You’re so hot, I would heat to lose you.

Cooking. Energy. Efficiency. And why energy efficiency is the Fifth Fuel that saves the environment.


efficiency and heat loss

1-Minute NomNom

The environmentally conscious among us might hate wasting energy, but there will always be heat loss from the open fires, gas flames, or electrical heating coils we use in cooking.

Conduction and convection - boiling chicken in a pot

Thermal energy is lost and wasted because of the same science phenomenon that cooks our food: heat transfer (read all about heat transfer in cooking in the 1-Minute NomNom “Pleased to heat you!“). For example, radiant heat from a grill’s glowing coals radiates heat into the surroundings and not just toward the food. Or if we are using a pot, the pot itself conducts heat from the contents of the pot into the air around it. Heat also escapes when water in the food evaporates.

Chrome toaster isolated on a white background.

If we are using an electrical appliance, only part of the input electrical energy is converted into heat (to cook the food) or to operate the appliance (e.g. if it has an electronic display or moving parts). The rest of it is wasted. The ratio of what is actually converted/used to the total input electrical energy is called efficiency.

Modernist Cuisine test found that different appliances have different efficiency ratios. Electric coils had 42% efficiency, induction burners 56%, and water baths 85-87% (read about induction cooking and water baths in the 1-Minute NomNoms “Saying goodbye to the old flame” and “Bath time!“).

Red lobster steaming in pot on induction hob

Efficiency example: Induction cooking heats only the pot and not the surrounding air, thus reducing heat loss

Obviously, cooking appliances and methods that have greater efficiency waste less energy and thus help to save environment. Designers are also inventing new products that are more efficient (such as the one found in the 1-Minute NomNom “Saving the earth one cup at a time“).

Using less energy to do the same task is part of the larger umbrella of energy efficiency. According to Lockheed Martin, “[e]nergy saved is as good as new energy made”. Hence energy efficiency is also called the Fifth Fuel because it is an energy resource like the other four of oil, coal, nuclear energy and alternative energy.Global wrap_Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 9.06.30 pmThe difference, of course, is that we don’t have to drill, mine, or build new infrastructure to take advantage of this resource. Instead, just like in cooking, we use innovative technology and processes to reduce the amount of energy used (or wasted). And in doing so, we help to save the environment.


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Like this? I would hate to lose you so like me to discover more! All you need is a minute a day to explore the world’s marvels through the phenomenon of food!

photos: in order – depositphotos/Stocksolutionsvvoennyy;ekostsovBaloncicimmaxer



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