Chinese dama (middle-aged housewives) can become the world's model energy savers if only they spend less time at the kitchen stove.
A survey has found that, on average, Chinese homes spend as much as 4.5 times the amount of energy on cooking meals as German or British homes, or about 2.5 times the amount used in French homes.
Preparing stir-fry dishes with high-temperature oil or boiling meat overnight uses far more energy than merely mixing salads and reheating packaged food in micro-waves, the survey by Beijing's Renmin University of China concluded.
Each stove in the kitchen of a Chinese home is used on average more than two times a day and for 32 minutes on average each time, the survey found.
More than 70 percent of electric cookers and more than half of microwave ovens are used at least once a day in China, according to the survey.
However, in overall terms, homes in developed countries still consume more energy than those in China.
Cooking ranks next to heating in China's home energy use, according to the survey, which was aimed at finding out the amount of energy used in an average home for cooking, heating, cooling and other purposes.
Wang Xiao'ou, 43, a working mother in Beijing, said: "The survey is reasonable. The pace of city life is fast, and we don't have time to spend hours cooking porridge and soup like our mothers did. But I usually still spend an hour on cooking each day."
Chinese homes spent about 327 kilograms of standard coal equivalent on cooking in 2010.
Energy use by rural families is more inefficient than in urban homes, as many rural people still use materials such as firewood and straw and bottled liquefied natural gas, the survey found.
It was based on 1,450 household interviews in 26 provinces and was the first residential energy consumption survey in China, according to Wei Chu, a main author and an associate professor at Renmin University School of Economics.
The survey was conducted from December 2012 to March 2013. Sixty-four percent of the samples came from cities and the rest from towns and counties.
Apart from cooking, average home energy use in China is much lower than that in Western countries. For instance, electricity use per person in China only accounts for half the world average and less than one-tenth of that in the United States, according to the survey.
Home electricity use per person in China stood at 382.9 kilowatt hours in 2010, compared with the 726 kWh world average and 4,677.9 kWh in the US during the same period.
Heating usually accounts for the largest share of home energy use in China, similar to most countries. This proportion is expected to increase as more families in southern regions install heating systems.
Electricity use for appliances in China only accounts for about one-tenth the figure in the US, the survey found.
Non-weather-related energy use for electronic appliances, water heating and lighting accounted for 52 percent of total consumption in the US in 2009, according to the US Energy Information Administration.