All of us were shocked when our fuel bills doubled in the last few months and ever since, home appliance manufacturers have been scrambling to assure us that their hobs, ovens and microwaves are the most efficient of them all. Comparing appliances isn’t easy: the energy labels aren’t always obvious, and they don’t make much sense even when they are, unless you know what A and G stand for.
Understanding energy ratings
A+++ is the most efficient in its class, and the letters run through to G, which is the least efficient in its class. Look at the power rating, too, says Brian Horne, senior insight and analytics consultant of the Energy Saving Trust. ‘It’s possible to estimate how much energy each appliance will use by multiplying the appliance’s power rating in kW by the time you leave the appliance on for, in hours. This information should be on the label or any manual that came with your appliance.
For example: a microwave may have a power rating of 700W and you may run it for three minutes. 0.7 * 3/60 = 0.035kWh.’
Of course, when it comes to more specific appliances – slow cookers, pressure cookers, soup makers and so on – comparing energy use is fairly meaningless. ‘Different types of cooker are used for specific purposes, or they produce food that is different to an equivalent meal cooked in a different way. This means you may not want to compare them in terms of the amount of energy they use,’ says Horne. ‘However, you can sometimes make direct comparisons between different appliances doing an equivalent job.’
Buying new kit
1. A good general rule, when shopping for new kit, is to look for the best energy rating for the size of kit you need. A big Bosch oven might have a better rating than a smaller Hotpoint, for example, but if you don’t need a large oven, it will still work out less efficient.
More like this
2. Another key point to consider is that rapidly rising energy prices means past calculations as to how much an appliance costs to run are fast becoming outdated. ‘Though the information is out there about the cost of energy and how that equates to different types of appliances, that data is based on standardised cost per unit of energy, which at the current rate of rising energy prices goes out of date very quickly,’ says Ben Welling, a spokesperson for Smart Energy GB.
Smart meters can keep you up to date
A smart meter tells you how much your appliances cost in pounds and pence accurate to your tariff and the current price of energy, thereby enabling you to monitor which appliance is costing you the most so you can minimise your use of it. ‘There’s no getting around the fact that we need to use energy in the kitchen, but ensuring you have transparency over how energy-efficient your appliances are and ensuring kitchen activities, such as cooking, are done most efficiently will help you reduce energy waste and save money,’ continues Welling.
Your kitchen appliances
The following guide should be a useful primer for cooking as efficiently as possible going forward, but there is something you can do right now that will have a real tangible impact, says Welling: turn your appliances off at the wall – even your oven and microwave, if you can be bothered. ‘If they’re on standby that will be using energy.’
Hobs (electric, gas, induction)
‘An induction hob uses energy more efficiently than a gas hob or electric ceramic hob,’ says Emily Seymour, Which sustainability editor. This is regardless of whether you’re gently heating up soup, simmering chickpeas for hours, or bringing pasta to a rolling boil. This is because no energy is wasted heating the space around the pan. Electric hobs are your next best bet in terms of efficiency because when you’re cooking with gas ‘a significant amount of heat is lost to heating up your kitchen, rather than your food.’ That said, electricity is more expensive than gas, so a gas hob may save you a few pounds a year. Also worth bearing in mind – from a cost and waste perspective – is that if you change to induction, you’ll have the upfront cost of replacing all your pans and pots with induction compatible ones.
The same rule applies to ovens as to hobs: gas is cheaper than electric but electric is more efficient. In either case, if you’re reheating food, the Energy Saving Trust recommends using a microwave, particularly if it has a good energy rating. ‘They’re more efficient than electric or gas ovens,’ agrees Seymour. ‘Using your oven every day can be a real drain on power, and therefore finances.’ But if you do have to use an oven (and there are, of course, certain things which necessitate it), there are ways to maximise your energy efficiency. Avoid storing baking trays in the oven, ‘this limits the flow of air and increases cooking times,’ says Seymour – and don’t forget to deep clean it. A clean oven ‘will reach the desired temperature faster as well as distribute heat in a much better, more efficient way compared to a dirty oven,’ she explains.
Slow cookers are making a comeback – and with good reason, says Welling. ‘In terms of appliances, it’s one of most energy-efficient ways to cook.’ Even if you have it on all day, slowly braising beef shin, it will use ‘about the same amount of energy as a lightbulb, cutting your energy consumption and saving a few bob in the process,’ says Seymour.
Read more on slow cookers:
Try our delicious slow cooker sausage casserole recipe
Read our review of the best slow cookers.
Watch our video on how to use a slow cooker
For more inspiration, take a look at our slow cooker recipes.
‘It’s true that microwaves aren’t as versatile as conventional ovens, but for certain tasks a microwave can be very useful,’ says Seymour. Reheating is a good example, as is defrosting, melting butter or chocolate or softening onions. Baked potatoes are also best started off in the microwave before being crisped up in the oven – or indeed finished in the microwave, if you don’t mind a softer skin. ‘As they can cook or heat food more quickly, microwave ovens use up to 80 per cent less energy less than conventional ovens,’ says Seymour.
Read more on microwaves:
For a scrumptious pudding you can whip up using your microwave, try our fastest ever lemon pudding recipe
Read our review of the best microwaves
For more fuss-free cooking, try our other microwave recipes.
Air fryers have seen a boom in popularity recently and it’s no surprise why. These counter-top appliances are effectively miniature fan ovens but can save you time, money on your energy bills and space in the kitchen thanks to the versatility of functions and cooking efficiency. The compact size means they’re quicker to heat up than traditional ovens and can circulate hot air more efficiently around food. The result is dinner cooked quicker. For particular dishes, air fryers can save you having to switch on your gas oven at all.
Read more about air fryers:
Discover our full collection of air fryer recipes
Provided you can stand the squeal they emit to alert you to your food being almost ready – I put my fingers in my ears – there is a huge amount to be said for investing in a pressure cooker. Not only are they cheap, they ‘make cheap ingredients – cheap cuts of meat, beans and pulses, for example – taste delicious in a short space of time’ says Seymour. ‘So they’ll save money off your supermarket bill as well.’ What’s more, they’re energy saving. ‘Pressure cookers can save a huge amount of energy compared to traditional cooking methods, simply because they get the job done so quickly,’ adds Seymour. On a regular hob, cooking chickpeas from dried takes about two hours, plus a long soaking time. A pressure cooker will have them ready in just over an hour, and that’s without soaking.
Read more on pressure cookers:
For a risotto packed with flavour that can be made in the pressure cooker, try our lemony prawn & pea pressure cooker risotto recipe
Read our review of the best pressure cookers
Multi-appliance food processors don’t just save time, they save energy. ‘A trusty food processor that can do lots of different jobs – chopping, grating, kneading, mixing and weighing, for example – can be a good way to minimise how many gadgets you have in your kitchen, and less clutter ultimately means less electrical waste,’ says Seymour. That said, they’re not always easy to clean, especially if they’re not dishwasher compatible, so take care to wash them with as little hot water as possible in order to not lose what you’ve saved on the electricity bill in your heating.
Read more about multi-cookers:
Try our pressure cooker beef curry for a quick and delicious midweek meal.
Read our review of the best multi-cookers
Obviously this is a bit of an outlay if you don’t make soup often, but if you do find yourself whipping out the hand blender on a regular basis, a soup maker could be a savvy investment. It takes a soup maker 20 to 30 minutes to make soup from scratch, which is significantly faster than using the hob and then the blender. This means ‘it will not only save on energy, you’ll also save time and energy on the washing-up,’ says Seymour.
Read more about soup makers:
Serve up this creamy and comforting soup maker leek and potato soup, perfect for a hearty lunch or supper.
Read our review of the best soup makers
Watch our guide on how to make (almost any vegetable) soup
For even more budget-friendly ideas, check out our collections of budget recipes and freezable family recipes, plus see our top 10 budget family meals. Also see our budget section for more money-saving tips and recipe inspiration.