Sunday, July 16, 2017

Does an electric appliance save you money over using your stove and/or oven?

I've seen the argument numerous times that using a small electric appliance (electric pressure cooker, countertop oven, slow cooker, etc.) saves electricity compared to heating up that huuuuuge stove.

I'm guessing that a lot of people think that because a stove is sooooo big, it consumes a lot of power.

But does it?

I decided to do a little research, and I was pretty surprised at the results.

I found a site that compared the cost of gas and electric ranges, with normal usage of each, and using both the cooktop and oven on a somewhat normal schedule. A modern gas stove with electric ignition would cost about $18 per year to operate. If the oven is not included, it goes down to $15 per year.

With the same usage, an all-electric stove would cost $45 to operate per year. If the oven is convection, the cost would go down to $43 per year. If the oven is not included at all, the cost goes down to $39 per year.

Since an electric pressure cooker is more likely to replace stovetop cooking than oven use, I was most interested in the cost that didn't include oven use. But I have to say I was surprised that my stove wasn't costing me more. Like other folks, I assumed that the big thing was costing me a lot of money. In comparison, the other big thing in the kitchen - the refrigerator - costs about $16 per month. So my refrigerator costs me as much in a month as my stove does in a whole year.

Of course, costs ultimately depend on gas and electric costs in your area, which can vary seasonally. But we're just doing comparisons for giggles, not trying to create the national budget.

I found one manufacturer that had specifications on the kilowatts used for an average cooking session in their pressure cooking appliance. I did some math using the same kw/h price from the stove comparison site, and if the electric pressure cooker was used for that amount of time every single day would cost about $15 per year to operate.

Of course, that's not how people use that sort of appliance. Some weeks they might make a batch of yogurt that takes 8 hours. Another week they might use it for 20 minutes every day. Or they might skip a week when they're cooking on the grill. Just like not everyone uses their stove for the same amount of time every week of every year. It's all about the averages.

The $15 per year assumes an average use of the electric pressure cooker for 4 hours per week.

There are other financial considerations. 

An electric pressure cooker throws off less heat than cooking on the stove or in the oven.

In the summer, this means you'd save on air conditioning, so that's one point for the pressure cooker.

But in winter, that extra warmth in the kitchen is a good thing, and depending on the configuration of the house it can also warm adjoining rooms. So the stove gets one point there for cutting down on heating costs in winter.

No one wins this battle.

Of course, all these numbers are estimates and averages. Different electric pressure cookers draw different amounts of power, as do different stoves. Cooking habits and local power costs will make a difference. People who have electric pressure cookers will probably continue to use their stoves for some things. Some people will opt to cook on a grill in the summer and do a lot of baking and roasting in the winter.

My own personal experience (which somehow I forget until I'm reminded) is that a stove does not consume enough power to make a noticeable difference in my utilities, even though I cook a lot. I was without a stove for a significant amount of time on three separate occasions. Twice, I did the majority of my cooking on my outdoor grill, and the third time (winter, ya know) I relied on electric appliances for my cooking. I saw no significant change in utilities any of those times. When I was working on my cookbook, my oven was on nonstop from the time I woke up until I went to bed at night. The utility bills weren't any higher than normal during that time.

If you like your electric pressure cooker, toaster oven, microwave, rice cooker, slow cooker, or other appliances, they're fine tools to have. But if you're looking for money savings, you're probably not going to move that needle by filling up your counter with things that plug in, simply because your stove isn't costing you a whole lot to operate if you use gas or electric. (I've heard that propane is higher, but I don't have numbers on that.)

On the other hand, next time you need a new stove, gas will save you a little money over electric. Not enough to make it worthwhile to buy a stove before it's necessary, though.

Bottom line: use what you like.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Geoffrey Zakarian's Pro Home Food Storage by Tarhong

When I went to the Housewares Show in Chicago this past March, one of the coolest things was when I met Geoffrey Zakarian and he showed me his new line of kitchen storage products. He was friendly and warm and really enthusiastic about the products.

Well, of course he was enthusiastic about the products, because he designed them. He said that after working in restaurants for years and seeing and understanding the proper way to store food, he was disappointed that there weren't similar storage products sized for home kitchens.

So he decided to create them.

The containers are clear, so you can see what's in them. They seal well, and have a tab on the corner that makes it easy to remove the lid. They are dishwasher, microwave, and freezer safe. And there are removable trays so food doesn't sit in liquid, if it's not supposed to. Obviously, if you're marinating, you want it in liquid. But if you're storing fresh strawberries, you don't want them sitting in any sort of moisture that could cause rotting.

The containers nest for storage and they stack when they're full. They also include a pen that can be used to write on the containers to label them, and it wipes off nicely so you can re-label again cleanly.

I only got one container at the show (which was plenty, because there's only so much stuff that can be stuffed into a suitcase) so I haven't used it a lot, but it's really a nice container. Sturdy, solid, well made. If I was tossing out all my current containers and starting over, I'd definitely be looking at a set of these.

He also has some other products that are in the design stage that aren't for sale yet that looked interesting. I'll be curious to see how well his new product line does, considering there are w whole lot of storage containers on the market. Right now, I'm not finding them widely distributed, but I hope we'll be seeing more of them.

As a side note ... my one regret about meeting Geoffrey Zakarian at the show was that after I walked away, I realized it would have been totally cool to get a video of him telling me that I'd been chopped. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Who's it for: People who store food in the refrigerator.

Pros: Nice containers, made similar to professional storage.

Cons: Limited distribution right now.

Wishes: I'd love to be able to just buy the sizes I need at the grocery store.

Source: I received this as a sample at no cost when I was at the Housewares Show.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Degustabox - June

Another month, another mystery box of goodies from Degustabox. I get these boxes for free so I can tell you all about them.

This month's had some items I liked a lot, along with a few I passed along to some very appreciative friends and neighbors. (Don't you want to be my neighbor?)

I get a lot of free samples (ain't it great to be a food blogger?) and I know it makes no sense for me to sample things that I know I won't like (for example, anything with coconut) or things that I know that someone else would appreciate much more than I would (gluten-free or high-caffeine foods, for example).

If I know I won't like something (hello, coconut), there's no way I could honestly say nice things about it. It would be a waste to open it. And in the case of gluten free products or others that just don't fit my food agenda, it simply makes more sense to give them to someone who will love them, instead of me eating a bite and saying, "yeah, it's okay but just not my thing."

There were quite a few things in this box that I like, a few I tried before ... and some that I passed along to other deserving folks.

So ... here we go. 

Amazon links are included for products or companies, where available, so you can find more information on individual items.

Nativas Naturals
This is another nutrition bar, this time minimally processed, organic, and plant based. Since I work from home, there really aren't a whole lot of times when I want an energy bar to fill the food gap. There's pretty much always something here I can eat. So ... this one I passed along.

Briannas Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing
Honestly, I don't buy a lot of bottled dressings, but I might seek this one out. It was good on salad, but I also drizzled some on half of an avocado that I devoured. This would also make a lovely sauce on top of poached or roasted chicken.

Ritz Crisp & Thins
Sort of like a cracker and sort of like a chip, these were great for snacking. Or they'd be good next to a bowl of soup. These are good as-is, but they'd be great with a dip or some cheese. Since they're baked rather than fried, they're lower in calorie that fried chips and crisps.

Hodgson Mills gluten free muffin mix
I passed these along to a gluten-free friend. I've tried a lot of Hodgson Mills products and they've all been high quality. I'm betting these are darned good, too. The mix can also be used to make pancakes, so it's not a one-trick pony.'

Brooklyn Organics ginger ale
I'm a sucker for ginger ale, so I liked this. It's sweetened with stevia and organic. There are several different flavors of this ginger soda. I got to sample one of them, but I'm sure they're all pretty tasty.

Julian's Recipe Waffle Thins
These are cracker-like waffle-textured snacks that come in both sweet and savory flavors. I got the meyer lemon, but there are also cheese-flavored and herby ones. I'm going to look for the cheesy variety because I love cheesy crackers. The lemon was good, but wouldn't be my first choice if a cheesy one was within reach.

Popcorners Salt of the Earth Bean Crisps
I loved Popcorners snacks that tasted like popcorn, so I was pretty interested in this version with beans along with the corn. I haven't actually opened it yet since I had other open snack foods and there's only so many crispy snacks I can shove into my maw in a given week. But if you're looking for a new snack, I think this one would be a good bet.

Entenmann's mini apple snacks
I used to work near an Entenmann's bakery and the smells coming from that place were intoxicating. I had a few favorites among their offerings, but this seems to be a new one. They're little hand pies, about the size of the bottom half of a slider bun. I loved these. They'd be too sweet for me if they were larger, but this was a perfect little dessert.

Bibigo Go-Chu-Jang Barbecue sauce
I haven't opened this one yet because I had two other kinds of barbecue sauce already opened, but I'm seriously looking forward to trying it. It's described as bold, smoky, and spicy. I'm betting it would be awesome on wings, which are now on the shopping list.

Sir Kensington's Ketchup
Another interesting ketchup. If your idea of ketchup is the sweet stuff we all grew up with, maybe it's time to venture into new ketchup territory. I suggest slathering this on a burger or using it as a topping on a meatloaf.

Viter Energy Mints
This was an added "gift" in the box. These are little breath mints with 40mg of caffeine and B vitamins. While I tend to keep my caffeine intake fairly low these days, these would be awesome to tuck into a purse for those time when someone is out and about and feeling a little tired, particularly when there's a boring drive home on the agenda. Probably also good before a test at school or a before a business meeting.

Thanks to Degustabox for supplying these fun boxes (at no cost to me).