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When temperatures are high, it’s hard to keep your cool in a hot kitchen. The refrigerator is working overtime, and cooking on the range or running the dishwasher just adds more heat to the room.
But with a few tweaks to your routine and your appliances, you can keep the kitchen comfortable—and even save energy. Here are some hot-weather cooking tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.
In our refrigerator tests we crank up the heat in our test lab, but those aren’t the ideal conditions for a fridge. To keep your refrigerator humming but not running overtime, make sure the front grille is free of dirt—keeping it clean will improve airflow to the condenser. Likewise, clean the condenser coil with a brush or vacuum, and make sure the door closes tightly by washing the door gasket with a mild detergent and water. And make sure there are a few inches between the refrigerator and the wall, so air can circulate.
When putting away warm leftovers, make sure you cover your food. That limits moisture evaporation, so your compressor doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the moist air. When the compressor is running it expels heat into the room. Decide what you want before you open the fridge because every time you do, up to 30 percent of the cooled air escapes.
“And if you have a second refrigerator in an uninsulated garage, like I do, it has to work even harder to keep your food cold,” says Joe Pacella, who oversees our refrigerator tests. To monitor the interior to make sure it maintains a safe temperature (37° F to 40° F), use a refrigerator thermometer.
To find a fridge, see our full refrigerator ratings and recommendations.
The Oven or Range
Don’t cook in the oven if you don’t have to. But if you need to use the oven, think twice about how long you preheat it, which will just warm your kitchen. Determine the time it takes to preheat, and do some of your prep work first—slicing and dicing veggies, assembling ingredients—then turn the oven on.
And remember to keep the oven door closed. An open door will release heat into the kitchen, lower the oven temperature, and prolong cooking time.
On the stovetop, match the size of your pot or pan to the burner so that the heat is warming the pan and not the room. Using a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner wastes heat and energy. And keep in mind that covering your pots and pans helps food cook faster and contains the heat. Don’t forget to turn on your exhaust fan, especially if you’re cooking something like pasta in an open pot.
If you’re in the market for a cooktop or range, consider an induction model. With induction, the cooktop stays cool because magnetic coils below the ceramic glass surface generate the heat directly to the pan. (Induction appliances require magnetic cookware.)
Run your dishwasher only when it’s full. Run it at night when temperatures dip; your electricity rate might be lower then, too. Try letting your dishes air-dry; if you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the dishwasher after the final rinse and prop the door open slightly, so the dishes dry faster, although that may release steamy air into the room.
Get the dish on our full dishwasher ratings.
Cooking in a microwave not only keeps the kitchen cooler but also is more energy-efficient than cooking on a cooktop or in an oven. Consider using a toaster oven for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster oven uses one-third to one-half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
If you have a slow cooker or a multi-cooker with a pressure cooker function, put it to work. The first can make a meal without wasting much heat, and the pressure cooker speeds up the entire process, so you’re spending less time in the kitchen.
Take a look below at the best toaster oven, microwave, slow cooker, and multi-cooker from our tests.
Fans and Lights
A ceiling fan in the kitchen or a nearby room circulates the air and can make you feel more comfortable. If you have a whole-house or attic fan, use it to pull the hot air out of the house.
Energy-saving lightbulbs such as CFLs and LEDs provide light and run cooler, so if you’re still using incandescent lightbulbs, keep in mind that they give off unwanted heat. In fact, only about 10 to 15 percent of the electricity that incandescent lights consume results in light—the rest is turned into heat. Turn the lights off when you leave the kitchen. And keep blinds and curtains closed during the heat of the day to keep the sun out.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen altogether by cooking on your grill. Today’s gas grills often have enough cooking space to accommodate an entire meal. And you can do a lot with a charcoal, pellet, or kamado grill, which we also test. The best grills in our tests offer top-notch indirect cooking, so you can grill a wider variety of foods. Of course, you have to stand nearby to tend your food, which may defeat the purpose of trying to stay cool.
Here are our top-rated gas, charcoal, kamado, and pellet grills: