If you’ve just pulled a steaming casserole straight out of the oven, don’t sit down just yet – it’s time to make the most of that residual heat. Here are four surprising things to drop in the oven while it’s hot – we’re especially fond of number three.
With energy costs more than tripling this year, including a recent hike in July for electricity and gas, and inflation keeping us on our toes with mounting household expenses, most of us are looking for ways to stick to our dwindling budgets. One of the best places to start is with energy bills – and what better way than to take advantage of one of the more costly appliances in your kitchen? If you’ve just switched your oven off, now’s the time to throw in a few choice ingredients so you can enjoy some inexpensive meals and snacks through the week. Here’s what to do.
1. Nuts and seeds
Want to crisp your walnuts up a bit? Or perhaps you’re making some glazed pecans or cashews for a nutritious on-the-go snack. Well, there’s no need to waste money heating the oven solely to fuel your nut-roasting ambitions – simply pop them into your cooling oven after you’ve made dinner. You’ll enjoy the benefits of heating up these tiny nutritional powerhouses without the unnecessary energy and money wastage. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits:
- Toasting your nuts and seeds extends their shelf-life dramatically – just be sure to keep them in an airtight container.
- The smoky and subtly sweet flavour of nuts and seeds are enhanced when baked, making them a more palatable snack. Adding paprika, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg will also boost the flavour profile tenfold.
- Heating your nuts will reduce the risk for any contaminants that might have made their way into your package, like E. coli and salmonella, which on occasion cause a bit of a food safety shake-up, including a recent outbreak in the US.
You only need to leave these guys in for around 15 minutes to get perfectly crisp and crunchy toasted nuts.
2. Stale bread
If you’ve whipped up a lasagne or a cannelloni dish and found the only thing missing is the garlic bread – fear not! You don’t need to reheat the oven or get the toaster out, just pop your slices of bread with their garlicy topping in and make the most of that residual heat. They’ll be crisped up in no time. This method also works well for those hard, stale bits of bread wasting away in the fridge – the oven’s heat will breathe new life into them and leave you with a crispy product perfect for using as croutons, as toast or a loaded sandwich. So, don’t throw your old bread out, toss it into your cooling oven and kill two birds with one stone.
3. Biscuits, cookies and cakes
Like your brownies a little fudgier than most? You’ll get that perfect soft inside when you bake using your oven’s residual heat – you can even make cookies using this method. Just pop your cookie batter in for around half an hour and they’ll come out with that rich, indulgent texture that is so hard to achieve when baking conventionally. So, next time you make a pasta bake or a roast veggie tray, make the most of that residual heat so you can enjoy a low-cost, energy-efficient treat after dinner.
Tip: Use a properly insulated tray or baking dish to make sure the baked goods hold onto that heat.
4. Plates and cutlery
Yep, you can even heat up your plates and cutlery in the oven! If you’re looking to warm plates and bowls before serving them to your house guests – do make sure they’re heat proof – then simply pop them into your cooling oven for a few minutes. This method also works well for drying dishes including glass or metal ware – no need for tediously wiping big dishes off with a tea towel, let the residual heat do the job for you!
More tips to save money
Batch-cooking and meal prepping: Instead of using your oven every night of the week, designate a day – we’re fond of the Sunday cook-up – to whip up all your baked goods for the week ahead. If you’re feeling especially efficient, you can even plan multiple weeks in advance and freeze batches of meals to last you a good while. You’ll save time and money, making it the perfect option for those busy nights after work when the last thing you want to be doing is cooking up a storm. If you’re keen to get started with meal prepping, there are a couple of tips to live by:
- Choose your food wisely: Foods that are a little hardier will be your best picks for meal prepping. These include whole grains, nuts and seeds, whole fruits and veggies – just remember not to chop your fruit up until you’re about to eat it. This way it’ll stay fresher longer.
- Store foods safely: Different foods have different storage needs – dairy, meat and eggs will need refrigeration, while nuts and seeds can survive out of the fridge in an airtight container. If you’re freezing meals, remember to use freezer-safe bags and containers. A little tip from us – sauces and stocks freeze easily and conveniently in ice cube trays.
Make the most of your oven: So, you’re well-versed on making use of residual heat after you’ve already baked a tasty dish, but have you considered using this heat while you’re baking the hero dish itself? There’s no need to wait for it to be fully cooked before turning the heat off. The residual heat will finish it off without the extra energy cost – so switch the oven off a good 10 to 15 minutes in advance when you’re making your lasagne or casserole, just be sure to leave the door closed so you don’t lose that heat!
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