking.

Use Smaller Appliances When You Can

An oven can be a cavernous space and inefficient use of energy if you are preparing a smaller meal. If the toaster oven or microwave will do, use it and save the energy (and cost). Don’t forget about slow cookers, steamers, rice cookers, and pressure cookers (heck — even hot boxes), which all use less energy than an oven — especially if you are cooking over an extended time. An electric skillet not only performs a number of cooking functions, but can also double as a serving dish in the end (saving the washing energy and cost too).

Start from Fresh (or Thawed), not Frozen

Where possible, thaw your frozen foods in the fridge before you cook them.

Check the Door Seal

Give your oven the once-over regularly to ensure it is in top working condition. If your door seal is broken or loose, heat (and your money) will escape out the sides. Even simply keeping the door seal clean can make a difference in efficiency.

Isolate the Kitchen

By isolating the kitchen when the oven is on, you will:

  • Contain the extra heat to one room only in the summer, saving on cooling expenses throughout the house.
  • Warm one room of the house efficiently in the winter.
  • Also, when your meal is finished cooking, leave the door open during the winter and use the residual heat in the oven to keep the kitchen cozy. (Obviously, be careful doing this if there are children roaming freely).

Calibrate

Calibrate your oven by getting an inexpensive thermometer to ensure the oven’s temperature setting is accurate. Cooking at the right temperature will not only save your food, but can also save your money if the oven is set high.

Cover It

Although not everything you cook in the oven can be covered, do cover it with a lid or tin foil (which is reusable) when you can.

Gas or Electric?

And if you are in the market for a new oven, here is a tool to help you determine whether to choose a gas or electric oven next time.

 

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Guest's picture
Ginny

Thanks a lot for the tips, Nora. Ovens are an issue with me; I like to cook but I live in a place with extremely hot summers, lasting at least five months (Texas). So many recipes call for oven use when it is just not necessary and certainly not efficient. One example is the instruction to "Pop the nuts into the oven for ten minutes to toast them." Nuts can be toasted in a dry skillet or a microwave, but why do I have to know that to cook that particular recipe? Why didn't the writer think about the waste of energy, at least during times of the year when the oven causes over-use of air conditioning?

Guest's picture
NMPatricia

I love these kinds of posts with lists. I may only need one of them, but that one is always important. Thanks for reminding me to fully utilize the features on my oven, i.e. the convection feature. My goal now is to figure out how to use it and most efficiently! Thanks for the post.

Guest's picture

Great little article. Very helpful. Terrific way to take something so commonplace and teach readers how to save money while doing it.

Guest's picture
croatian1

This was a very good post. Let me say too on the foil in the bottom of the oven. Some do it to catch drips, but in newer ovens the foil can become literally glued to the oven if used on the bottom. Instead if I am cooking or baking something that can splatter I will put a cookie sheet on the lower rack.

Since I cook all the time, and use my oven at least 4 days out of 7, it would not be economical to self-clean each time. Also, the oven get over 550 degrees so in the summer that would be a no for me. I just wipe with a damp sponge if something had dripped in the oven.

Also when cooking more than one item at a time, some may take longer than called for in a recipe.

Guest's picture
Scott

The only time I turn on my big oven is to cook a turkey or rib roast or a batch of cookies.

The reason I say "big" oven is because my "main" oven is a counter top oven. They are still called toaster ovens but are really a lot more than the the glorified toaster that would also heat a slice of pizza or two. A true counter top oven can bake a potato, cook a small pizza, bake cookies and even make toast. I've even baked cobblers in my counter top oven.

The initial price can be anywhere from $100 up but the savings in energy, time and comfort is incredible. I'm in Texas too and don't like to heat up my big oven in the summer.

Just be sure you get one that has the features you want and has an accurate temperature setting. I have a Krups and would highly recommend it.

Guest's picture
tbone

i have a gas oven but electric broiler.

it takes my gas oven a LONG time to get to anything above 300 degrees.

to save some time (a lot of time actually) i put the broiler on high and when i see the metal glow.. i know im at at least 325-350 degrees. all this in a few minutes..

im too lazy to do all the price comparisons regardin gas vs. electric.. but the time i save is worth it.

Guest's picture
Alli

Whenever I bake or cook in the oven during colder months, when I turn the oven off at the end, I leave the door cracked. All that residual heat comes out into the apartment and warms things up, when normally it would just hang out in the oven and not do anything.

Obviously, if you have small children or curious pets, this is not a great idea, but it is really nice for those cold fall mornings, especially when it's going to warm up later in the day and you don't want to turn the heat on!

Nora Dunn's picture

Thank you for the comments, everybody! I love to maximize usage (and savings) of things we do every day without thinking much about. More oven-tips are welcome!

Guest's picture
HollyP

Does anyone know whether a convection oven could be used to replace a traditional oven?

Guest's picture

Awesome post! Such a helpful list! Spot-on!

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@HollyP - If I understand your question, convection ovens are certainly replacements for traditional ovens. You may just have to get used to cooking a little differently, since it cooks a little hotter and quicker with the air being fan-forced.

@Nadia - Thanks!

Guest's picture
Guest

As a note, not only do glass baking or cooking pans hold heat better (by virtue of their thickness), but clear glass pans cook by radiant heat as well as the heat absorbed by the pan, i.e. the infrared is transmitted through the glass and directly into the food as opposed to metal or opaque pans that reflect or bar the passage of the infrared.

Guest's picture
Christina

This is useful...I never read a blog about using oven efficiently. I don't even multi-task I only do what I need to do...bake that's all. Now you gave me an ideal..a good one. Thanks.

Guest's picture
Guest

Love the article!

I try to plan my weekly menu so that I use the oven once. While I'm baking the chicken I'll use for 3 days' of meals, I will also bake my bread, whip up a batch of breakfast muffins, make a dessert, bake some sweet potatoes to use now or freeze for later...

My kitchen is such a mess after baking day!

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Guest - What a neat personal challenge to only use the oven once per week! Good for you. Let us know how it goes!

Guest's picture
RJ

Thank you for the detailed and insightful post.

I've been using the convection oven for the past year, and I should say that it makes a tremendous difference.

Guest's picture
alana

I was a baker for five years, yet trying to convince my family member that the oven doesn't have to be perfectly preheated to cook fishsticks or frenchfries (or even most basic baked goods besides homeade bread) is like talking to a brick wall. Thanks for saying so