10 Oven Tips that Cut Costs and Keep You Cool

It's hot. Really hot down here in the south. But as we're still recovering from the blow of last month's power bill, we know better than to turn that AC down even just a notch. Instead, we're keeping cool by using our oven more efficiently when we cook, saving money and bringing down the temp in our home at the same time. Check out what you can do to cut costs and keep cool.

Without a terrace and a grill, we're forced to use our oven—even during the sweltering summer months. But there's plenty you can do to keep oven use to a minimum and make sure heat doesn't escape.

  1. Multi-task. Plan meals around mains, sides and desserts that can be cooked at the same time (at around the same temperature) on different oven racks.
  2. And if you use more than one pan in the oven, make sure to stagger them around the racks to maximize airflow inside the oven.
  3. Don't open the oven door to see if your cupcakes are done. You'll lose about 20 degrees doing that, and release that heat into your home. Instead, rely on your eyes, nose and a good oven light.
  4. Keep the door seal clean and check often to make sure it's doing it's job. A leaky seal is the best way to waste energy and leave your kitchen (and house!) sweltering.
  5. Clean the inside regularly, too. If the inside of your oven is squeaky clean, you can be sure the heat and energy is going into cooking your food and not the leftover pizza stuck to the bottom.
  6. If you can, close off the kitchen when you're cooking. It will keep the heat in one room and cut on cooling costs for the whole house.
  7. Go glass! Glass and ceramic baking dishes cook food much more efficiently than metal pans. You can cook food just as quickly at a temperature 25 degrees cooler in a glass pan.
  8. If you have a self-cleaning oven, set it to clean right after you're done using it. It will use the residual heat to get started.
  9. Turn it off. Rather than waiting for the buzzer or beep, jump the gun and turn your oven off before your food is done cooking (Make sure whatever you're making can handle it—if you're doing any baking, we'd skip this tip). Leave the door closed and let the heat inside finish the work.
  10. Calibrate your oven by using a cheap thermometer to test the temperature. If your oven's temperature gauge is even a little off, you could be wasting power and money.

(Top image, Flickr user Stefan under license from Creative Commons. Inside Image: The Oven Space/Time Continuum: How Do You Schedule Oven Time for Your Thanksgiving Dinner?.)