Thursday, September 3, 2009

Is Using the Oven Frugal?

I wouldn't describe myself as anti-oven per se. I would describe myself as pro alternative.
Ovens are really big. Other than a turkey, nothing I cook takes that much space. I don't like big things in my small space if I don't get good use out of them.

That being said, if you frequently bake dozens of cookies and cupcakes at a time, you need an oven .
I don't do that because I don't want to. I make a lot of bread, which doesn't need an oven.
Other than cutting energy costs, I have no valid argument to convince anyone else that an oven free life is a good idea, and I'm okay with that. Unless there are other adventurous, on-the-edge chefs out there that just want to experiment with making pizza in a crock pot with me.
I think energy costs are a valid enough reason to pursue this topic, though. Most everyone has to pay energy bills, and if there are things that you are making in the oven out of habit instead of necessity, it might be worth considering a switch.
First the statistics:
"...using a conventional electric oven for one hour can cost around 20 cents while operating a crock pot for 7 hours costs only 10 cents - an energy savings of 50%."
Now, every frugal person knows instinctively, somehow, that it is the first hour of oven baking that is the most expensive, so if you are only cooking for one hour or so, you may be losing money. The traditional "baking day" bakers may still be okay against the crock pot.
For the rest of us, here are simple easy ways to switch to a crock pot:
Casseroles can easily be moved to a crock pot, as long as you don't mind a different shaped casserole in the end. Casseroles that are going for a crispy topping will not do as well.
Pasta bakes, including lasagna can be made in the crock pot.
A whole chicken fits right in the crock pot, unless you have some kind of mini crock pot, in which case this post may not be for you.
Roasts of all sizes go in the crock pot. Crock pot pork roast is the only way I eat pork. I find it too dry otherwise.
pizza, I believe, can be done in the crock pot. I'm still trying to work it out in my mind, but I plan on experimenting on Monday, pizza day, so check back to see how I've done. I'm thinking, cook the crust for an hour, then load with toppings and put it back in for a half hour?
"Baked goods" and bread can be cooked in the crock pot. This may take some experimenting depending on your recipes. But your brownies won't burn or dry out in the crock pot, they will just take longer to cook.
In fact, very little can burn in a crock pot. I had bread in my crock pot, forgot about it, and went shopping. (I get flighty when I'm pregnant.) I got home about fifteen minutes after I would usually have taken the bread out. It was perfect.


Organizing Mommy said...

wow! You sure have some creative ideas about cooking--all good. Does a grill save money? I read a blog about a gal cooking pizza on the grill. She had good success with it. I will do the baking day style of baking usually--a few times a week. I never thought of it as saving money--just time! I'm in need of time and patience.. can you buy those at KMart? just wondering? lol

alison said...

I LOVE casseroles in the crockpot. The crunchy topping thing is tricky, though. I just love doing my prep-work when I can make time for it, instead of arranging my schedule around dinner. I admit, I am a sucker for my home made lasagna, and I just don't think I could do it in my crockpot. :)

Anonymous said...

Crockpot users, the ceramic inserts are often found to leach a lot of lead into your food. You can test for lead with inexpensive lead test strips.

Google "Gephardt Finds Dangerous Lead in More Kitchen Items" to read the transcript of a television news investigation on the problem.

Emily said...

Anonymous, to say that the inserts are often found with lead is extremely misleading. Only one crock pot has been found with lead in it. I looked at the study you found. Although I don't want lead in my food, it does not seem like a legitimate study. There was only one crock pot with lead, however, this was presented as 20% tested positive for lead because they had such a small sampling. The testing showed that this one crock pot leeched lead that was within the FDA limits of what is allowable, but I agree that no lead shoud be allowable.

Lead can be found an in all ceramic cookware, including plates and cups. Since the FDA isn't calling for stricter regulations, there is no way to know which products have a trace amount of lead and which don't.

The one that had lead was known to have lead before they even started the study. That is a skewed study. It also doesn't tell how old the crock pot is, which I find very misleading. But I do appreciate your concern.

Lyn said...

I don't have a regular oven either due to several reasons, and I've learned to be just fine with it. I use a toaster oven, a crockpot, steamer and hot plate. I don't miss having to clean and care for another large appliance.

L said...

Why dont you get a solar oven??? Thats what Im going to do. Our oven died and nearly gassed us to death in the process so I kicked it to the curb :) I never looked back. We have an electric hotplate and mini-oven til I save for the Global Sun Oven (apparently the only one worth buying ). I agree though you can cook almost anything in other ways. Once your oven free you work out better ways to do things, it just takes a different way of thinking

Emily said...

L, I'm working out a way to have a solar oven without it taking up more space in our small kitchen. We don't want lots of appliances, so I'm going to make it. I've got some ideas and when I've got it figured out, I'll be posting about it.

Anonymous said...

Oooh! A solar oven in a place you rent with no land???? That you make yourself?? Please post on that. I would love to try it, but I live in an apartment that I rent with no outside. . ..

eccentricterri said...


Have you checked into thermal cooking. It doesn't have to be done with expensive stainless steel pans that you buy just for this project. I have seen youtube videos and blogs done with a laundry basket, wool or natural fibered blankets, and a heavy duty stock pot. Basically, you boil most items for about 15 minutes then put in the blankets then leave for a few hours. I am finally getting my kitchen set up better so I am looking into it. I do have a crock pot but don't use it often enough. I am inspired to start making things other than beans in it. The thermal cooking might come in handy down the line when you are on a homestead to save a lot of electricity whether on the grid or off grid.

Just found the blog reccently so I am trying to read many of your old posts. My husband and I weren't blessed with any children but you still have many useful ideas for me to incorporate into our home.

Laurie said...

You need a "Wonder Pot," a staple in Israeli kitchens before ovens were common place.

... in those dark pre-microwave days, other people kept raving about this miraculous stove-top oven that allowed one to bake cakes and casseroles without an oven. In fact, you could bake ding-dang anything in a Wonder Pot, as long as you didn’t mind an entire table laid out with ring after ring of circular fare. And if you weren’t sure what to make, you could always refer to Sybil Zimmerman’s best-seller The Wonders Of a Wonder Pot...

I've never been a successful crock pot cook, (although I'm an excellent stove top, oven, and pressure cooker cook) but I was a pretty good Wonder Pot cook, back in the day!

Tae_Ki_Girl said...

Reminds me of when I lived in Japan. Since baking hasn't been a cooking method over there for most of their history, it isn't that used in day-to-day cooking, and most houses don't have an oven. Mine being typical, I also lacked an oven. So instead I used my rice cooker. I never tried pizza, but cakes and brownies were made. My Japanese friends were always impressed and surprised by what I made in a rice cooker.

~T said...

Emily, have you done the math regarding the oven vs. the crockpot?

An oven averages 3500 watts for the baking element. Suppose you cook chicken for a half hour (chicken takes 20 minutes in the oven, but I added 10 minutes for the preheating time). Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours. 3500 watts = 3.5 kilowatts multiplied by .5 hours = 1.75 kilowatt hours. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Maine's average retail price of electricy per kWh is 15.3 cents. So, 1.75 kWh x 15.3 cents = 26.775 cents. It is actually less than that because most ovens don't takes a full 10 minutes to heat up.

A crock pot (at least mine) is 275 watts. The same chicken will take 8 hours to cook in a crockpot. That's .275 kilowatts multiplied by 8 hours = 2.2 kilowatt hours x 15.3 cents = 33.66 cents.

I suppose it depends on the wattage of your oven. If you have an older model, it probably isn't 3500 watts. And my crock pot is 5 years old, so maybe the newer ones have an even lower wattage.

The reason the oven wins for me though, at least in the cold weather, is that I can prop the door open just a little bit when I'm done (I don't have little ones), and all that heat ends up in my home. I'm paying for it anyway, might as well use it!

I do love using my crock pot. I just wanted to offer the math to you as it seemed that you just went by a statistic you found on the internet rather than running the numbers.

Oh...and one small warning, this almost happened to me recently. The cord for the crock pot, while plugged in, was touching the hot crock pot itself. Yikes!!

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