It doesn’t matter whether you view cooking as a necessary evil or one of life’s great pleasures, you’ll spend some time each day in your kitchen. Major appliances like ovens, microwaves and fridge-freezers mean this single room is responsible for almost one-third of your household’s total energy usage. Read on for some tips to help you save energy in the kitchen.
Last updated: 26 February 2021
According to the Energy Saving Trust, cooking accounts for 13.8% of electricity used in UK homes, with freezing and cooling food consumes another 16.8%. Combined, that’s over 30% of your total household energy use coming from these two activities alone.
It doesn’t stop there: other typical kitchen activities consume a lot of hot water and heating too, with wet appliances like dishwashers and washing machines make up a further 10% of household energy bills.
Naturally, the larger your household, the more energy you’ll use. When it comes to cooking, however, it’s more energy-efficient to cook for more than one person. Preparing food in larger batches means that you can spread out the energy with multiple portions, since you must turn the hob or oven on no matter how many people you’re feeding.
We use numerous kitchen appliances on an everyday basis, and some, like refrigerators, are switched on 24 hours a day, which is why it’s so important to start with energy-efficient tools to help cut bills when cooking.
Here are a few factors to consider when buying new kitchen appliances:
Wondering how much electricity does an oven use? This depends on the model. On average, an oven will have an average power rating of 2,000 to 2,200 watts used per hour – or 2-2.2 kWh – when turned to a medium or high heat. Both electric and gas ovens now come with an energy label, so you can choose one with a rating of A+ for maximum efficiency.
Beware the pyrolytic oven, which is a self-cleaning oven that quite literally burns the baked-on grime by heating the oven to 400-500° Celsius, resulting in higher energy costs. Look instead for ovens that combine triple-glazed doors with good levels of insulation – they’ll heat up quicker and hold their temperature for longer.
You can save energy in the kitchen by cooking your food in the microwave rather than the oven. While ovens heat the interior airspace as well as your food, microwaves heat the food alone. Ovens also take longer to heat up, whereas microwaves reach temperature almost instantaneously. Even the cheapest microwaves will usually be more efficient for simple, everyday food heating.
Many new kitchens use induction hobs, which feature an electromagnetic burner under a ceramic plate rather than the traditional gas-ringed design. These are often cheaper to run, being newer and more efficient in converting energy to heat. However, they’re not ideal for everyone. You’ll need to use compatible pans made with iron. In addition, Induction hobs aren’t suitable for anyone with a pacemaker fitted, because the electromagnet field may interfere with the pacemaker’s settings.
According to figures from the Energy Saving Trust, dishwashers can cost between £35 and £47 per year, contributing to a sizeable portion of your electricity bills. For maximum efficiency, look for models with an A+++ rating. These cost £7 less to run on average, using less water in the process.
Because they’re constantly switched on, refrigerators, freezers and fridge-freezers can use quite a lot of energy. Energy Saving Trust figures state that you can save £320 over a model’s lifespan by choosing a fridge-freezer with an A+++ rating rather than A+. The energy label attached to the refrigerator will show you the annual energy consumption in kWh.
You should also look at the appliance’s size, which will impact its rating. Smaller units naturally use less energy than larger models.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that we use our kettles more frequently than most other kitchen appliances. In fact, the average UK household boils the kettle 1,500 times a year. You can make your kettle more efficient by simply boiling the minimum amount of water needed, thus cutting the time (and energy) it takes to boil.
If you’re in the market for a new kettle, look for rapid-boil models in the 2.5-3kWh range that can boil a single cup of water in under a minute. Also look out for water indicators so you can clearly see how much water you’re boiling, and consider models with temperature controls that can heat the water to lower temperatures as well as those with insulated casings that keep the water warmer for longer after boiling.
Slow cookers are one of the most energy-efficient appliances in the kitchen. They’re rated at just 200-300 watts, making them a more energy efficient alternative to ovens.
In short, yes. Here are a few additional benefits of using a slow cooker:
A smaller amount of heat is applied over a longer period.
You can leave your food to cook while you’re at work, saving prep time in the evenings.
There are fewer dishes to wash up, as slow cookers are one-pot meals. This saves water and heat.
You can make extra servings of your meals to freeze or refrigerate for later, saving energy over time.
Some models include a timer to automatically stop cooking at a set time to avoid overcooking and using unnecessary energy.
Slow cookers use less liquid in comparison to hob cooking.
An average-sized slow cooker will use about 1.3 kWh of electricity per meal cooked, which breaks down to less than 1p per hour at an average energy tariff. If you have solar panels, some or all of the electricity required to heat your meal will be generated from your panels if you set it to cook during the day.
If you’ve never used a slow cooker before, it’s a good idea to start out by following recipes – another cost-saving benefit of slow cookers is that they’re suited for cheaper cuts of meat as the slower cooker times help make them more tender.
There’s no need to kit out your kitchen with brand-new appliances to boost efficiency. In fact, simply maintaining your older models properly will keep them in prime working order for longer. An easy way to save money in the kitchen is by turning off appliances like the electric oven, tumble dryer, washing machine, and microwave at the plug. Leaving them on standby eats up unnecessary electricity.
In the meantime, here are a few simple tips to make cooking more energy efficient, no matter the type of appliance you’re using.
When boiling water, only use the amount needed to cover the food being cooked. If you include extra water, it wastes energy by taking longer to bring to a boil.
On the same note, you can boil water more efficiently by heating it in the kettle first before transferring it to your pot or pan.
If you’re roasting potatoes, parboil them in a saucepan first for 5-10 minutes to reduce the time spent in the oven. Cutting food into smaller pieces will also make it cook faster, whether you’re working with potatoes or meat.
If you’re defrosting food, try to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge the night before you need it. This reduces – or even eliminates – the need to waste more energy defrosting it in the microwave prior to cooking.
Resist the urge to open the oven door while your food is cooking. Heat escapes each time you open it, forcing the oven to work harder to get back up to the desired temperature. You should be able to see your food’s progress through the oven window instead.
Glass or ceramic retains more heat than metal, so look for cooking dishes made from these materials for greater efficiency in the oven. When comparing cooking pans, another way to save energy is to choose the right size for your ingredients. A larger surface area will take longer to heat.
Fan-assisted ovens are more energy efficient because they circulate the hot air all around your food while it cooks. This in turn allows you to run the oven at a lower heat (typically 10-20° Celsius).
Like slow cookers, pressure cookers are a good way to save energy when cooking. These work with a sealed lid that traps steam and locks it into the pan cooking your food more quickly and efficiently.
If you’re looking for another way to reduce your energy bills in and out of the kitchen, it’s worth comparing energy suppliers. You may qualify for a cheaper rate, which helps put even more money back in your pocket.