Using a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot instead of an oven saves money

Using a Slow Cooker or Instant Pot instead of an oven saves money ...

This story is part of CNET's Home Tips collection of practical advice on how to get the most out of your home, inside and out.

Slow food is no longer a problem, be it braised beef short ribs, slow-cooked baby backs, or a savory mound of pulled pork, these foods take longer to prepare, but they are worth every minute. One disadvantage of slow cooking is that it may cost you money in the long run. (Note that your oven will emit some serious heat during these hot summer months.) Other appliances, such as slow cookers and pressure cookers, can recreate the results of slow oven cooking without using all

With monthly utility bills as high as they are, there is no wrong way to save money. One of those might be utilizing a slow cooker or Instant Potover the oven, which both consume significantly less energy per hour than a full-size oven. For slow-cooked dishes and dishes, that extra hundred dollars might save you money.

I did the math, and you might be surprised at how much energy it takes to prepare a 5- to 6-pound pork shoulder with each.

Need some advice? Here are the top Instant Pots and best Instant Pot accessories for 2022.

Appliance Max wattage pull Cost per hour of cooking Total hours (6-lb. pork shoulder) Total cost
Large oven 3,000 $0.51 7 $3.57
Slow cooker (6-quart) 260 $0.05 8 $0.40
Instant Pot pressure cooker (6-quart) 1,000 $0.17 1.5 $0.26

The easiest way to see how much you would save by using a pressure cooker or slow cooker is to calculate the amount of energy you would use per hour. For the purposes of this exercise, I would use a full-size electric stove to calculate the energy consumption of a standard 6-quart crock-pot and a 6-quart Instant Pot pressure cooker. Even though you wont typically cook on high for these long sessions, the slow cooker and oven totals would likely decrease a bit.

To calculate the time it would take to prepare a large pork shoulder (traditional slow-cooked fare) with all three appliances, I used one of the Food Networks' top-rated recipes for each. It's worth noting off the bat that pressure cooking with an Instant Pot takes significantly less time than slow cooking in an oven or a Crock-Pot.

Ovens are fantastic for low-speed cooking, but they consume about 90% more energy than a countertop slow cooker.

How much does it cost to use an electric oven?

Calculate the amount of energy that you'll need to burn per hour of cooking. Most electric ovens consume around 3,000 watts, depending on the temperature.

Electricity rates vary greatly by state. To find yours, consult this chart with the 2020 prices listed in cents per kWh. The prices for 2021 will only be released until December 2022, but if you do some searching, you should be able to find the most recent prices.

Calculate the amount of electricity used per oven (either on the appliance label, the owners manual, or an online product listing) and divide by 1,000 watts (1 kilowatt) to determine the amount of kWh per day.

Next, determine the US Energy Information Administration's average cost per kWh of electricity in your state for the year, and multiply that amount by the number you just calculated (3, in this example) to calculate your operating cost per day.

A 3,000-watt oven in New York would cost me about 51 cents per hour, compared to a 6-pound boneless pork shoulder in the main oven.

Appliances that have a wattage pull of around 300 watts aren't much more energy-efficient than the slow cooker.

What is the cost of using a slow cooker?

Slow cookers are also electric, so youll need to perform the same testing as above to determine their price. Smaller slow cookers will consume more energy, and larger ones will consume more energy. A 6-quart Crock-Pot slow cooker has a maximum output of 260 watts.

A six-quart slow cooker will cost around 5 cents per hour, which is 91% more energy-efficient than a typical full-size electric oven. The pork shoulder dish calls for eight hours of cooking, which would cost you a total of about 40 cents using a slow cooker.

The Instant Pot (pressure cooker) reveals itself as the most energy-efficient method to obtain that succulent, slow-cooked result.

How much does a regular Instant Pot cost to use?

A four-pound pork shoulder cut into pieces cooked in an Instant Pot requires one hour of cooking. Depending on the setting, an instant pot will draw different amounts of energy. For pressure cooking, a standard 6-quart model will consume roughly 1,000 watts, or one-third the energy consumption of a big oven.

We can estimate that pressure cooking in New York State would cost you about 17 cents per hour. Because this recipe is for a smaller pork shoulder cut in pieces, Ill add 30 minutes to the cook time. That would net a grand total of about 26 cents to cook a similar 6-pound cut of meat that has not been diced into pieces in an Instant Pot.

Pull pork may be prepared in an oven, slow cooker, or Instant Pot, but one will cost you significantly more in terms of energy.

How much can a slow cooker or Instant Pot save you?

The big oven is the most costly of these three methods of cooking low and slow by a good margin. While this might seem small, expanding it out over a year of long braises and slow cooks might save you a lot of money on your overall energy bill. If you slow cook once per week, you might save $150 for the year.

Every Instant Pot is a slow cooker, thus there is no need to purchase both.

One major consideration is that not all people are created equal.

One big caveat is that while they may be similar in some ways, they may not produce the exact same results. Many people swear by braising meats and slow cooking in the real oven, even if it takes longer and costs more, although certain recipes come close. Slow cookers are also problematic because to their tendency to make food appear mushy, not just tender, when used for extended periods.

Bonus: Instant Pots are inexpensive, and slow cookers are even cheaper.

If it's the temptation to pay a lot more for a slow cooker or Instant Pot, you'll most likely not want to shell out a ton of money to get one: A 6-quart Instant Pot costs around $80 (less if you find one on sale) and slow cookers cost around $35 (less) so there's no need to stock your kitchen with both.

More money-saving suggestions

You may also like: