For many of us, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It's a place to gather, connect, share stories, and share meals — but whether you're busy prepping Michelin star dishes or stovetop Mac and Cheese, odds are you're spending more on energy than you'd like to.
Fortunately, smart buying decisions and even smarter shifts to our behavior can significantly reduce our consumption and save us money on our electrical bills — and looking at our hot meal habits is a great place to start.
Cooktops and ovens are staples for everyday meal prep in the U.S., with 79 percent of families cooking at least one hot meal daily. But how efficient are these appliances — and what can we do to ensure we're using them to the best of our ability?
Well, the good news is, that's what this blog post is all about. Keep reading for everything you need to know, from lifestyle tips to the makes and models worth investing in.
First things first, how much energy are these appliances actually using? Unfortunately, the answer isn't as straightforward as you might hope because it all comes down to each household's individual usage.
To get a better understanding, let's take a look at the typical U.S. home. 89 percent of households in the U.S. own an oven and cooktop (also referred to as a range), and within these households, the cooktop is used an average of eight times per week, and the oven three.
Typically, a small burner uses roughly 1,200 watts of power per hour, while a larger burner, cooking on high, can use up to 3,000 watts in the same amount of time. The same goes for ovens.
Generally, using your range for seven hours per week equates to just over 1000 kWh of energy consumed annually, or roughly $190 on California's current average electrical rates. While shifting usage to off-peak hours, like later in the evenings, can save quite a bit of money, unless you're midnight meal prepping, it's only sometimes a convenient solution. So what else can we do?
One of the simplest ways to reduce energy usage when prepping hot meals is to adjust your habits and consider alternative, more efficient appliances to help you get the job done.
SLOW COOKERS: A slow cooker uses around 75-200 watts per hour, depending on its temperature setting, which means you can have a hot meal prepping all day long and still use less energy than you would when cooking on a standard range. Plus, you get to come home to a delicious-smelling home cooked dinner, ready to sit down and eat — win!
ELECTRIC KETTLES: Ditch the stovetop when it comes to your afternoon tea! Electric kettles are a mainstay in most European homes, and for good reason! They use WAY less energy than boiling water on your cooktop, and due to better insulation, they're far quicker, too.
TOASTER OVENS: Cooking for one or just reheating some leftovers? Opt for a toaster oven to save time and energy! They use nearly half the power of a standard-sized oven and produce far less heat in the kitchen — a massive bonus when cooking during those hot and sticky summer months.
AIR FRYERS: Prefer an air fryer to a traditional toaster oven? Good news! The difference in energy consumption between the two is negligible. While the air fryer tends to use more power when it’s on, it also cooks food faster, evening things out. Toaster ovens still tend to be more versatile, but fortunately, you can get the best of both worlds these days with an air fryer/toaster oven combo — yes, please!
MICROWAVES: Microwaves are another great alternative for heating leftovers. They use up to 80 percent less energy than traditional ovens and 50 percent less than a standard cooktop!
RICE COOKERS: If you're a household that eats rice regularly, investing in a dedicated rice cooker may be worthwhile. Due to their insulation and automation, they're typically more efficient than the standard stovetop rice cooking method and can save you roughly $10 over the course of a year if used weekly. Plus, their ability to "set it and forget it" has made many folks in North America convert based on time-saving alone!
More of our favorite efficient countertop appliances can be found here.
In general, the average lifespan for a stovetop or oven is around 10-15 years. However, on some occasions, models can last longer.
Unfortunately, there's currently no ENERGY STAR label for residential ovens, ranges, and cooktops, making identifying efficient models trickier than other kitchen appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators. Still, there are a few things you can reflect on and look for when making a purchase to help guide your decision.
Consider the following.
There are various ways to power an oven, cooktop, or range, and each option has its pros and cons. Deciding which option is best for you is an essential first step toward purchasing a new appliance.
Gas options are a preference for many consumers. They're more efficient than their electric counterparts (three times more, to be exact!), their burners offer an immediate response to temperature changes, and the flames they produce provide a visual indicator to help judge heat levels with ease. So, what's the downside? Well, these models also tend to create the most pollutants, like methane, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide, which can contribute to health risks like childhood asthma, not to mention their harmful environmental effects.
Electric ranges are a popular, although slightly less efficient, alternative to gas appliances, providing a cooking option that does away with gas’ harmful pollutants. They produce a drier oven heat (great for browning that Sunday night roast chicken!) and come equipped with a flat, smooth cooktop surface that makes cleaning a breeze. It's a win for our health and the environment, but is there an option that's cleaner AND more efficient?
Enter induction ranges. Typically paired with an electric oven, induction ranges are the most efficient of them all. They use a process of electromagnetism to deliver 80-90 percent of the heat they produce directly to your cookware. In contrast, gas burners deliver only 38 percent and electric only 70. However, improved efficiency also means a higher price tag, and induction ranges tend to be the least budget-friendly. Plus, they require cast-iron or stainless steel cookware to work, which may mean investing in some new pots and pans if you don’t already have some at home.
And finally, there are dual-fuel ranges. Similar to how an induction range pairs an induction cooktop with an electric oven, dual-fuel ranges pair a gas cooktop with an electric oven. The pros? Gas cooktops always work, even when you're experiencing a power outage, and tend to offer faster preheating times. Additionally, electric ovens are more environmentally friendly and are known to heat more evenly. The cons? Dual-fuel ranges require BOTH an electric and a gas line hook-up, so if your home currently only has one of these options, it could mean higher installation costs.
PRO TIP! Choose a pyrolitic (self-cleaning) range if it's within your budget! Because self-cleaning ovens require the ability to withstand extreme levels of heat, they also tend to be better insulated than many traditional ovens — a feature that can lead to better energy efficiency overall!
Different ranges have differently sized oven cavities and cooktop widths. When making a purchasing decision, consider your cooking needs. How many are you cooking for? What size space do you need? The smaller the oven cavity, the less time to preheat, but a small oven size may only suit some families' needs.
These days, plenty of oven ranges come in single-oven and double-oven formats. Double ovens typically have a smaller oven up top and a larger one on the bottom. They're great if you want to cook two things at once or if you only need to cook a small meal and want to save time, energy and money by only heating the smaller cavity. However, they also tend to be pricier than traditional single ovens, so they may not suit all budgets.
PRO TIP! Convection ovens circulate warm air throughout your oven, preheating faster, cooking food quicker and requiring a lower temperature setting. It's a process that uses 20 percent less energy on average than traditional oven settings! To maximize efficiency, keep an eye out for convection functionality when shopping for your next oven.
It's also worth considering whether smart features are important to you. Many modern oven ranges include Wi-Fi capabilities, allowing you to connect your appliance to a smartphone app that monitors your oven's internal temperature, controls burners and sets timers. It's a great feature if you want to start the preheating process on your way home from work or for peace of mind on those days when you leave the house and wonder, "Did I turn that burner off?".
From gas to induction, we did a deep dive into some of the best range models on the market today. We've compiled our top picks below, alongside a breakdown of their most appealing features.
Of course, the best range for you will depend on your own unique needs, but you can use these recommendations as a jumping-off point to start your search!
Cost: $1199 at Home Depot
What this range offers:
Cost: $2049 at Home Depot
What this range offers:
Cost: $3349.00 at Home Depot
What this range offers:
Cost: $3399.00 at Home Depot
What this range offers: