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What is cheaper, cooking in a microwave or in a traditional oven or hob?

costs of microwave against oven cookingWhat is cheaper, cooking in a microwave or in a traditional oven or hob? Research has been carried out into the costs of the different cooking methods for various different meals*. The research compared microwave cooking with cooking with an electric oven and hob and identified that savings can be made by making greater use of a microwave for certain types of food.

The first table compares some foods traditionally cooked on a hob with a microwave oven.

Energy cost comparison of some foods traditionally cooked on a hob with a microwave oven and CO2 emissions.
Microwave Electric Hob
4 Portions frozen vegetables
Average Time taken 6 min 17 min
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.143 0.407
Energy cost £0.027
(0.1kg)
£0.076
(0.1kg)
4 Portions of boiled new potatoes
Average Time taken 6 min 30 sec 24 min 30 sec
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.15 0.50
Energy cost £0.028
(0.1kg)
£0.094
(0.2kg)
3 Portions baked beans
Average Time taken (mins:sec) 8 min 9 min
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.19 0.11
Energy cost £0.036
(0.1kg)
£0.021
(0kg)
4 Portions of Porridge
Average Time taken (mins:sec) 11 min 13 min 30 sec
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.26 0.24
Energy cost £0.049
(0.1kg)
£0.045
(0.1kg)

The research showed that the microwave oven was more energy efficient and cheaper than the hob for foods which are usually boiled in lots of water such as vegetables. When these are cooked in a microwave only small amounts of water are needed and cooking is much quicker, whereas on a hob lots of water is used and it takes a long time to come to the boil and then cook. For heating up or warming up food such as baked beans or porridge then the hob proved to be cheaper or about the same cost.

The table below compares the costs of microwave cooking for foods traditionally cooked in the oven.

Energy cost comparison of some foods traditionally cooked in the oven with a microwave and CO2 emissions.
Microwave Electric Oven
2 Baked potatoes
Average Time taken 10 min 1 hour
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.232 0.916
Energy cost £0.043
(0.1kg)
£0.171
(0.3kg)
Medium lasagne
Average Time taken 8 min 30 sec 30 min
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.20 0.62
Energy cost £0.037
(0.1kg)
£0.116
(0.2kg)
Indian ready meal
Average Time taken 19 min 30 min
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.42 0.66
Energy cost £0.079
(0.2kg)
£0.123
(0.2kg)
Frozen ready meal for 2
Average Time taken 15 min 40 min
Energy consumption (kWh) 0.35 0.72
Energy cost £0.065
(0.1kg)
£0.135
(0.3kg)
Roast chicken
Average Time taken 26 min 1 hr 30 min
Energy consumption (kWh) 1.02 1.32
Energy cost £0.191
(0.4kg)
£0.247
(0.5kg)

The table shows that for most meals a microwave oven is cheaper than an electric oven. Generally speaking the greater the time differences between the different cooking methods the greater the savings. However it should be noted that the advantage of the microwave oven is reduced if multiple foods/meals are cooked in a conventional oven together. For example roasting a chicken with all the vegetables at the same time as opposed to separately in a microwave. Oh and Microwave Chicken, yuk.

It should also be noted that this research only compares microwave costs with electric oven and hob costs, it did not cover gas cooking which is cheaper than electric:

See gas cooking vs electric cooking...

*Market Transformation Programme: BNCK07: Comparing energy use in microwave ovens with traditional electric fuelled methods

Comments and Questions

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Electric Kettle - I Cockayne  2017-03-10 22:54:57
How does a 800w microwave oven compare to a 3kw electric kettle for boiling 250ml of water?
reply - rdh  2017-03-11 20:48:57
dunno good question, will find out
Electric Kettle - I Cockayne  2017-03-10 22:50:59
How does 900w microwave oven compare to a 3kw electric kettle for boiling 250ml water?
Mr - Eric Palmer  2016-04-20 19:24:09
The only way to roast with a microwave is to use something to change the microwaves to heat. As I said before advantage of a microwave is it heats even be it outside or centre so large items the centre starts to cook quicker. But even with something like a roast potato if the cooker is well insulated then it can cook it as cheap as a microwave. But the taste will be different.
Combi microwave v electric oven - Lesley mcintyre  2016-04-09 12:01:05
Hi, would it be cheaper to use a combo microwave to say, roast a chicken than the electric cooker? I'm about to buy a microwave, and not sure whether to buy a microwave only, or a combi. My objective is to save energy only!
Microwave Cooking Vs Conventional Cooking - Eric Palmer  2014-07-20 13:54:03
There are so many variables it would think near impossible to compare. Using an induction hob, like the microwave all power goes into the pan or food so it’s down to efficiency of the device and the amount of non food that is heated be it water or metal. Using a pressure cooker will clearly reduce time and therefore cost, but I use a pressure cooker (special plastic one) in the microwave.
The point is the results don't taste the same. So even if there was a standard microwave and standard oven and hob rather a pointless exercise.
Time converter - Lynn Pearce  2013-03-21 13:32:31
Please give me a time converter from gas oven to microwave 800w
microwave V gas - joe  2010-12-29 13:07:40
can you please compare the above microwave cooking against gas?