Could the way you cook your food save you money on energy bills?

BURNING BLUE FLAME ON GAS COOKER HOB. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.We all have to eat. And while it is heating costs, rather than culinary charges that make the headlines when energy bills soar, the appliances you use in your kitchen also contribute to your energy use, and, for example, selecting an AAA rated appliance over a G rated appliance for energy consumption could make a dent in your annual bill. But what about the appliances you already have? Could you just use them more effectively? It seems that, for the best energy report, microwaves and slow cookers are the way to eat hot food, for less.

Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson, president of the Microwave Association, recently spoke on BBC Radio 4 about her love of the device that is totally unrelated to her current job, but instead of just banging on about speed and efficiency, she claimed that using a microwave can actually be cheaper than cooking on a hob to the tune of £5 a month. For the 83% of us who own a microwave, that adds up to a tidy saving.

She calculated that having four saucepans on a stove cooking broccoli, cabbage, carrots and any other vegetable will cost 28p. The vegetables will take 15-20 minutes to cook and will “lose 85% of their nutrients while cooking”, she said. By comparison, cooking the same vegetables in one dish in the microwave will cost 7p, and the food will retain its nutrients because the vegetables cook in their own steam.

But can her claims be substantiated? The Telegraph asked some experts what they thought of the numbers. According to the Energy Saving Trust, it’s not easy to directly compare the cost of using a microwave or a hob for cooking, but five minutes usage of a typical microwave (800W, category E) will use about 0.09kWh of electricity, which costs around 1.3p, compared with the typical gas consumption each time a gas hob is used of 0.9kWh, costing around 3.8p.

“These figures aren’t directly comparable, since the 'typical use’ of a gas hob isn’t necessarily equivalent to five minutes’ microwave use, but it does provide a basic comparison,” a spokesman said. “Obviously, energy usage varies depending on different factors, such as whether you have the lids on each pan, an individual’s cooking style, and so on.”

Comparison site uSwitch said that a microwave is the most energy-efficient way to cook food, followed by a hob and then an oven. “To keep your energy bills down, it’s a good idea to buy a microwave oven if you don’t already have one, and to use it for as much cooking as possible,” a spokesman said. “But remember to switch off your microwave at the wall when you’re not using it, so it isn’t left using electricity to power its clock.

However, uSwitch threw another contender into the ring- slow cookers. “Slow cookers can also be an energy-efficient option – they use just a little more energy than a traditional light bulb, and you can leave your food to cook slowly while you get on with other things.”

Sales of slow cookers have boomed over the past two years, and are very practical for busy workers, but is it worth the average £20 outlay in savings on oven use?

The answer is most likely, yes. Most sources agree that electric ovens are the least energy efficient way to cook. The Centre for Sustainable Energy estimates the average electricity usage of an electric oven between 2-2.2kWh, while a microwave uses between 0.6-1.5kWh. A slow cooker uses approximately 0.7kWh over the eight hours. Money-saving website calculated that using an electric oven for an hour each day will cost £2.46 a week, or £127.92 over a year.

So there you have it. You don’t need a cooker, just a microwave and slow cooker. With spare cash saved on your energy bills left over for takeaways…


  • Dr P.
    Hello I like the idea of energy saving cooking. You are perfectly correct. if one has something to warm up then microwave is ideal, I quite agree with you. Please let me know, can that be used to cook rice, spaghetti.pasta and curries such as chicken. Please let me know. Thank you Dr Hector Perera
  • Dirty M.
    Dr HP: you lose the Turing test. Do I win £5?
  • JonB
    @Dr HP: "Can a microwave cook rice, pasta, curries, etc.?" Yes.

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