Energy efficiency in the kitchen – cooking up savings

Energy efficiency in the kitchen – cooking up savings

With household bills still high, we thought now was the ideal time to see how you can cut down on your energy usage in the kitchen. As you’re probably aware, different appliances use different levels of energy, so when it comes to cooking, by knowing what these are, you could reduce on costs by using certain ones for certain dishes. Even when all you’re making is a slice of toast!

To help you save money on your energy bills, we’ve looked at different everyday cooking appliances to see how they compare and how you can reduce their individual running costs.

Do air fryers save money? Or is it all hot air?

Air fryers have become all the rage recently, with lots of people shouting about how they’re a cheaper way to cook. Well, let’s see if all the hype is justified.

An air fryer is basically a small convection oven. As such, it allows you to cook smaller meals for less than the cost of using your main oven. For example, an air fryer costs on average 13.6p to use while an oven is around 21p. But, before you go running to buy one, there are other factors to consider. A larger, more powerful air fryer could use almost as much energy as your oven, it not more. If you’ve got a 2,000w air fryer, it will cost you on average 34p per use. That’s 13p more than your oven.

Then, there is the cost of the air fryer itself. If you pick up a cheaper model at your local supermarket or discount store it won’t take as long to recoup the money spent compared to an expensive model costing hundreds of pounds.

The big factor which decides whether the oven or air fryer is more efficient is the amount of food you’re going to be cooking in it. For small portions for one or two people, it’ll be cheaper using an air fryer rather than turning on the oven. But, if it’s the family’s Sunday roast, you’re better off with your trusty oven.  

Are electric ovens the hot choice?

Electric ovens are bigger than over appliances used for cooking in the kitchen, so need more energy, especially as you need to wait for them to heat up before putting anything in. This means they’re not just the largest cooking appliance, they’re also the most expensive to run.

The good news is that you can fit a lot in them, which means they aren’t the best choice for rustling up a quick snack for one, but win hands down for family meals or batch cooking.

So, always try and cook as much as possible in one go. Use as much space as you can so that heat is being used as efficiently as possible. Why not cook your work lunches alongside your meals to use space efficiently? Then, keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them. Remember, you can even freeze food once cooked and save it for later.

To help save energy when using your oven, always keep the door closed as much as possible when cooking. It’s tempting to open it to peek to see how your meal’s coming along, but this loses heat quickly. Up to 25 degrees, which then means more energy is being used to get back up to the required temperature.

Remember to always look through the oven door rather than opening it. Keeping your door nice and clean will help stop the urge to open it as you’ll have a clear view in. Another simple energy saving tip is to know when your oven has reached the correct temperature. That way you’re not leaving it empty thinking it’s still pre-heating. Lots of ovens come with a little indicator light which turns off when it has reached temperature, so make use of it.

Having said all that about keeping the door closed whilst cooking, once you've finished and have turned the oven off, leaving the door open will let the heat escape out in to your kitchen and help warm your home. Please remember to only do this if it safe to do so!

Do microwaves save the max energy?

Costing just 4p per use, the microwave in the corner of your kitchen is perfect for quick cooking and reheating food. It achieves this by heating the food directly rather than the air around it, making it far cheaper than other appliances.

As they’re so efficient, you can save energy by using them in conjunction with your oven. Cook large meals or batches in the oven, then turn to your microwave to reheat your culinary delights. Or even par-cook items in the microwave and finish them off in the oven - a classic trick for a delicious Jacket Potato in a fraction of the time it takes to fully cook in the oven!

There are two simple ways to make microwave cooking even more efficient. The first is to sprinkle water over the surface of the food before heating it, as this makes the microwave more efficient and saves electricity. The second way is to cover the food with a lid or microwave own wrap. This shortens the heating time, helping to save energy. Just remember to leave a space for steam to escape from the heated food, otherwise it could build up and expand making a real mess inside your microwave, potentially even damaging it.

Also, why not turn it off when you’re not using it? If it has a digital display, you’re powering the clock which you probably never even look at anyway.

Hobs and heat usage

Both gas (whether mains gas or running on LPG) and electric hobs are good for quick meals, costing around 1 to 2p per use. One of the reasons for this is that you usually don’t have them turned on for long. For example, pasta or potatoes for mash only take 10 to 15 minutes, while an omelette is even quicker to rustle up.

If you have a gas hob rather than an electric one, this does create more direct carbon emissions. Another reason why you’re better off using a microwave to reheat your food, as it helps to improve your carbon footprint.

To help save energy when cooking on your hob, always use lids to cover your pots and pans. This keeps the heat in and lowers energy wastage. 

Slow Cookers - great when you’re not in a hurry

Slow cookers are one of the most cost-effective ways to cook, costing about 5p an hour to use. They work by slowly cooking food over a long period, hence the name. They’re also a convenient choice for busy people who don’t have the time to prepare a meal. Instead, just stick everything in the slow cooker and get on with your hectic day. This makes them perfect for making soups, stews and braising meat.

The reason slow cookers are so cost-effective is that even if you leave them on all day creating a truly tender beef casserole, you’ll only be using the same amount of energy as a light bulb. Which makes them the bright choice!

Our top tip for using a slow cooker is to only leave it on for as long as you need to. Also, remember to use the low setting if you’re planning on leaving it on for a longer period.

Range cookers give a range of benefits

Depending on the make and model, a traditional range cooker like an Aga or Rangemaster (now both part of the same group) can run on heating oil, mains gas or LPG, wood, wood pellets, electricity, or be dual fuel. Due to this, the price of running one varies per KW hr. 

It’s also worth remembering that some are designed to be on all the time, which makes them more expensive, while others can be turned on and off to suit your needs, which makes them more cost effective. In addition, a newer range cooker is normally more efficient than an older one. It’ll heat up faster and offer the option to use individual ovens and hotplates rather than having them all on.

Range cookers are larger than a standard cooker, with around 50% more space. This allows you to make big meals more efficiently using different areas at different temperatures without flavours mixing. And remember our tip about batch cooking? You can cook even more in a range cooker.

Now, having your range cooker on all the time might cost more, but there are advantages that counteract this. It’s quicker to cook meals as the oven is always pre-heated, so ready to go. The cooler bottom level of the appliance can be used for slow cooking. As it’s always on, it can be used to keep food warm to be used later. Also, unlike a regular oven, its radiant heat doesn’t dry out food.

Then, there are the non-cooking benefits. These include using the range cooker to keep your home nice and warm, which reduces your central heating bill. You can also use the heat the range cooker gives off to dry your laundry, so no need to ever use a tumble dryer.

Some general tips

As well as specific tips for specific appliances, we’ve also got some nice generic ones for whatever you’re cooking and whatever you’re using to cook it with:

  • Defrost anything you’re going to be cooking first in the fridge. That way it will take less energy to cook.
  • Making a brew? Only use and boil the amount of water you need. It’ll be quicker and cost less money than boiling a full kettle each time.
  • Don’t leave all your appliances on standby. We’ve mentioned microwaves, but what about the dishwasher or washing machine?
  • Heat water in a kettle rather than on a hob. And once it’s boiled, transfer it over – carefully! This works great when boiling pasta or potatoes.
  • Don’t put hot food into the freezer, let it cool first and it’ll freeze faster. Plus, putting hot food in the fridge or freezer can affect the internal temperature of your appliance and affect the longevity and freshness of your food.

We hope our guide and kitchen energy-saving tips have been informative. And we’ve helped you make a few money-saving changes next time you’re cooking, whether it’s a quick snack or a four-course culinary masterpiece.

Prices are correct as of April 2023 based on energy prices under the Energy Price Guarantee running from April 2023 to the end of June 2023. The cost per use of appliances is calculated using measured energy consumed for each appliance based on time used for a typical meal.

Last updated: 3 May 2023.