Microwave versus stovetop

Most Australians have a love – hate relationship with their microwave: they’re happy to use it for reheating but not so much for cooking. So we find out whether you could be saving money if you used it more often.

Before we get started, though, let’s discuss a few things. Firstly, we’ll address the radiation issue. Microwaves are called microwaves because they emit electromagnetic radiation called microwaves to cook your food. Microwave radiation is not cancer-causing, it just causes food molecules to move faster, and it’s this motion that heats your food.

Secondly, microwaving will not adversely affect the nutrients in your food any more than heating it on the stove or in the oven. When boiling vegetables, in particular, nutrients leach into the water in which they’re cooked, so, because you use less water when heating in a microwave, you may even preserve more of the food’s nutritional value.

Now, let’s get down the the nitty gritty: microwave versus stovetop – which one will save you money?

Well, as best I can work out, cooking a pot of carrots on a stovetop will take around five minutes for the water to boil, then a further five to eight minutes to cook the carrots. Whereas, it only takes about five minutes to cook carrots in a microwave. Based on these minimum estimates, here’s a breakdown of the cooking costs:

 Appliance

 Type

 Cost per kilowatt hour

 Cooking cost

 Conventional microwave

 1300W

 34 cents

 1.7 cents

 Convection microwave

 1600W

 42 cents

 2.6 cents

 Electric hotplate

 1000W

 26 cents

 5.2 cents

 Electric hotplate

 2000W

 52 cents

 10.4 cents

 Gas cooktop

 28mJ

 56 cents

 11.2 cents

The national average cost of electricity per kilowatt hour is 26.38 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh). Costs taken from estimates by the Australian Energy Market Commission
Estimated appliance costs taken from
www.essentialenergy.com.au
Gas costs based on estimates taken from
www.essentialenergy.com.au

Surprisingly, cooking a pot of carrots on a gas stovetop was the least energy efficient of the bunch, with the microwave being at least twice as efficient as electric cooktops. It is worth mentioning that we have not assessed induction stovetops, which are twice as efficient as gas and electric stovetops. But if we were to make an estimate based on the above calculations, an induction cooker would still be less efficient than using a microwave.

So, it seems the microwave is the least expensive option, but there are still tips you can follow to save even more money.

Stovetop

  • Use clean, flat-bottomed saucepans to ensure the best heat transfer possible.
  • Always use the right-sized hotplate. If your pot covers the hotplate, you are ensured better heat transfer.
  • It’s actually more energy efficient to cook on low heat for longer rather than high heat in short bursts.

Microwave

  • Turn off your microwave at the wall because the clock on your microwave consumes more power than cooking does.
  • Defrost frozen food in the fridge rather than your microwave.
  • Using your microwave for cooking and reheating uses less energy than doing so in your standard oven (it may not taste as good though!).
  • A clean microwave will operate more efficiently than a dirty one.

Do you have any power-saving cooking tips for our members? Why not share them?

Read more at www.sustainability.vic.gov.au

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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