New Which? research suggests the hype around air fryers could be justified – with the gadgets emerging as up to three times cheaper than ovens to run, with equally good or better cooking results for popular foods.
As part of its Money-Saving Monday series, the consumer champion has found that kitchen appliances such as air fryers, microwaves, pressure cookers and slow cookers, can all have cheaper running costs than conventional ovens – when cooking various food items.
While Which? found that consumers can make considerable energy savings with an air fryer and microwave, it’s important to consider the initial outlay when looking at cost savings. For example, air fryers Which? has tested cost anywhere between £30 and £300. So even though an air fryer may save money on running costs compared to using an oven it could be a while before it pays for itself.
Which? lab testers pitted a range of kitchen appliances against each other to cook popular foods – from steamed vegetables to a roast chicken – calculating how long it took, how much energy it used and crucially, how much it cost.
1. Roast chicken
The cheapest and quickest method for cooking a roast chicken was with a pressure cooker – costing just 11p and taking just 32 minutes. However, it did not give the distinctive crispy skin that the other appliances did. The oven cost 39p to cook a delicious-looking roast chicken in 76 minutes, although testers noted that the meat was a little dry.
However, the air fryer cost 18p and cooked a perfect roast chicken – juicy flavoursome meat with a crispy brown skin. If you were to cook a roast chicken once a week for a year, this equates to a saving of nearly £11 compared to cooking in the oven.
While some claim that halogen ovens are cheap to run, Which? found the halogen oven tested used slightly more energy than the oven to cook the chicken, costing 40p. Although the chicken looked and tasted great, there are cheaper ways to get the same results.
Which? found that the cheapest appliance for cooking chips, and the quickest at 23 minutes, was the air fryer. It only cost 10p to cook two portions of chips, compared with almost three times (29p) that amount to cook the same quantity of chips in the oven.
However, the drawback of the air fryer is its capacity. The model Which? tested recommends only filling the basket halfway and using a maximum of 500g of chips – enough for two to three portions. So if you are feeding several people, or want to cook a few different food items simultaneously, the oven is more versatile than the air fryer or halogen oven.
The halogen oven was slightly cheaper than the oven, costing 23p. The chips cooked by all three appliances were similar in quality, with a mixture of over-cooked and under-cooked chips, even though testers stirred or shook them halfway through cooking.
3. Baking a cake
Perhaps surprisingly, the air fryer offered excellent results for baking a cake at the lowest cost – only 8p and with delicious results. It also baked in almost half the time of the oven, at 33 minutes against 56 minutes. The oven cost three times more than the air fryer at 24p.
However, due to the size limitations of the air fryer, Which?’s experts did have to make a smaller cake than for the other appliances. If you are planning a multi-tiered masterpiece it would be more efficient to stick to the trusty oven.
While the pressure cooker and halogen oven produced great cakes, they took longer than the oven and used more energy, costing 2p and 7p more respectively. For baking on a budget, the air fryer could not be beaten.
The cheapest appliances for making soup were the induction hob and pressure cooker – both cooked vegetable soup quickly and efficiently, costing just 9p.
Which? found that while the slow-cooked option was more hands-off and therefore more convenient, it was 22p more expensive, costing 31p in energy.
The induction hub got the top marks for quality of cooking, while the pressure cooker was the quickest, taking 19 minutes to cook the soup.
5. Steamed vegetables
Which? found that a microwave was the cheapest method for steaming vegetables – and was 3 to 4p cheaper than using an induction hob or pressure cooker, both of which cost 7p. However, the induction hob did give the best results.
The pressure cooker used slightly more energy than the induction hob and also overcooked the broccoli. Testers noted that the benefit of using the microwave or hob was that you have more control over the cooking time, they took 5 minutes and 9 minutes respectively.
6. Jacket potato
The quickest and cheapest appliance for baking a large potato was easily the microwave – taking just 8 minutes to cook a soft and fluffy jacket potato, and using just 5p worth of energy.
The air fryer also proved its credentials, taking half the time of an oven and only using 9p worth of electricity. However, as with a lot of the other recipes Which? cooked, if you want to cook more than one potato at a time you may find yourself limited on space with several of the appliances tested. The oven took the longest amount of time and used 37p worth of energy – over 7 times more than the microwave.
Cooking results were strong across the board but the oven was best for crispy skin.
Emily Seymour, Which? Energy Editor, said:
“Energy bills are a real concern for millions of households across the country, especially when many are already feeling the pressures of the cost of living crisis, and cooking is one of the everyday costs that really mount up over time.
“There has been a surge of interest in air fryers and smaller cooking appliances in recent months, and our research shows that the hype could be justified in some cases, as we’ve found these products cost less to cook certain foods than conventional ovens.
“The cost savings will soon be lost if you have to cook more than one batch though, so it’s still better to use your oven if you’re cooking large quantities. But for quick, small meals, we’ve found that it’s worth trying out the alternatives.”
Notes to editors:
- Over the coming months, Which? is highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis.
- The products Which? tested were chosen as typical examples of each product type. Which? selected several recipes and food types that could be cooked using multiple products. The quantities of all the foods were the same in each appliance (except for the cake in the air fryer) to ensure the tests were comparable.
- Not all of the appliances were used for every food type. For example, for the soup only the induction hob, pressure cooker and slow cooker were appropriate for testing.
- For full results tables click here
- A 1.3-1.4kg chicken, enough for around three to four portions
- 320g of frozen chips, enough for approximately two to three portions
- A basic three egg cake. The quantity was reduced for the air fryer in order to fit in the basket.
- A smooth butternut squash soup.
- 300g of broccoli, divided into florets, was steamed using a steaming basket/insert.
- One jacket potato, approximately 200g. The microwave we tested had an automatic programme for cooking jacket potatoes.
The appliances Which? used:
- Built-in electric oven – Bosch Series 2 HHF113BR0B
- Induction hob – Grundig GIEI623410MX
- Microwave – John Lewis JLSMWO08
- Air fryer – Morphy Richards Health Fryer 480003
- Slow cooker – Cookworks 6.5L Slow Cooker – 699/2679
- Pressure cooker – Ninja OL750UK Ninja Foodi MAX 15-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker 7.5L
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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