Commercial kitchen energy efficiencies
How can commercial kitchens reduce energy consumption?
With energy prices rising and government support on energy bills reducing, this has become a huge topic in food service. There are many small steps that businesses can make to help mitigate the cost of their bills which together can lead to big savings.
For this section of Unlock Your Menu, we’ve been chatting to our Food Development Chef, Paul Tunnicliffe, who has shared a comprehensive list for you to check-list and find opportunities for saving energy use in the kitchen.
Remember to turn off the lights
It might seem like common sense but a big user of your energy will be needlessly used lighting. You could introduce a number of measures to reduce this:
- Change to dimmer switches – If you get your staff to slowly increase brightness as it gets darker it can be a big help to reduce energy use
- Signage – put up signage where repeat wasted lighting use happens. This often happens in an office area of a site!
- Swap lightbulbs to more efficient LED lightbulbs. LED bulbs could reduce the electricity you use for lighting by up to 80% (British Gas, 2023)
- Consider lighting sensors that only turn on when it gets dark enough or turn off automatically if there is no movement
Empower your teams
Create a culture of energy saving in the team. Have “Energy champions” who are responsible for turning off lights, ovens and equipment when not in use and making sure that heating and hot water are set at the right temperature. Creating a team culture around energy savings will encourage long term energy savings.
How can a restaurant save energy daily?
1. Don’t turn on all equipment when arriving in the morning.
2. Switch equipment on when needed and turn off when not in use.
3. Check fridge and freezer door seals daily.
4. Do not overload fridges and freezers, ensure ventilation panels are clear, and check food entry is at correct temperature.
5. Don’t leave lights on all day – consider installing a timer or switch for areas like dry stores and if you have an office so it isn’t on when not in use.
6. Use a microwave to heat smaller portions.
7. Think about what / when you are cooking items – can they share the oven / steamer to cook more at the same time?
8. Fully load dishwashers – they use the same power whether washing 1 plate or 20.
9. If fridges only store fizzy drinks, turn them off after hours.
Make kitchen equipment more energy efficient
- When buying new refrigerators, AA++ rated units have the lowest running costs
- Position equipment like fridges and freezers in as much space as possible to maximise air flow around the fans
- Inadequate airflow can overwork heating, ventilation, air conditioning equipment and vent hoods
- Create a schedule for regular equipment maintenance to make sure it is all running effectively
- Try not to use a solid top stove if possible – this takes more time to heat up
- Consider hob choice – gas vs induction is a tricky question to consider – gas hobs are cheaper to run but it typically takes longer to cook
- Grills – consider infra-red elements rather than gas
- Ovens – combi ovens use less energy and take less time to cook your food
- Microwaves – can save up to 80% compared to conventional oven (HomeTree, 2022)
How can a chef save energy?
- Be prepared; don’t keep going in and out of fridges / freezers as they will need to work harder to cool down
- Are you able to prepare future meals whilst the oven is on?
- Think ahead with meals for the next few days – for example, fully defrost joints before cooking and defrost food in plenty of time in the fridge before cooking
- Boil and use only the water you need. Use lids on pans whenever possible to shorten cook time
- Plan ahead – batch cook for the week to ensure the oven is filled when on, then chill and portion. When you need to, reheat the meals by microwave
- Cooling – use chilled gastros and layer the dish to be chilled shallow before putting it in the fridge or freezer
Change how you use ingredients
How to save energy when cooking
- Par-boil potatoes before roasting – this reduces the time it takes to cook
- Swap between fried and oven chips depending on what equipment is on
- Frozen vegetables take less time to cook than fresh, so could you make the swap where appropriate?
- Boil only the water you need – excess water requires more power and wastes cooking time
- Clean kitchen, happy chef. Always keep the hobs clean as any food that sticks to it will make it less efficient
How to choose ingredients
- Consider buying in pre-cooked products and microwave them. Consider products like sous vide meats, burgers, and wings etc
- Use smaller joints to roast – Three 1kg joints will cook quicker than one 3kg joint
- Use thaw and serve desserts rather than those that need cooking
- Minimise your waste by having pre-portioned desserts and individual centre of plate products – try things like slow cooked meats and sous vide stews.
- Use cooked sliced meats rather than cooking your own
- Use frozen grain salads rather than cooking all grains from dehydrated – this also reduces prep time significantly too
- Use frozen mash instead of boiling potatoes
- Use pre-cooked pasta instead of dehydrated
- Buy in jams and chutneys rather than making from scratch – The same can applied with sauces too… Using ‘Ready To Use’ alternatives instead will also create efficiencies if you are struggling with staffing and skill
- Based on your knowledge of predicted covers, use fully baked breads and rolls rather than dough or frozen part baked.
- Use tinned fruit and pie fills rather than stewing from fresh