Slow cookers are convenient, affordable, and can help you churn out excellent dishes almost every time. But are they energy-efficient enough to keep your cooking costs down over the long term?
A slow cooker costs roughly 1.3 – 2.2 cents of electricity per hour to run. Depending on its model, size, and cooking temperature, the average slow cooker uses between 1 – 1.7 kWh during an 8-hour cooking session (0.125 – 0.2 kWh per hour), and the average electricity cost in the US is $0.1042/kWh.
Keep reading to learn more about how much electricity a slow cooker costs to run.
Does the Size of the Slow Cooker Affect the Electricity?
The size of a slow cooker affects its electricity usage. As with all electric appliances, a bigger slow cooker will require more energy than a smaller version of the same make and model. Depending on size, a slow cooker’s electricity needs can range from 50 to 300 watts.
It’s important to note that size isn’t the only factor that can affect a slow cooker’s energy needs. As you’ll see later, the appliance’s electricity consumption will depend on several variables. Still, size is generally an important factor when it comes to slow cooker electricity consumption.
Let me explain it further. Between two slow cookers of the same make and model, the bigger one will undoubtedly cost more to run. However, appliances of different types or brands are more challenging to compare.
In other words, a bigger slow cooker can require less electricity than a smaller one if the former is made using energy-efficient technology. However, this is more of an exception than the rule. Generally, slow cooker size has a direct relationship with electricity usage.
Slow cookers have a wide range of sizes, with capacities ranging from 1.4 liters (0.37 gallons) to 7.6 liters (2 gallons). Of course, the best slow cooker size for you depends on how often you use your slow cooker and what you use it for. If you run a commercial food establishment, you may need a bigger one, for example.
Naturally, bigger appliances will have bigger heating elements, which will require more electricity to run. Larger slow cookers also have larger pots, which need a proportionate amount of heat to reach a certain temperature. As a result, electricity requirements will be higher for these cookers as well.
Therefore, it’s generally best not to overshoot when picking a slow cooker size for your needs.
Is It Cheaper To Cook Using the Oven?
It is not cheaper to cook using the oven compared to a slow cooker. Even though the comparison depends on variables that are difficult to generalize, an oven usually consumes 2.3 kWh per hour, which translates to 24 cents per hour. In comparison, a slow cooker costs 1.3-2.2 cents per hour.
I know what you’re thinking: The cooking time in an oven is much shorter than what it would be in a slow cooker. However, even considering those factors, a slow cooker is still relatively cheaper to run.
Let’s assume a dish that would take eight hours to finish in a slow cooker only requires an hour in the oven. At 1.3 – 2.2 cents per hour, a slow cooker would cost you between 10.4 and 17.6 cents to run. On the other hand, an oven would cost you 24 cents of electricity to cook the same dish.
Based on the above, it’s safe to say that it’s cheaper to use a slow cooker than an oven.
Again, several variables can affect the numbers calculated above, so you’re free to take these generalized conclusions with a grain of salt.
For example, the type of slow cooker and oven can throw a wrench into the above conclusion. Energy-efficient ovens can be cheaper to run than an old or inefficient slow cooker, especially if the cooking time is much shorter (i.e., a little below 7.5 hours) using the aforementioned ovens.
So you should also look at how energy-efficient your appliance is (whether it’s an oven or slow cooker) to determine how much it’ll save you in terms of electricity.
That said, if you’re a budget-conscious home cook, opting to cook your meals in a slow cooker might lower your monthly bills and energy consumption.
Is It Cheaper To Use the Stove Top?
It is not necessarily cheaper to use a stovetop than it is to use a slow cooker. The average stovetop requires between 1.2 and 3 kWh per hour, costing around 12.5 and 31.26 cents per hour. In contrast, a slow cooker costs 1.3-2.2 cents per hour.
Again, even if you consider the cook time difference between the two appliances, a slow cooker will usually end up costing you less than a stovetop in the long run.
Again, let’s say that a dish that would take six hours to finish in a slow cooker only requires half an hour to cook on a stovetop. At 1.3 – 2.2 cents per hour, a slow cooker would cost you between 7.8 and 13.2 cents for that dish.
On the other hand, a stovetop would cost you between 6.25 and 15.63 cents to cook the same dish.
That means, generally speaking, it’s cheaper to use a slow cooker than an oven.
Of course, there might be instances when using a stovetop might be more cost-efficient. However, that’s highly unlikely, especially when it comes to larger appliances.
As I’ve already mentioned, the type of slow cooker and stove top can affect which one is cheaper to run. For example, if the stovetop is more energy-efficient, and the slow cooker is old (and therefore consumes more electricity), the stovetop will consume less energy.
However, the thing with stovetops is that their energy consumption varies widely depending on their model and size. You have some types that cost less to run than a slow cooker, while others require more energy than an oven.
Therefore, do your research before buying any sort of cooking appliance. Check the energy rating and your area’s electricity rates to calculate your savings.
4 Factors That Contribute to Higher Levels of Electricity Usage in Slow Cookers
Here are the four factors that can contribute to higher levels of electricity usage in slow cookers:
As I’ve already mentioned, size will inevitably affect the amount of electricity your slow cooker requires. These appliances range from 1.4 liters (0.37 gallons) to 7.6 liters (2 gallons). As I said earlier, bigger slow cookers have proportionately bigger heating elements and pots.
The larger heating elements require more electricity, while the larger pots require more heat (which also requires more electricity). Therefore, if you want to cut back on your energy consumption, buying a smaller slow cooker can be a good idea.
Many home cooks buy slow cookers that are too big as they believe erring on the side of caution is better. However, this practice can be incredibly wasteful.
Any way you look at it, continuously heating a pot meant for eight people when you’re only cooking for four is unnecessarily expensive.
Instead, find an appliance big enough to accommodate the needs of the number of people living in your household, plus two or three more servings to account for any possible guests.
If the need to make more dishes than usual arises, you can always cook in batches. You should also cook ahead of time to limit delays and complaints.
Newer models are generally manufactured using more efficient technologies, meaning they require less electricity to heat up and operate. Therefore, before buying a slow cooker, check its wattage to make sure you won’t have to spend more than you have to.
In general, as long as the appliance falls between the 70 and 250-watt range (assuming the size justifies the energy consumption), you’re good to go.
Anything that consumes more electricity wouldn’t be worth it, even if it had a lower initial cost. If you buy a slow cooker that’s efficient enough, you can get a bigger size than your current appliance without having to spend an extra cent on added energy consumption.
Therefore, I’d say model is a factor that can contribute to the levels of electricity usage in slow cookers. Again, make sure to research a brand or type extensively before purchasing.
If you don’t know where to start, try the Crock Pot 8-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker (available on Amazon.com). At 110 volts, it’s pretty energy-efficient, and you can set a timer to keep it from overcooking your food and consuming more electricity than needed.
Type of Recipe
This goes without saying, but the type of recipe you’re cooking will affect a slow cooker’s energy consumption. Different recipes call for different cooking times. For example, tougher cuts of meat require more hours to braise. As a result, the appliance has to operate longer, increasing electricity consumption.
The same goes for recipes that call for high temperature levels. For example, a dish that gets slow-cooked at 80°C (176°F) will require higher levels of energy consumption than one that gets slow-cooked at 150°C (302°F).
Therefore, if you’re looking to lower your energy bill, go for recipes that call for shorter cook times and lower temperatures. It’s also a good idea to use more tender meat cuts that cook quicker.
Checking on a Dish Too Frequently
Checking on a dish too frequently can negatively affect the cooking process, as well as increase the required cook time. As you can guess, this causes your electricity bill to shoot up as well. Every time you open the lid on a slow cooker to taste or add another ingredient, you’re letting pressure and heat escape from the appliance. This can add up to 20 minutes of cook time.
Hi all! I’m Cora Benson, and I’ve been blogging about food, recipes and things that happen in my kitchen since 2019.