There’s little doubt that our diet can have a significant and detrimental effect on the environment. After all, the food we eat is responsible for almost a third of our global carbon footprint.
For example, the environmental costs of meat production are numerous: The production of feed, fertiliser, farm heating, effluent waste, water and land consumption. transport, slaughterhouse processing and refrigeration not to mention emissions of methane from ruminant livestock and increasing global consumption of meat has prompted the United Nations to describe the sector as “a major stressor on many ecosystems and on the planet as a whole.”
However, whether you eat meat or not, the way you cook your food has a significant impact on your home’s energy consumption.
The oven is an inefficient way of cooking meat at hot temperatures, and for long periods of time – the university of Sheffield found the environmental impact of roasting a joint of meat for over an hour in an oven contributes to 20 to 30 per cent of the environmental impacts of the entire meal – so how about trying the following?
- Use your oven to cook in batches – just remember to alter cooking times as appropriate.
- As every good cook knows, opening an oven door can have disastrous consequences for the dish. From an environmental perspective, an oven loses a significant amount of heat when its door is opened during cooking. Even if it’s only open for a short time it needs to use energy to regain its cooking temperature.
- Parboil potatoes and other vegetables before roasting: you’ll get better results and reduce the time they take to cook in the oven.
- Glass and ceramic baking dishes and heavy bottomed casseroles are more efficient than metal trays so you may be able to reduce the temperature required for cooking.
- Insert stainless steel skewers into baked potatoes and joints of meat to speed up cooking.
- Invest in a cooking thermometer with a probe to check meat is done. The University of Sheffield found we in Britain tend to overcook our meat by 40 minutes, which not only can make the food less pleasant to eat but contributes to the environmental impacts through pointless energy use.
- Cut food into smaller pieces – it will cook more quickly.
- Use a fan assisted oven if possible as it is more efficient.
- Consider using a steamer or pressure cooker pressure and if you’re really serious, invest in the kit for cooking sous vide – a process that involves placing a joint of meat in a vacuumed plastic pouch or bag, before submerging it in hot water until the internal temperature of the joint is between 55-60C. The joint is then unwrapped before being seared in a skillet.
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