At Home with Lisa: Holiday Cooking

The holidays are just around the corner. This year, they are going to look a little different for many families because of the pandemic. In my family, we won’t celebrate in person this year, but I’ll drop off some baked goods on porches.

To help make my holiday cooking plans a little more efficient, the Avista Energy Guide has some tips. Did you know that the burner pans aren’t just there to catch spills and crumbs, but to reflect the heat of the burners to the pans?

I cook a lot of my holiday meal on the stovetop: potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and sometimes homemade cranberry sauce. I really needed to make sure the stovetop is running efficiently, so I set out to make sure the burner pans were clean. Mine had some scorches on them, so I looked up the best way to clean them online. First, I soaked them in really hot water for about 10 minutes. I drained the sink and poured some white vinegar on them. After 10 more minutes I poured baking soda on the really tough stains and let them sit. The burner pans came with the house, so I think in the near future I’ll replace them with something much shinier.

When you are baking, don’t open the oven door more than absolutely necessary. Every time you open the door while you’re baking, the oven loses about 20 percent of its heat. It takes longer for your food to cook when the oven has to keep building its temperature.

Every Thanksgiving my sister and I bake pies together. I usually make a mincemeat—which is delicious, by the way—and my sister makes a pumpkin. This year, along with my mincemeat, I’ll try my hand at a pumpkin pie.

The holidays will probably be just me and my boyfriend this year, so instead of a large turkey in the oven for hours, we’ll just have a small turkey breast. That won’t take nearly as much time, and for just the two of us will give us some leftovers.

Be sure to thaw frozen meats in the refrigerator, or in a bath of cold water before you put them in the oven. Putting frozen roasts in the oven adds about one-third more cooking time.

When you have more than one dish in the oven, make sure you leave at least two inches of space between them for proper heat circulation. Your pans should never touch each other or the walls of the oven. Use glass or ceramic pans in the oven—I learned that you can lower the heat by 25 degrees if you do, since they conduct heat better.

It may be tempting to cover the racks in your oven with foil to make for easier cleanup, but the Energy Guide says this restricts the hot air circulation in the oven.

Even when it’s not the holidays, my electric range can cost me about $4.80 a month if I use it about 40 minutes a day. My standard, non-self-cleaning oven can cost about $4.95 a month for 30 minutes of use a day. Now, I don’t use it that much—we rely on my pressure cooker and the microwave most days, but these tips can help me really think about how much energy I am using during the holiday baking and cooking season.

Lisa, an Avista customer, bought her 1910 house because she loved the old-world character, some of which doesn’t make her house very energy efficient. Lisa is sharing her experience on taking some simple do-it-yourself improvements to inspire others to do the same. You’ll find her stories right here every Tuesday.

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