Why Decreasing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Kitchen May Come Down to Evaluating the Thermodynamic Properties of Your Cookware

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Food contributes to the kitchen’s greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce their carbon footprint, homeowners must be conscious of their ingredients and ensure that no leftovers are left to waste. As simple as that. Right?

Well, not quite. Food indeed plays a big part in a household’s carbon footprint. But so do your cooking appliances and utensils. It can be easy for people to overlook how their cookware, but pay more attention to their properties.

How Does Cooking Affect Climate Change?

Almost all cooking processes will require heat. Whether baking a pizza or steaming dumplings, acquiring and using the correct temperature is essential. Unfortunately, most households rely on fossil fuels. Many burn wood, charcoal, kerosene and similar resources to achieve the heat they need for food.

These fossil fuels generate greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately contribute to climate change. This is aggravated even more by the type of cookware that a household will use.

People use different containers for their food. Each option will react and retain heat differently depending on its thermodynamic properties. Cookware with poor thermodynamics will likely use more fuel to get your dish hot and ready, inevitably increasing your emissions.

While alternatives are available on the market, the International Energy Agency reveals that about 2.3 billion people worldwide cannot access clean cooking. A lack of awareness may contribute to the stagnant spread of these resources.

Assessing the Thermodynamics of Cookware Properties

stainless steel cooking pot on stove
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Your cookware’s thermodynamic properties can undoubtedly factor into your greenhouse gas emissions. To combat this, look into the configuration of your cooking utensils. Here’s an overview of what to look out for:

  • Heat conductivities: How well does your cookware conduct heat and pass it through to your food? Low heat conduction requires more fuel to get hot. Your cast iron skillet has average heat conductivity, while steel pans are faster.
  • Heat distribution: Does your cookware evenly heat your food? Specific cookware might have the heat concentrated in certain areas. Uneven heating can require you to use more fuel and increase your greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Heat retention: Does your cookware get and stay hot for a long time? A cast iron skillet can slowly heat up but retains heat very well. It’s part of why dishes like Spanish paella stay hot even off the stove.
  • Heat capacity: Does your cookware need a lot of heat? Certain materials can consistently absorb and release the warmth you create when cooking. This makes your cooking temperatures more consistent.

How to Decrease Greenhouse Gas Emissions When Cooking 

Now that you’re up to speed on cooking’s inherent impact on greenhouse gas emissions, let’s dive into how you can minimize it. 

1. Adopt Induction Stovetops

fried egg in pan on stove
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One of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to switch up your stovetops. Induction cooking tops are three times more efficient than fossil fuel gases since they operate on magnetic currents to produce the heat for your food.

Some homeowners can be skeptical, but induction stovetops can be pretty handy. Get and adjust the clean heat as you wish without the pollution. Remember to use induction cookware to get the best results while in the kitchen.

2. Be Selective with Your Pots and Pans

Households should be selective when picking out their pots and pans. The ideal cookware will have fast heat conduction, even heat distribution, long heat retention and a high heat capacity. However, not one material can have it all. So know what you’re prioritizing with your dish.

For instance, maybe you’re hoping to make some lasagna. Heat distribution matters less since most of your ingredients are already cooked. Glass pans work well because they have a decent capacity for heat. Pairing this with lower oven temperatures means less emissions.

3. Get Rid of Frost Before Cooking

Have some frozens to use up? Well, frost can make stoves and appliances work double time during cooking. It also uses up more energy from your fridge during storage. You can use high-heat conductivity cookware, but thawing also works well.

Get the ingredients out about an hour or two before you cook it. Refreezing after thawing may entail contamination risks, so only get the frozen foods out when you’re sure of using them. Food waste can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, after all.

4. Put a Lid on Your Cookware

broccoli in stainless steel cooking pot
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Ever boiled some chicken soup and wondered why it’s taking so long to heat up? Use a lid rather than cranking up the heat and increasing your carbon footprint. Having a cover on your cookware can keep the hot air from escaping, which makes cooking a little faster. 

More heat, less reliance on using up resources. Glass is ideal so you can peer through the opening to see how your food is doing. You can also check in with the recipe to see whether you should use a lid and what kind is recommended.

5. Utilize Thermometers

Ovens and microwaves can be convenient since you can set the temperature immediately. Meanwhile, it can be hard to gauge when cooking on a stove, especially when your pots and pans vary in heat conductivity.

Some homeowners underestimate how fast or hot their cookware can get, not realizing they’re exceeding the ideal temperature for their dish. Use thermometers and monitor the heat. That way, you can conserve energy while preventing your food from burning. 

6. Shut the Appliances Quickly

woman in white sweater baking cake
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Your recipe will likely have guidelines on how long you should keep your food on the stove or in the oven. Following this will cook the dish to perfection. But while it’s good to follow directions, you might use up more energy than necessary.

Cookware with high retention will stay hot. Utilize that residual heat by unplugging your appliances a few minutes earlier than recommended. This action can prevent inessential energy consumption that raises greenhouse gas emissions. 

7. Inspect for Repairs and Replacements

Cookware material is subject to damage from frequent use or age. For instance, stainless steel can develop a bit of discoloration due to rust. This occurrence often changes its performance, requiring more heat to warm the food.

Faulty cookware can use up more energy than necessary. It might also endanger your health. Take a look at it and consider repair. You can also just get replacements to ensure that you’re cooking food that’s safe and guilt-free to eat.

Minimize Emissions Through Thermodynamics

Decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by paying attention to your thermodynamic use in the kitchen requires a meticulous eye and vigilance. Follow the tips above to ensure that you’re doing your part in keeping your kitchen clean.

  • Beth Rush

    Beth Rush is the green wellness editor at Body+Mind, a health and wellness brand. She covers topics like sustainable agriculture and plant-based recipes. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth!

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