Air fryers are usually hailed as a money-saving (not to mention, time-saving) appliance, perfect for midweek meals and busy families.
But personal finance expert Martin Lewis recently shared there might be some caveats to the appliance’s supposed penny-pinching qualities – depending on the meal you’re making and the amount of time you need to cook it.
Speaking on The Martin Lewis Podcast, the money-saving pro shared his equation for working out the best energy-saving cooking methods for different foods.
And he revealed using the same appliance every time isn’t necessarily going to save you money.
How to work out your energy costs
“General equation is, find the wattage of an item, then work out how many kilowatts or what fraction of a kilowatt it’s using, then multiply that by 34p per hour of use,” Lewis shared on his podcast.
“If you had a 1000W microwave and you put it on for 10 minutes, one KWH for a sixth of an hour, a sixth of 34p is about 6p, shall we say? So it’s 6p turning the microwave on for that amount of time. So yes it’s a very useful equation.”
Of course, if you (like me) can’t be bothered to do the maths, Lewis has some simpler suggestions.
“The problem with the equation for heating equipment is an oven is going to be about 2000W,” he said, meaning that when it comes to revving up a whole oven for the sake of something small, there’s really no competition.
“A microwave gives you consistent heat whereas an oven is warming up to full temperature and then topping it up so it isn’t running at full power the whole time,” he said.
So, “if you’re doing a jacket potato for 10 minutes it’s going to be far cheaper [in the microwave] than doing a single jacket potato in an oven and keeping it on for an hour and a half”.
But it gets trickier for bigger, more involved meals with longer cooking times.
“However if you were doing a full roast dinner and you were cooking many of them, that is where it’s probably cheaper than putting five or six jacket potatoes in a microwave because each additional object you put in a microwave, you need to keep it on longer because a microwave just heats the individual object,” Lewis added.
What about my air fryer?
A 1,500W air fryer costs 51p for an hour compared to an oven’s 68p, per Northern Echo.
But to reiterate Lewis’ sentiment, research by Which? found that while you “can make considerable energy savings with an air fryer compared to an oven or hob, particularly if you’re only cooking small amounts. The same applies to a microwave... the savings soon drop off if you have to cook in batches.”
“So if you’re cooking a large amount of food, the oven or hob may still be the most economical choice,” they found.
And then there’s the upfront cost of an air fryer to consider, too.
“You would have to cook 476 roast chickens before you made back enough money to pay off that original £100 purchase,” Which? shared, adding that “the air fryer probably won’t be your savior against the cost of living crisis as it will take a long time before you see a return on your investment”.
Ultimately, you should go with whatever is easiest, fastest and most enjoyable for you – an air fryer or microwave will be cheaper for smaller, quicker meals, but the price difference shrinks the longer you’re cooking and larger your meals get.
And, if I can, please let me share praise for the humble slow cooker, which I feel has been unfairly abandoned in all the appliance chat. It costs just 4.5p an hour (or 36p for an eight-hour stew), and mine cost me a tenner second-hand.