I was in elementary school in San Francisco at the start of the Hippy era—as Flower Power took hold, free love was celebrated, and the wasteful ways of grown-ups were rejected. I went though my own “hippy” phase when I was in high school and college, rejecting meat and shopping in what were then grungy co-op groceries. I did grow up, graduated with a foods degree, and returned to eating meat. But some of the awareness of my childhood (my mom made us sprinkle wheat germ on our cereal and grilled year ‘round to avoid turning on the oven) tenaciously held on in my habits. I do think about alternative ways of cooking that save energy, along with my ingrained obsession with turning off lights. But when discussions turn to reducing our carbon footprint in the kitchen—or if you do a bit of Googling—you’ll get lots of blueprints for making solar ovens in the backyard or cooking everything in a pressure cooker or on an induction cooktop that requires costly equipment.
So if we want to lighten our environmental impact when we make dinner, what will really make a difference, without entirely remodeling our kitchen? Just BARE® recently went through a lifecycle assessment study, that examined the entire process, from growing the chickens to the point of taking them to market soup kettle-ready. Every bit of energy expended was counted, including surveying home cooks about their favorite methods for cooking and determining the most efficient ways. And the good news about chicken? The carbon dioxide emitted by the growing and transport of one pound of beef is an astounding 14 times greater than producing 1 pound of chicken. So just by choosing to make chicken burgers you’re already making a dent.
Here are few quick (quick being the operative word when it comes to the actual cooking process) thoughts to get you started on this journey…
- Make a chicken stir-fry—that super-quick, high heat cooking on the stovetop is efficient is so many ways. You use the least amount of fuel, cook for the shortest possible time, plus get dinner on the table at warp speed. And stir-fry doesn’t have to be Asian—I stir-fry strips of boneless thighs or breast tenders to wrap in tortillas as fajitas or toss with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and briny olives to sauce pasta.
- Fire up the grill more often—again, the high heat allows you to cook quickly and you aren’t heating up the kitchen. The amount of time to cook drumsticks is cut in half when you grill, as compared to baking them in the oven. And if your oven is like mine, you’re using a lot of energy just to preheat it.
- If you do want to use your oven, roast at a high temperature—by turning the dial to 425˚F you reduce cook times dramatically, with the added bonus of crusty golden chicken that’s still moist inside.
- You can always engage your microwave oven on occasion—it’s not my personal favorite way to cook chicken, but I know there are terrific sources for great microcooked recipes. There’s no question it’s a fast way to go.
Make this Holiday Season the start of more conscious cooking—most of us are far from willing to cook in a solar oven on our deck, but we can pour some of our personal energy into planning for regular “low carbon” suppers, try to reduce food waste, and be more efficient about how we use water in the kitchen.