BACKGROUND: Compared with other methods, the stationary liquid mass balance method for oxygen uptake rate (OUR) determination offers advantages in terms of estimation accuracy and reduction of stress. However, the need for sophisticated instrumentation, like mass flow controllers and gas analysers, has historically limited wider implementation of such a method. In this paper, a new simplified method based on inexpensive valves for the continuous estimation of OUR in animal cell cultures is evaluated. The determination of OUR values is based on accurate operation of the dissolved oxygen (DO) control loop and monitoring of its internal variables. RESULTS: The method developed was tested empirically in 2 L bioreactor HEK293 batch cultures. OUR profiles obtained by a dynamic method, global mass balance method and the developed simplified method were monitored and compared. The results show how OUR profile obtained with the proposed method better follows the off-line cell density determination. The OUR estimation frequency was also increased, improving the method capabilities and applications. The theoretical rationale of the method was extended to the sensitivity analysis which was analytically and numerically approached. CONCLUSIONS: The results showed the proposed method to be not only cheap, but also a reliable alternative to monitor the metabolic activity in bioreactors in many biotechnological processes, being a useful tool for high cell density culture strategies implementation based on OUR monitoring.