How much energy does it take to cook food?

Not surprisingly, there is not a lot of information available on how much electric energy is needed to cook meals, especially the traditional meals cooked in rural villages.  So the next best approach is to actually cook some meals and measure the energy consumption.  All of the meals described here were cooked on a 1.8 kW Duxtop induction cooktop, with the energy measured by an uncalibrated Kill-A-Watt™ meter.  Meals were sufficient to feed four people or more.

  • Boiling two liters of water — 0.23 kWh (82% efficiency)
  • Cooking two cups of rice with four cups of water — 0.20 kWh
  • Zambian nshima (cornmeal porridge) and ndima (cooked greens) — 0.62 kWh. Add simmered beef stew made from 0.9 kg of meat — 1.0 kWh additional.
  • Malawian Njeni Udiwo (vegetables with rice) — 0.36 kWh
  • Haitian rice and beans with vegetable sauce — 0.91 kWh
  • Asian Stir-fried pork and eggplant with rice — 0.51 kWh
  • Indian Tarka dhal, curried cauliflower and potatoes, with rice — 1.15 kWh

A typical dish required a short period of high power cooking (to bring the water to a boil) and then an extended period of simmering at lower power.

One study suggested that a family of four would use as little as 1.2 kWh per day to cook meals — this could be true, especially for meatless meals, or at least those that did not require long stewing times.  However, 2 kWh per day for cooking, lighting, mobile phone charging and miscellaneous uses is a conservative estimate.