Ok, so now it’s time to talk about kitchen equipment. Beyond the obvious Buy-the-best-you-can-afford or Buy-cheap-and-buy-twice, there are ways to make the most of the equipment you already have, and to spend the least amount of money using it.
Large electric appliances and those with high voltage/wattage use the most electricity, and therefore cost the most to run. Logically, then, you don’t want to run these more than you have to.
You might think appliances that cook your food quickly are cheaper to use than ones that take a long time, so they’re the best choice. Well, yes, sometimes, especially if total time is most important. You can steam a bowl of vegetables in the microwave in under 5 minutes, compared to 10 or 15 minutes on the stove. More dramatically, you can bake a potato in about 10 minutes in a microwave (or less, depending on wattage), versus an hour in the oven, on top of the time it takes to pre-heat the oven. But sometimes there are other considerations besides just time. I have been known to ‘kick-start’ my potatoes in the microwave while pre-heating the oven, and giving them half an hour in the oven, to get that crunchy finish to the skins.
Some things, such as rice or pasta, which have to absorb liquid, are no quicker done in the microwave than by conventional methods. And what if you have a large quantity to make? A larger pan on the stove accommodates more of any kind of food without taking more time than a small amount, while in the microwave you need to add more time. That microwave also has a limited space, which may mean cooking in batches. Soon, your time savings is lost, and bunches of your food has gone cold. Do the rice on the stove, and steam your veg in the microwave during the last few minutes.
If you’re preparing several dishes to serve at the same time, double up use of equipment where you can. So if you’re roasting something in the oven, pop those baking potatoes in too, and only run one appliance. Or if you’re not baking the potatoes, but boiling them, use the bottom of a stacking steamer so you can steam the vegetables with the same energy. If I’m doing two kinds of veg, where one takes longer to cook than the other, I add that one to the stack first, and put the quick-cooking ones on later. (A stacking steamer is a godsend if you have a limited number of burners.)
Then there are slow cookers or crock pots. By their nature, these get run for hours at a time, but only at the cost of running a lightbulb or two. Some food, such as the cheaper, tougher cuts of meat, benefit from long slow cooking, becoming tender and succulent. It makes sense to carry on the savings by using a small appliance that’s made for the job, rather than a full-sized oven.
So you might not always use the same tool for the same food–think about what you need to accomplish, and decide where you can economize today.