Switch to electric cooking from burning fuel
Updated: Jan 13, 2022
Our house had many propane appliances when we bought it (stove, water heater, and fireplace). Our intention has been to move to all-electric primary systems, retaining the propane appliances as back up only.
We traded the propane stove for an electric stove someone was giving away on our local Buy Nothing facebook group. Most people wouldn't think an electric stove was practical on a small off-grid system (we only have 2.5 kW of generation capacity currently). We've learned to economize on the power we are using for cooking without burning fuel to do so.
Did you know that you can cook potatoes beautifully in an instant pot in about 10 minutes, instead of boiling water on your stove for up to an hour? The pressurized steam gives a nice plump texture to them, even if they were a little dried out and wrinkly going in. Rice also cooks much better under pressure at our altitude. And pressure makes cooking beans and lentils much easier and faster. The instant pot also serves as a pasta pot, quickly boiling a big pot of water, and as a yogurt maker.
We use a toaster oven to cook pizza, for a fraction of the energy it takes to heat up a large oven.
We also learned to bake in a crock pot. Soda breads, cakes, and cobblers come out beautifully for a fraction of the energy budget heating the oven would take. And of course a crock pot is perfect for cooking stews, curries, stock, pulled pork -- anything that benefits from cooking slowly and thoroughly. We already had a crock pot, but the instant pot has a slow cook mode, too, so we could use it for stews.
A microwave oven is the most efficient way to reheat leftovers or boil water for tea. We also use it to heat warming disks -- they're made for pets, but we use them as modern hot water bottles by our feet on cold nights.
One of our most-loved appliances is a little electric Breville milk frother we bought used from a neighbor. It heats and stirs a pot of chai or coffee to the perfect temperature in no time. And it makes the best hot chocolate, as well as of course foamy hot milk (or almond or oat "milk," if you're dairy-free).
When we do cook on our ceramic-topped electric stove, we've found that using very flat bottomed pots allows the pot to heat up quickly so we don't keep the burner on very long. We love the ceramic cooktop's ease of cleaning, and the fact that we don't get sticky fossil fuel residue on our cabinets, the way we used to with a gas stove.
Our food is just as tasty cooked with these low-power all-electric methods -- but we are using a fraction of the energy and time to prepare it, and, since our electric power is 100% solar, not producing carbon emissions!
We do still have a propane grill as a back up, and when our electric energy reserves are low you'll find Cat out in the snow grilling pizza, zucchini, and/or one of the sustainable meats we've discovered (more on our local sources of meat and fish in a different post). Once we've added more generation and battery capacity, we expect that grilling will be something we do for pleasure, and not out of necessity.
We have also played with solar cookers, and found the oven-style ones work pretty well, even on a cold day, but the portable versions are vulnerable to the wind tipping them over. We plan in the future to construct a sturdy wind-proof permanent solar oven outdoors.