40 Ways to Shrink Your Cookprint
By Kate Heyhoe
Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, and rethink how you cook, shop, and eat. Learn all about cookprints here.
To shrink > think:
- 1. Energy-efficient kitchen zones
- 2. Water conservation and reuse
- 3. Lower hot-water usage and temperature
- 4. Energy-Star appliances
- 5. Small appliances as fuel-savers
- 6. Electric teapots over cooktop boiling
- 7. Avoiding peak power hours
- 8. Unplugging appliances
- 9. Renewable energy sources
- 10. Lower-emission grilling
- 11. Nontoxic, biodegradable cleansers
- 12. Regular over antibiotic cleansers
- 13. Reusable cloth napkins
- 14. Recycled and recyclable products
- 15. Plants over animals
- 16. Non-CAFO products
- 17. Local
- 18. Organic
- 19. Seasonal
- 20. Sustainable
- 21. Energy-efficient ingredients
- 22. Weather-sensitive cooking
- 23. Cooktop before oven
- 24. Induction burners
- 25. Passive cooking over active fuel use
- 26. Skipping the preheat when possible
- 27. Toaster ovens
- 28. Convection cooking
- 29. Microwave cooking
- 30. Simultaneous baking
- 31. Multitasking boiling water
- 32. Fuel-efficient cookware
- 33. Nontoxic cookware
- 34. Farmers markets and direct from farms
- 35. Fewer grocery trips
- 36. Shelf-stable over frozen
- 37. Minimal packaging
- 38. Bulk-buying
- 39. Aseptic and glass over cans
- 40. Extending food storage
- 41. No food waste
- 42. Green-conscious grocery stores
- 43. Low-carbon restaurants
You’ll find more details about why each action works in Cooking Green, which is full of recipes, tips and strategies.
by Kate Heyhoe
Cooktop cooking can be more than six times as energy efficient as oven cooking. Steaming is one form of cooktop cooking.
Types of Steamers: Bamboo steamers, the kind used with woks, are biodegradable, but foods may stick unless you place them on a plate or line the steamer with lettuce leaves or parchment paper; bamboo also releases its own grassy aroma, which may or may not be desirable. Stainless-steel steamers require more resources to manufacture, but they can last decades, and they clean up readily. For steaming one dish at a time, inexpensive collapsible steamer baskets work fine, and some cookware pots come with steamer inserts.
NGB Tip: Instead of buying more equipment, shrink your cookprint by making a steamer out of an existing pot, like this:
1. Raise the food using a rack or any pedestal-like object tall enough to elevate it above water level. Examples: Set a plate or a roasting rack over a small empty can (with ends cut out; a tuna can works well) a heatproof trivet, or a canning jar lid. Or use a metal colander if it fits in the pot.
2. Steam the food on a heatproof plate to catch the juices; or it can rest on a rack, or a lettuce leaf, or a cornhusk, or a piece of foil, or parchment paper, a pie pan, or a tart pan. (Just make sure there’s enough room for the steam to circulate.)
3. If your pot doesn’t have a proper lid, cover it with a plate or a heavy baking sheet; if necessary, set a weight on top (like a can or kettle of water) to hold it in place.
Find more tips to shrink your cookprint in Kate Heyhoe’s book Cooking Green
by Kate Heyhoe
This year I’ve picked gifts with either a green sheen or a very practical profile—from stocking stuffers to big family gifts, including handy tools for Thanksgiving and holiday parties. For more ideas: The Global Gourmet Store and the New Green Shopper are filled with tasty treats, great tools and green gifts. Cookbook Profiles and I Love Desserts feature sample recipes from the year’s best books. And come back for more new picks in December, including sweet treats and dessert tools (our past holiday picks may also include products that are just as perfect today, but somehow Santa skipped).
Happy holidays, part one!
Calphalon LX Series 15-piece Knife Set
Sometimes labels help. I know I’m not the first cook to pluck the wrong knife out of the block, then fish around until I got the right one. Calphalon’s LX set was made with me in mind: the bottom of the handles identify the knife, with handy but unobtrusive etchings like 8″ Chef” or 3″ Paring. But user-friendly ID’s would be meaningless if the knives didn’t perform. I’m not saying you need to break out the band-aids for this set, but cooks who appreciate sharp knives will find these babies do the job right. Use these knives with care: they’re sharp! And according to Calphalon, they hold their edge longer than stainless because they’re made of German high-steel carbon with Molybdenum and Vanadium, forged in a single piece (blade, bolster and tang). The ergonomic handles feel good, with enough weight to aid chopping but without causing fatigue. The snazzy black block holds the full set of an 8″ chef’s knife, 5″ santoku, 3.5″ parer, 8″ bread knife, 4.5″ tomato (serrated), 6″ utility knife, and a sharpening steel, shears and 6 steak knives.
Dual Thermometer Tests Food and Oven Temp
CDN’s Dual-Sensing Probe Thermometer/Timer (DSP1) measures both the temperature of the oven and the internal temperature of the food being cooked. My book Cooking Green (March 2009) contains oven-fuel saving tips, including cooking several items at the same time, or skipping preheating. This dual-sensing device tells you if the oven’s cranking at the proper heat, especially handy whenever you cook simultaneously, or after you’ve opened the door to take one dish out, or shut the oven off early so foods cook passively. Instant read-outs of both the internal food temperature and ambient oven temperature help you adjust your oven as needed. You can also program desired settings for both the food and the oven temperature: it chimes one sound when the oven temperature is reached, and another sound when the food is done. It also features a digital timer, and an overtime alert signals when food is left in the oven too long.
Other Features: A 39-inch high-heat resistant sensor cable. The stainless steel probe is 6-3/4 inches long. Registers from 32 to 573 degrees F (0 to 300 degrees C). USDA recommended temperatures for food safety are printed on the thermometer. Can be mounted by magnet or stand. The timer counts in minutes and seconds up to 10 hours. Once the set time has been reached, the timer counts up from zero to indicate how much additional time passes. It runs on one AAA battery (included). Visit www.cdn-timeandtemp.com for where to buy, and information on How to Recalibrate Your Thermometer, Thermometer Technology and 25 Tips for Food Safety.
Designer Porcelain-Bamboo Mortar & Pestle Set
You really connect with your ingredients when you grind or crush them by hand. A mortar and pestle is the most effective tool for releasing the oils and essences of herbs and spices, and it also comes in handy for times when you need to grind medicines for people or pets. The Kuhn Rikon Mortar & Pestle set has details that make this functional, low-tech tool even better. Besides the porcelain pestle, it features two mortars: a porcelain one that nests inside an earth-friendly bamboo mortar and stand. Designed by award-winning Swiss designer, Philipp Beyeler, the set is featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s catalog, and features added functionality in clean, crisp design, including:
- A pouring spout on the coarse porcelain bowl, handy for grinding fresh herbs and spices with wet ingredients as pastes for dressings or marinating.
- A 6×6-inch bamboo base for grinding dry spices such as peppercorns, cardamom and mustard seed, or for homemade curry blends.
- A porcelain pestle with a small hole in the handle to strip leaves off herb stems, and which stores compactly inside the porcelain bowl.
Suggested retail price $50; at specialty and online retailers including Museum of Modern Art catalog (www.momastore.org) or factorydirect2you.com.
2-in-1 Serving Knife Acts as Spatula
Multitasking meets kitchen tool. Kuhn Rikon’s Serving Knife slices like a serrated knife and serves like a spatula. I like to serve at table, but two tools can be awkward and messy; either the knife or the server falls into the casserole or onto the table. Not so with this handy tool; simply slice, twist the wrist, slide it under the food and serve. It’s not as complete as a Swiss Army knife, but it’s got that same Swiss logic. For instance, it features nonstick coating and an offset handle to make slicing and serving even easier, and prevents slipping back into the pan. A protective sheath keeps the knife secure for safe storage and transport, so you can take it to potlucks or tailgate parties. In Red or Metallic Silver, in two sizes: 10-inch knife at $14 msrp, and 12-inch knife at $16 msrp. At specialty and online retailers including factorydirect2you.com.
Versatile Potato Ricer Delivers Two Textures
Never mash potatoes with a food processor: they’ll get gummy. Hand mashing’s okay, but you’ll get the fluffiest results with a potato ricer, especially the Kuhn Rikon Potato Ricer. It’s a handy low-tech tool for all sorts of vegetables and even baby food. The ergonomic design eases leverage, so with a simple squeeze of the handle, light strands of potatoes extrude through the ricer. You can rice one large or two medium sized potatoes at a time, and a handy pull-out clip lets the ricer rest on the rim of a pot or bowl. It comes with two stainless steel disks: larger holes for mashed spuds, and smaller holes for making puree. (Store the extra disk in the ricer’s built-in compartment.) Go beyond the standard mash to create potato pancakes, gnocchi, lefse and spaetzle. What else can it rice or puree? Berry sauce for desserts, tomato puree, parsnips, carrots, baby food and blanched greens. Dishwasher safe, in black or white.
Buy a Kuhn Rikon Potato Ricer
Capresso H2O Plus Water Kettle
This electric tea kettle always makes my list of functional green appliances: It boils water with less fuel than a cooktop, shuts off automatically, and you can use the hot water for more than just tea. This model boils water faster than on a stove, keeps the kitchen cooler, and it’s handy when you want to rehydrate dried mushrooms, dried tomatoes, and powdered soups; or to jumpstart a pot of water for pasta, steamed vegetables, or potatoes. The Capresso H2O sports a glass carafe, so you can see the progress without lifting the lid (and it’s fun to watch the bubbles: like an aquarium without the fish). It holds a manageable amount, letting you boil from 2 to 6 cups. It’s one of my handiest kitchen appliances, in its snazzy black and silver design, and makes a great gift for almost everyone, even non-cooks.
More New Green Basics product reviews include:
- Cuisinart Green Gourmet Cookware
- Hotpan Thermal Cookware
- Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker Skillet
- Architec Cork Cutting Boards
- Epicurean Cutting Boards
- Equal Exchange Roasted Nuts and Berries
- Caldrea Scented Cleansers
Emission-free Cooking with a Boost
Solar ovens are obviously not standard kitchen appliances, yet more people are turning to them for emission-free, guilt-free cooking.
You can use them for everything from cooking rice to roasting chickens to baking desserts, and not just in Death Valley weather. Even when the mercury stays in the pleasant zone, solar ovens function fuel-free, simply by reflecting light into a dark box area and retaining the heat with a clear lid. (Think of how hot your car gets in a parking lot.
The Tulsi oven is a unique breed of solar oven and a favorite of tech-minded cooks. It’s a portable hybrid contraption which comes with an electric booster to kick-start the heat or keep things cooking on cloudy days. Even with the electrical boost, it’s still more efficient than conventional ovens. And it comes as a clam-shell type of suitcase, ready to pack up and go wherever the dinner party may be. There’s a small learning curve with solar ovens, but essentially anything that works in a crockpot works in a solar oven.
Buy a Tulsi Hybrid Solar Oven
Plus: Refrigeration Storage Tips
What do you call the impact you make on the planet when you cook?
It’s your “cookprint”— the entire chain of resources used to prepare meals, and the waste produced in the process.
The cookprint starts with food, in your garden or at the farm; it travels to your kitchen and continues in your fridge, freezer or pantry. The cookprint grows larger every time heat or fuel is added, from a cooktop, oven, or small appliance. Discarded waste, whether it’s organic produce trimmings, plastic packaging, or water down the drain, further colors the cookprint. As do the implements you cook with, the way you store leftovers, and how you dispose of food waste.
In short, the cookprint measures every meal’s entire environmental impact. It’s the total amount of energy (from farm to fuel to fork) used in creating a meal. And it puts the cook squarely in charge of just how big, or how green, that cookprint will be—in ways that go far beyond buying organic or local, or eating meat or not.
In writing my next book, I couldn’t find the exact term I wanted, so I created “cookprint.”
I was having a tough time with the term “carbon footprint.” Not because of what it stands for, but because it’s such a cold, negative term, and my world revolves around upbeat, positive and inspiring ways to integrate food and cooking into our lives. Food writing should be mouthwatering and inviting, and “carbon footprint” was not.
Nor is the new buzzword “foodprint” exactly right. Coined by Cornell University researchers led by Chris Peters, “foodprint” is defined as the amount of land needed to supply one person’s nutritional needs for a year. It makes conclusions about meat vs. non-meat diets, but pivots mainly on agriculture land resources.
I wanted a word that was vested in personal actions: how we can each make a difference, every day. Even if you don’t cook, someone cooks what you eat, and that contributes to your personal cookprint.
Moreover, I wanted a term that involved a verb, not a foot or a food.
The “cook” in cookprint is a word of action. Just think of all the decisions, and all the physical steps, that go into answering the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”
Understanding your “cookprint” is about questioning the things we take for granted, and making greener choices with every meal. Sure, a “cookprint” includes ingredients—where they come from, how they’re grown, and how they’re packaged. But there’s more: it’s how you cook your food, the type of energy used, the amount of fuel consumed, the amount of water you use—and the amount of fuel and water you waste.
A cookprint covers even the smallest details. It’s about storing food in ways that use less energy, without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. This means making the refrigerator you already own more energy efficient, storing fresh fruits and vegetables in ways that make them last longer (meaning fewer shopping trips and less spoilage), saving leftovers in glass containers rather than plastic ones or zipper bags. Frying with energy-efficient skillets. And hundreds of other tips.
“Cookprint” is the foundation of this website, and what I consider the New Green Basics of Cooking.
Boiling Down Your “Cookprint”
Recipes and traditional cooking methods are also targeted when it comes to greening your cookprint. In places and times when fuel is scarce, people never take fuel consumption for granted. Neither should we. Does that mean giving up slow roasted foods or big, boiling pots of pasta? Absolutely not! But there are plenty of ways to stretch the fuels we use, every time we turn on the oven or fire up the burner, and green our cookprint by doing so. It’s time to stop being mindless energy hogs when it comes to cooking methods. It’s time to green our cookprints.
Cookprint Q & A:
From time to time, as I write my current book, I’ll be posting tips and articles intended to color your “cookprint.” To start, here’s a question that makes better use of your refrigerator.
Q: The refrigerator is the kitchen’s biggest energy hog. What’s the best temperature setting for your refrigerator?
A: When fresh foods are stored properly, at their specific optimal temperatures, they’ll last longer, meaning fewer gas-guzzling trips to the store. Use a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to monitor your setting. In general, 37 to 40 degrees cools sufficiently without wasting electricity. Keep dairy products at 33 to 38 degrees, meats between 31 and 36 degrees, and eggs at 33 to 37 degrees. Store fresh vegetables and ripe fruits at 35 to 40 degrees. To stash foods in the coldest sections of the fridge, store them along the freezer wall (in a side-by-side) or in the back of the fridge, and never in the door. Some refrigerators come with programmable storage bins, so you simply set them for meats, produce or citrus. Tip: Place a freezer pack in your fridge or its bins, to chill down the immediate area (place it under meats or milk, for instance). The freezer pack will last several days, and you can refreeze it when it thaws.
You can, but you don’t have to, go vegan or grow your own vegetables, just to go green in the kitchen. This site is more about how you cook than what you eat. Not that organics and local foods aren’t important. They’re hugely important. But don’t we already get that message?
There are so many other ways not being addressed by media or publishers to reduce greenhouse gases and shrink your eco-footprint. The real news, the untold story, lies in the fuels you use, the method (steaming, boiling, baking, for instance), the cookware, and the clean-up. Let’s apply a concept of “bright green cooking,” very specific actions and totally practical plans that have more impact than “light green” steps alone, but are just as easy to do.
As a bonus, stretching energy consumption directly relates to saving time, too. Less time in the kitchen means fewer lights on, less cooking fuel used, and more personal time for you to do other things.