Slow cooking works like magic, but it can get expensive. We calculated the potential energy bill savings when using one of these more efficient appliances.
For some people, slow cooking is a religion. This tried-and-true method results in exceptionally tender meat and ingredients that are fortified and blended in roasting and sautéing. However, running your oven for extended periods of time uses more energy and may increase your monthly bill. Slow cookers and Instant Pots (multi-function pressure cookers) are smaller appliances that can achieve similar results, but they use far less energy.
How much less energy are you asking? Well, it turns out you can save some real money by using a slow cooker, instant pot or multi-purpose pot instead of a traditional oven.
Comparison of Oven, Slow Cooker, and Instant Pot
|Equipmen||Maximum wattage pull||Cooking cost per hour||Total Hours (6lb Pork Shoulder)||Total cost|
|Slow cooker (6 quart)||260||$0.05||8||$0.40|
|Instant Pot Pressure Cooker (6 Quart)||1,000||$0.017||1.5||%0.26|
The easiest way to calculate how much a pressure cooker or slow cooker might save you compared to using a large oven is to calculate the watts consumed per hour compared to the watts consumed by an electric stove. In this exercise, we’ll compare the energy consumption of a full-size electric stove with a standard 6-quart saucepan and a 6-quart Instant Pot. It’s difficult to scale the power consumption at lower temperatures, so I’ve calculated the maximum power consumption per appliance, although you probably won’t generally use high power for these long cooking times. If the slow cooker and oven are set to lower temperatures, their totals may drop a bit. Quick cookers don’t.
I used one of Food Network’s most popular recipes to calculate the time and total cost to cook a large pork shoulder (a classic slow cooker) with all three appliances. It’s worth noting that pressure cooking with an Instant Pot takes significantly less time than slow cooking with an oven or crock pot.
How much does an electric oven cost to use?
To determine the consumption of an electric oven, you calculate the number of watts pulled per hour of cooking. Most electric ovens are around 3000 watts, depending on the temperature.
Electricity rates also vary widely from state to state. To find your price, you can refer to this chart, which lists 2020 prices in cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Prices for 2021 won’t be announced until December 2022, but if you do some searching, you should be able to find the latest prices.
Once you find your oven’s wattage (on the appliance’s label, owner’s manual, or online product listing), multiply that number by the number of hours you’re using the oven per day. Then divide by 1,000 watts (1 kilowatt) to get the kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity consumed.
Next, determine your state’s average electricity price per kilowatt-hour for the year, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Multiply this number by the number you just calculated (3 in this case) to determine your daily operating costs.
At New York’s electricity price of 17 cents per kilowatt hour, a 3000 watt oven would cost me about 51 cents an hour. Properly simmering a 6-pound boneless pork shoulder in the main oven takes a full 7 hours and will cost about $3.57.
How much does a slow cooker cost to use?
The slow cooker is also electric, so you’ll use the same method as above to calculate its cost. Slow cooker models vary in wattage, with larger slow cookers using more energy. A standard 6-quart Crock-Pot slow cooker has a maximum output of 260 watts.
Using these numbers, we can determine that a slow cooker consumes about 9% of the total energy consumption of a large oven. Again, given New York’s electricity bills, we can safely say that a leading six-quart slow cooker will cost about 5 cents an hour. This is 91% more energy efficient than a typical full-size toaster oven. The pork shoulder recipe calls for eight hours of cooking, which will cost you about 40 cents in total using the slow cooker.
How much does a quick cooker cost?
A similar recipe for pork shoulder in a rice cooker calls for an hour to cook a diced four-pound pork shoulder. Electric kettles consume different amounts of energy depending on the setting. For pressure cooking, a standard 6-quart model will consume about 1,000 watts, or one-third the energy consumption of a large oven.
Knowing this, we can determine that pressure cooking costs about 17 cents an hour in New York State. Since this recipe is dicing a smaller pork shoulder, I will add 30 minutes to this cook time. That way, cooking a similar 6-pound piece of meat in an electric cooker, uncut, would cost around 26 cents in total.
How much will a slow cooker or instant pot save you?
Of the three methods, the large oven is the most expensive low- and slow-cooking method and has a big advantage. While the $3 savings may seem small, if you scale it up to a year of long simmering and slow cooking, it can save some serious money on your overall energy bill. If you slow cook once a week, you can save a quick $150 a year.
Everything is not equal. an important consideration
An important note is that the three cooking methods, while similar in some ways, do not deliver exactly the same results. Many people swear by teriyaki and slow cooking in a real oven, even if it takes longer and costs more — and they’re probably not wrong. For example, with pressure cooking, I’ve never had the exact same results as slow roasting in the oven, but some recipes are pretty close. Slow cookers are also criticized because they tend to make food a little mushy, not just soft, with prolonged use.
Bonus: Instant cookers are cheap, slow cookers are even cheaper
If it’s cutting money from your monthly bill that entices you to use a slow cooker or instant cooker, you probably don’t want to shell out a fortune to buy it. The good news is that you don’t have to. A 6-quart quick cooker can be had for about $80 (or even less if you find one on sale), and slow cookers start at about $35. It’s worth noting that every Instant Pot has a slow cook function, so there’s really no need to have both in the kitchen.