There is a wide range of efficiencies, depending on how you cook your meals, with electric coils at the lower end, gas cooktops being just slightly better, with halogen cooktops at the higher end and induction cooktops being the most efficient. They all have their pros and cons, often depending on how your local electric company generates their electricity. If your local electric company simply burns fossil fuels to produce electricity, even owning an electric vehicle may be a wash when it comes to greenhouse gas production. Adequate venting negates some of the harmful gasses produced by gas cooktops and convection ovens reduce your cooking time regardless of how the oven is powered.

Electric Coil
Electric coils are the most inefficient, though electricity generated by solar or non-coal production reduces greenhouse gas production.

Gas cooktops offer immediate heating and easy temperature control though the production of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide has negative health implications. One can reduce these gasses by always using a vent that exits outside of the home.

Halogen cooktops provide immediate heating and easy temperature control as well as easy clean-up. Potentially can also be powered with renewable energy.

Induction cooktops require an induction-ready surface (the magnet test — if a magnet sticks to the outer heating surface, it’s good) but gets immediate heating with easy temperature control (with practice) and the efficiency is over 80 percent compared to the high 30s for electric coils.

Cooking Vessel
Pressure cookers are probably the most energy efficient cooking vessels currently on the market. They use more energy than a slow cooker, but because cooking in a pressure cooker takes a lot less time, the overall energy used is still a lot less than the energy a slow cooker uses.

Of course, if you remember way back to June 2008 in my annual Obon column, I highlighted a contraption called the thermal cooker, which uses almost no electricity at all. It’s based on the same principle of your double-walled, vacuum-sealed beverage flask that keeps cold beverages cold and warm beverages warm for most of the day. Since heat is transferred via air molecules, creating a double-walled container, then removing almost all of the air before sealing the vessel reduces temperature transfer so warm air on the outside doesn’t warm your chilled beverage, and also prevents the heat in your hot beverage in the vessel from escaping to the outer ambient air. The cooker part comes in the form of a stainless steel cooking vessel that perfectly fits within the confines of the double-walled, outer vessel. Therefore, after your food is brought up to the boiling point, you simply cover the inner vessel, place it in the double-walled vessel and shut the lid. It literally will keep food well above the danger zone (the temperature when microbial growth can occur is between 40 to 140 degrees) at 160 degrees for at least eight hours if the food is first brought to a boil for several minutes and the inner vessel is at least 80 percent full. And if you initially brought your dish up to the boiling point with an induction cooktop, you likely have used very little electricity and produced very little greenhouse gasses!

And since it’s been almost 15 years since this Low Emission Vegetable Barley Soup last appeared, it’s worth a revisit…

Low Emission Vegetable Barley Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb green beans cut into bite sized pieces
1 small onion roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise then cut into bite sized pieces
4 stalks celery, halved lengthwise then cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise then cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chopped tomatoes with liquid
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup pearled barley
1 quart vegetable stock
1 cup water

Place the inner pot of 4.7L thermal cooker on the induction cooker. Spray the bottom of the inner pot with non-stick spray, then set the induction cooker to high. Add olive oil. Add chopped vegetables and garlic and sauté for two to three minutes.

Add the rest of ingredients, cover the inner pot and bring to boil. Boil for one to two minutes, turn off the induction cooker, then place the inner pot of the thermal cooker inside of the outer thermal jacket and close the lid. Let sit for two hours.

Serve with slices of toasted whole grain bread.

Sustainable Foods
Finally, along with using cooking methods and vessels that help to reduce waste and greenhouse gas production, you can make better food selections that protect the environment. I always look to the Seafood Watch Website to select the recommended types of seafood that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. We also try to consume as much plant-based proteins as possible, limiting animal proteins not just for health concerns, but once again to reduce greenhouse gas production (mainly beef). And we always try to purchase locally as it supports the local economy and anytime your food has a shorter distance to travel before it hits your plate, that also means less fossil fuels are burned to get it to your plate. Supporting local farmers and ranchers also reduces our reliance on food that is shipped to the 50th — currently more than 80 percent — to reduce the anxiety (and bare supermarket shelves) as what occurred during the 1971 ILWU strike.

Though we try to switch to primarily a plant-based diet, we also select plants that make smaller impacts on the environment. For instance, although I love almonds (they have the least amount of saturated fat compared to other nuts), I’ve reduced my almond consumption due to the amount of water required to grow them. We either use oat milk since it has the creamiest texture due to the soluble fibers or non-GMO soy milk since the protein content is the highest of all the plant-based milks. Making these little changes can leave this orb we call home a little better than when we entered…

The Gochiso Gourmet is a column on food, wine and healthy eating. Ryan Tatsumoto is a graduate of both the University of Hawai‘i and UC San Francisco. He is a recently retired clinical pharmacist and a budding chef/ recipe developer/wine taster. He writes from Kane’ohe, HI and can be reached at The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei News.

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