Saving Energy with Cooking Equipment

Almost half the total amount of energy required by a typical food service establishment is used to prepare and store food. Most of this energy is consumed by cooking equipment--ovens, broilers, fryers, griddles, ranges, steam cookers, and warmers. The checklist below presents energy saving tips for commercial cooking equipment. Many of the recommendations also result in improved food quality and a cooler kitchen, which can affect cooling costs, employee productivity and turnover.

Checklist for Energy Savings

  • Cook in the largest volume possible and at the lowest temperature that still gives satisfactory results. Slow cooking retards meat shrinkage and retains more nutrients and better color. A lower cooking temperature means less energy loss from cooking equipment.
  • Reduce excess heat loss by carefully monitoring preheat times, cooking temperatures and maintenance checks. Cover pots to increase heat efficiency and reduce excess humidity.
  • Use the correct size equipment for all operations and load equipment to full capacity. Heat only the section of the equipment being used.
  • Use the minimum proper amount of water in vegetable cookery. Excess water wastes time and energy.
  • Rely on a thermostatic control when possible to avoid continuously high or excessive heat. Using a reliable commercial thermometer, regularly check equipment temperatures against the reading on the control dial. If the readings do not match, your thermostat may need recalibrating.
  • When possible, use infrared broilers, which can be turned off when not in use and quickly reheated, rather than idling less efficient equipment.
  • Rearrange the ceramic material in underfired broilers once a month to assure even heat. Check ceramic and metal radiants for deterioration. If blackened or cracked, replace them.
  • Start the day's baking with foods that require the lowest oven temperature. If using electric ovens, bake during off-peak hours. Stagger preheat times. Use other electrical appliances sparingly while preheating.
  • Set thermostats at the lowest temperature that will still achieve desirable results. A high temperature setting will not preheat an oven faster than a moderate one; it will only waste energy.
  • Use the smallest oven possible. An oven measuring 2'x2'x2' on the inside is almost four times more efficient than one measuring 4'x4'x4'. Load the entire oven at one time and as quickly as possible to minimize heat losses. Every second the oven door is open, the interior temperature drops 1°F.
  • Keep lower edge of oven doors free of food particles so the door will close evenly and seal correctly. Keep interior walls and heating elements of ovens clean to obtain maximum heat transfer. Keep glass doors of convection oven clean so food can be monitored without opening the door.
  • In any self-cleaning or continuously cleaning oven, check for dents in the surface that may inhibit performance.
  • Follow manufacturer's instructions for cleaning convection oven fan blades; accumulated dirt restricts the amount of air delivered. This can increase cooking times and cause uneven cooking.
  • Filter sediment from fryer cooking fat as necessary. Built-up sediment reduces cooking efficiency.
  • Inspect and clean interiors of fixed-well fryers for grease or carbon deposits.
  • Clean grease and food particles from exhaust hoods. Clean filters regularly. Grease build-up can increase ventilation energy costs and the potential for fires.
  • Simmering in a tilting skillet or kettle should be held at 200°F or boiling (and evaporation) will occur.
  • Use a tilting skillet to prepare two different foods at the same time, when possible. Place two pans in the skillet and heat the pans containing food.
  • Fill steam cooking vessels according to manufacturer's recommendations and to capacity, if possible; the amount of steam used is almost the same whether cooking a small or large amount of food. Turn off steam supply unless actually cooking. Preheat times are short, so equipment should not be kept running.
  • Where possible, begin cooking food in a steamer then finish with your usual cooking process. Steam cooking requires less energy and retains more of the food's natural color and flavor.
  • Maintain the temperature control on steam tables at a level that will keep food warm without allowing clouds of steam to form. This reduces both the amount of energy required to operate the steam tables covered whenever possible.
  • Inspect the steam traps on all steam equipment. Repair all steam leaks, no matter how small; even a small leak will increase the load on your HVAC system.
  • Clean steam cooking equipment periodically to remove lime deposits. Flush boilers at least weekly, following manufacturer's instructions, to remove deposits in the boiler that can seriously reduce the efficiency of the boiler.
  • Wipe up spills in microwave ovens and keep the interior surfaces free of food particles, which inhibit oven performance.