Air fryer or slow cooker: which costs less to run?

These small kitchen appliances could save you money with every meal

There’s nothing better than a hearty meal to soothe the soul, but cooking for hours isn’t quite as appealing as it used to be. Now, we’re so conscious of the amount of energy being used by appliances that the things that used to be simple pleasures now have a higher level of scrutiny placed on them.  

Nobody wants to feel under pressure to just enjoy a simple meal, though. So, it’s unsurprising that savvy chefs seeking other ways to cook are looking beyond their traditional ovens. And there are two main appliances vying for a spot on our kitchen countertops, but which costs less to run, an air fryer or slow cooker?

Couple chopping vegetables and drinking wine in their kitchenCredit: Shutterstock /
Energy bill worries shouldn’t take the joy out of cooking

Countertop appliances – such as the trusty slow cooker and new-kid-on-the-block air fryer – are proving to be more popular for people wanting to create balanced meals that won’t make a huge dent in their energy bills, helping reduce the ‘energy guilt’ that’s creeping up on us. 


How to choose the best slow cooker

Think energy consumption and capacity

Nothing else keeps food simmering at low temperature like a slow cooker (or crockpot). When you’re thinking about how to choose the best slow cooker, energy consumption and capacity should be high on the list.  

A basic slow cooker can be bought for as little as £18, or you can pay in excess of £100 for a premium model.  

More expensive slow cookers have extra features, such as auto cook or sear functions, but these are more for ease of use and aren’t necessary – a deliciously slow-cooked meal can be accomplished with even the most basic model. 

Slow cookers come in oval or circular shapes. Whole chickens and large pieces of meat such as brisket or shoulder fit better in an oval-shaped slow cooker, while a round-shaped model is well suited for soups, stews and casseroles. 

raw and uncooked Roast pork with root vegetables in a slow cookerCredit: Shutterstock / Angelika Heine
Larger meat cuts fit better in an oval slow cooker

For one or two people, a slow cooker with a capacity of 3 litres is ideal. Bear in mind that slow cookers work best when not full and the actual usable capacity of a model is around two thirds of its stated capacity.  

So, for a slow cooker that boasts a capacity of 3.5 litres, the usable cooking space will only be around 2 litres. 

Some other useful features to look out for include a glass lid, to see how the cooking is progressing without losing any heat. 

You might also want to invest in a model with a timer that helps to avoid overcooking the food by switching to a ‘keep warm’ mode if you won’t be home when it finishes (we love this function – it’s great for overnight slow-cooking too). 

A sear setting that allows you to brown meat or sauté vegetables in the same pot that’s used for slow cooking is useful too, but it can be easy to burn the base if you’re not vigilant, and that makes the slow cooker harder to use afterwards.

How much energy does a slow cooker use?

Less than a tenth of some electric ovens

Until recently, no other one-stop-shop small kitchen appliance could create healthy meals, such as a chickpea and bean masala or melt-in-the-mouth pork joint, using such small amounts of energy as a slow cooker. 

But just how much energy does a slow cooker use? Although it takes longer to cook food, slow cookers can use less than a tenth of some electric ovens, according to a recent Uswitch investigation into energy-efficient cooking

An average-sized slow cooker uses 1.3kW over an eight-hour period (162.5W per hour). The UK government’s Energy Price Guarantee currently caps electricity costs at 34p per kWh, though some fixed tariff deals may be lower, meaning that using a slow cooker would cost on average 44p per meal. 

If you were to run a traditional oven for eight hours it could cost you more than a fiver, and to run an electric grill or hob for the same amount of time could cost more than £4. A microwave fares slightly better, costing £2.18, but still nowhere near as efficient as a slow cooker.

Even if you average it out (nobody is using an oven for eight hours…) it’s still not cheaper – plus you don’t get the delicious succulence you do from slow cooking.

woman sat in her kitchen in front of her oven at a table using her smartphoneCredit: Shutterstock / Marina Andrejchenko
You can use online calculators to check how much it costs to run your oven

Most slow cookers have three or four different settings: high, low, warm and automatic. These modes control the amount of time it takes for the food to reach a point where it’s simmering before the slow cooker stabilises and continues to cook at that temperature.  

So, dishes cooked on a high setting may only take four hours, whereas meals prepared on the low setting could take eight hours. The average amount of electricity used by slow cookers is between 75-150W on low, and 150-210W on high. 

The high setting isn’t designed to be used for such a lengthy time and would likely overcook the food.

Using the current energy price, this could mean cooking your meal on a low setting for eight hours at 150W would cost just under 41p, whereas cooking for the same amount of time on a high setting (at 210W) could cost just over 57p.  

What is an air fryer?

Heats food to super-high temperatures in a short amount of time

An air fryer is a countertop appliance that uses rapid air circulation instead of oil to heat food to super-high temperatures in a short amount of time.  

Thanks to its reduced oil capacity (some recipes only need a 1-2 teaspoons), air fryers are incredibly easy to keep clean. Even top chefs are using them at home.

But the real bonus is that they use much less energy than electric, gas and fan-assisted ovens – and that’s why they’ve been enjoying a moment in the spotlight.  

A BBC Radio 4 experiment found that the best air fryers use less than half of the energy needed to cook a chicken or jacket potato in a traditional oven.  

Cooking potatoes and sweet potatoes with spices in an air fryerCredit: Shutterstock / Francisco Zeledon
Air fryers are known for cooking healthier chips

A 2 litre to 4 or 5 litre capacity air fryer is plenty for a small household

That’s ideal if there are only two diners at home, but when it comes to entertaining and creating larger meals for more people, the energy use (and cost) will of course creep up. 

The average air fryer wattage is 1.5kW, and if it were used for 60 minutes (at 34p per kWh) it would cost 51p to run. However, a typical air fryer recipe may only call for 25 minutes’ use, meaning a meal could cost as little as 21p. 

What do our team use?

Pro Breeze 5.5L Air Fryer

The Pro Breeze 5.5L Air Fryer on a white background

This air fryer really has earned its place on our worktop. I was sceptical to start with but now I’m using this most days.

Potato jackets with crispy skins, juicy plump golden sausages, great roasted veggies – and all taking less time and costing less than a conventional oven.

Working from home it’s actually been a godsend; I use it to cook part-baked or frozen bread ready for lunch without the long wait for our big oven to heat up, and it also saves so much money on electricity. Yes, there are more expensive models available but this has been great for the two of us.

Philippa Cherryson, Exercise Editor

Which costs less to run?

Air fryer comes out on top

So to the important answer, which appliance costs less to run, an air fryer or slow cooker?

The average meal costs less to cook in an air fryer than a slow cooker (21p versus 44p), so when it comes to choosing an air fryer or slow cooker to cook your meals, an air fryer is the more cost effective option

To get an idea of how much specific recipes will cost (with energy at 34p per kWh), we’ve chosen some popular dishes suited to each appliance – erring on the side of caution with timings and using the maximum allowance.  

Using this online energy calculatoran eight-hour, slow-cooked chilli con carne meal should cost around 34p, a vegetable stew – which needs slightly less time – is roughly 25p, and a whole chicken (including your veggies) would also cost 34p. Chips are an air fryer favourite, costing you around 25p. 

Of course, the cost may vary depending on the heat setting you decide to use.

Beef and black bean chili dish on dark background, top view, with small plates of accompanimentsCredit: Shutterstock / Kiian Oksana
Chilli con carne is a classic slow cooker meal

It’s worth noting with an air-fried dinner you might need to be cooking accompanying ingredients separately (by boiling, perhaps), or using the same air fryer again to cook your veg, for example.  

This blog shows you how to air fry virtually any vegetable (timings can be between 10-30 minutes depending on the veg, so add between 9-26p onto the costs of the recipes we’ve mentioned). 

Tip:  You can work out how much any household appliance costs to run using an appliance’s wattage (size- and model-dependent).  

Here’s that handy online energy calculator again, that’ll take the stress out of doing the maths. We liked that it automatically adjusted its sums with the current energy cap price in mind, but you can simply enter your own tariff to get the most accurate result.  

Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her


Rosanna Spence has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller,, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

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