When at sea on a long passage between continents, far from everyone and everything, we manage resources onboard with care. Being frugal with water, food and energy ensures that there is enough for the duration of the trip. When cooking, we monitor our fuel usage and use several techniques to require less. Cooking fuel may be easy to get when near shore, but the tanks of spaceship earth are not infinite. We can all benefit from adopting energy-saving cooking techniques. It saves money, while extending its use.
Aboard Pino we use LPG, but have experience with both alcohol and induction heat cookers. Over the years we’ve experimented with ways to use less energy. The following advice is also relevant to those using electricity for cooking.
General energy-saving tips:
When cooking, the heat from the stove is transferred to the pot, and most types of cookstoves suffer energy losses. Higher efficiency can be achieved by minimizing the loss of heat to the surroundings, and by ensuring that there is a maximum transfer of heat from the source of heat to the pot.
- Use a lid. You will stop steam from escaping the pot, the steam is energy lost to the cooking process.
- Use a pot skirt. A simple ring around the base of the pot, will help to preserve and concentrate heat.
- Focus on the task. Obvious, but when distracted we use up more energy. Concentrate on the task, pay attention to cooking times so as to not overcook the food.
- Use less water. The less water used, the less energy is required to heat up the meal. On a boat with limited tankage, using less is better anyway.
- Reduce intensity after boiling. After boiling point is reached, lower to a simmer or transfer to an insulated cooker (see below). Shorter cooking times also prevent nutrient-loss.
- Cut food small. Chinese cooks use this technique, they cut vegetables small so they cook fast in a stir-fry. Smaller cuts have more contact area and will soften quicker, take up more flavor and use less energy.
- Pre-soak dry food. Legumes, grains and other kinds of dried food will cook faster when pre-soaked, don’t skip that step. We like to soak steel cut oats before bed, then it takes just 5-10 minutes to cook, rather than 20-30 minutes. The shorter time results in chewier oats (our personal preference).