Is oven preheating really necessary?

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Sustainable Living Blog Do I really need to preheat my oven?
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This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on July 26, 2021.

Hello friend! I don’t know about you, but this week went by so fast for me. How are we already in the final days of July?! I’m not ready for it to be August. Where has my summer gone?!

Before we dive into this week’s post, I want to thank every single one of you who responded to last week’s post with words of encouragement, gratitude, and understanding. I was not expecting the outpouring of love and support that came from that post. Truth be told, I almost canceled it moments before it went out. I was deeply nervous to admit the struggles I had been experiencing, but your You truly showed me that we are not alone. Mental health struggles are very real, and not given the honesty they deserve. Thank you.

Now. I did promise that we’d get back to our regularly-scheduled wave-making this week and that’s what we’re going to do. And since it’s the last week of the month, it’s time for the seventh edition of Small Change Big Impact - our monthly mini-series within this blog where we tackle just one small change we can all make in our everyday lives that have a huge impact for the planet.

So let me ask you this, friend...

Do you preheat your oven?

Every recipe tells us to preheat our oven, but is it really necessary?

Short answer: not always.

The average oven uses about 3,000 watts of electricity every hour (about 3 kilowatt hours). That’s not a ton. It’s the equivalent of driving about 5 miles - but let’s say you use your oven for just one hour, three days a week, that’s like driving 780 miles in a year!

Those 3,000 watts in one hour also emit as many emissions as burning 2.3 pounds of coal. Let’s cut that down a bit, shall we?

While it’s basically impossible to find energy data specifically for preheating your oven, common sense tells us that if we’re preheating the oven, that energy is just being wasted. It’s not cooking anything.

Now, according to culinary experts, some recipes do need a preheated oven. For example, baked goods with yeast. The yeast needs the immediate heat to react appropriately, and if we put those baked goods in before the oven is preheated, the yeast may react completely before the oven reaches the correct temperature, and the dough is gonna come out dense.

But for basically everything else, preheating doesn’t really matter.

A study from 1982 (so a little old, but I couldn’t find anything more recent) showed that for every food item tested, preheating was completely unnecessary, and up to 10% of the energy was saved in the cooking/baking process and saved about five minutes or more in cooking time.

So, my friend, there’s not a ton of direct answers to this question, but I can personally attest that I basically never preheat my oven and I’ve never noticed a difference. (I don’t bake often, though.)

At the very least, it’s usually not necessary to start the preheating process as step numero uno in a recipe. I know many a time I’ve preheated as the first step and then the oven just sits there, heat on, for way too long because it takes me longer to prep the meal than it takes for the oven to preheat.

So, opt for no preheating when you can, and when you do need to preheat, make sure you’re not wasting time getting those yummy pastries into the oven when it’s ready. 

Efficiency is always key :)

I’m you always preheat or are you the stick-it-in-the-oven immediately type? Have you ever noticed a difference in quality from not preheating? Seriously, I wanna know! Comment below and share with me!

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