Summertime can bring plenty of joy, but it can also bring some expensive energy bills. So with the summer season well under way, we thought it appropriate to spill some ink on how you can reduce the amount of energy you use and take a bite out of those high summer energy costs. And you can start with tonight’s dinner. It’s a rule of thumb that goes like this: when summer’s heat starts to make cooking oppressive, turn off the oven and fire up the outdoor grill.
You see, heating your oven up daily adds more heat to your interiors by way of a ghastly thing called a thermal plume—a blob of warmed up air consisting of oil, water vapor and a lot of heat. In short, it’s your air conditioner’s worst nightmare. After all, the more heat in the house, the harder and longer your A/C unit has to labor to cool the increased heat load. And the cumulative burden of all that added heat and humidity can be quite significant. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that cooking accounts for 4.5% of total home energy use.1 That’s not including the added energy needed to re-cool the house after tonight’s casserole just spent 45 minutes at 375°.
Simply put, cooking in the house is about as close as you can get to turning on your heater without turning on your heater. That’s why when the dog days strike, one of the best ways to beat the heat, keep your house cooler and save energy is to cook outside.
Great gear for the great outdoors
Take advantage of various ways to cook beyond your four walls:
This uniquely American grill can be used as either a smoker (using wood chips) or an outdoor oven. What makes kettle grills unique is their ability to cook indirectly as well as barbecue.
An American favorite, gas grills are ideal for the outdoor chef looking for easy temperature control and cleanup. Today’s models usually have multiple cooking zones to accommodate indirect as well as direct heating.
Shaped like big eggs, cookers have attained a cult-like status among grilling aficionados. They utilize an ingenious venting system that allows you to cook at either very low or very high temperatures.
Regardless of the outdoor cooking options you choose, having alternate means of cooking outside your home provides many benefits. Plus, by some bit of magic, food always seems to smell and taste better under blue skies. So this summer, let the grilling and the energy saving begin.
Here’s an easy, delicious recipe to get you started:
Grilled Corn on the Cob Mexican-Style
8 ears of corn
½ cup crema or mayonnaise
¼ cup cotija
- Soak the corn, husks and all, in water for 30 minutes. You’ll want a medium-hot grill (350-400ºF) set up for direct-heat cooking.
- Mix the crema or mayonnaise in a small bowl with the lime juice, a tablespoon of the cotija, and a little salt. Refrigerate.
- Grill the corn for 10 minutes on each side.
- Remove and quickly strip away most of the husks. Leave one or two layers of corn husk.
- Place the near-naked ears back on the grill for 5 more minutes on each side.
- Now husk completely.
- Brush the corn with the creamy lime sauce, sprinkle with cheese and chili powder and serve hot.