I'm a firm believer in a homemade meal being the healthiest choice for my family, but work and school often overtake all my cooking time. Instead of being tempted by takeout, I just rely on my Crock-Pot. With all-meat chili, beef stew and chicken soup as favorites around the house, I don't even need to be home to cook a fantastic meal. After adding all the ingredients and setting the pot to low in the morning, the entire family returns home to a perfect meal. Because our family wants to have a small carbon footprint to better the environment, it's been a goal to find out whether Crock-Pots are energy efficient.
In most low-power cooking situations, the Crock-Pot wins out on energy efficiency. Stove or oven cooking requires the heating of a large area by either gas or electricity. Slow cooking takes hours, so running a large appliance against the Crock-Pot is almost always a losing battle. My family also leaves home with the assurance that a small appliance is working instead of a major appliance that can malfunction disastrously.
I know my refrigerator is more energy-efficient when it's full, and the same concept applies to the Crock-Pot. The small space is completely full for most recipes, even pot roast. Food heats up faster and more evenly for an efficient cooking session. Ovens, in contrast, must heat up a huge area that's not even full of food. Energy efficiency is definitely on the Crock-Pot's side.
Short Cooking Bursts Vary
I have to admit that research reflects a showdown between Crock-Pots, stoves and ovens when it comes to short cooking times. Crock-Pots are designed to cook slowly with hours of operation necessary. Cooking a quick soup over gas or electric burners shows these fuel sources as more effective, according to a study done at Iḷisaġvik College that found 12,071 BTUs were used for a gas stove compared to 87,000 BTUs for a Crock-Pot. If I can't make it home to cook on the stove, however, it's still more convenient to use the Crock-Pot as food warms all day.
Gas or Electric, You Say?
Electricity is known for its expensive cost when compared to gas. If you take the Crock-Pot out of the equation, a gas stove wins out over electricity. Although Crock-Pots are electrically driven, they don't require as much wattage as a major appliance. When a Crock-Pot isn't available, at least gas is a green alternative for your home cooking.
The Heat Factor
Energy efficiency is also about reduced waste. I want my appliance to use all the energy it draws from the fuel to cook my food. Running a stove or oven, however, is a costly decision because of all the heat loss. I may warm the house on cold days with the oven on, but the Crock-Pot would be a better energy conservation choice to reduce waste and still have a great dinner.
While every fuel source varies in cost depending on the region, it's safe to say Crock-Pots have a leg up on traditional cooking choices. For my busy lifestyle, slow-cookers allow the whole family to enjoy a meal without having to babysit a pot for hours on end. The modern family benefits greatly with these small appliance wonders.
Jane Blanchard writes for Modernize, a website offering home ideas and inspiration.