10 best slow cookers that help you rustle up a feast with minimal effort
Create hearty, succulent dishes with one of these trusty appliances
First available in the 1970s, the slow cooker was a kitchen gadget that quickly became a must-have for people who wanted a convenient way to produce tasty meals at a low cost and with minimal effort.
Generally, the cheaper ones don’t have fancy features such as a timer, digital controls and keep-warm – whereas the pricier models offer at least some of these and sometimes do extra tasks such as sautéing, searing and steaming.
We tested all these functions as part of our reviews, but ultimately we were won over (or not) but the tastiness and succulence of the food.
Take note of what the bowl is made of and whether it’s dishwasher, oven and hob-proof and remember that a 5L slow cooker won’t give you 5L worth of dinner because the usable cooking space is generally around two-thirds of the stated capacity.
As a general rule of thumb, a 1.5-3L slow cooker will feed one or two people; a machine that’s 3-5L will serve three or four people; and anything between 5-5.5L will feed four to five people; while a 6.5L machine will feed six to eight people.
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Morphy Richards sear and stew slow cooker 460016: £30, Amazon
With most slow cookers, you have to forgo searing your meat unless you’re prepared to brown it off in a separate pan first. Not so with this clever machine that allows you to do both, making this a one-stop pot for a hearty dinner. The dishwasher safe glass lid means you can check on your meal as it cooks without releasing any heat, and the 3.5L capacity easily feeds three to four people (and fits a whole chicken). It’s smarter looking than most, even featuring the notoriously trendy rose gold colour. But unfortunately, there’s no keep-warm function.
Lakeland 2-pot slow cooker: £59.99, Lakeland
If you like the idea of cooking more than one pot of food at a time but the three-pot slow cooker (also reviewed here) feels a bit overkill, then feast your eyes on this. The ceramic cooking pots work independently of each other so you can do one main dish and a side or pud at the same time and each has a low and high setting, plus keep-warm. We found the stoneware pots robust and non-stick – and they look good on the table, so no need to transfer to a serving dish – while the glass lids allow for monitoring cooking. Everything can go in the dishwasher afterwards. But the cooking pots are 2L each, which might be too small for some.
Crock-Pot lift and serve 4.7L digital slow cooker: £44.99, Amazon
This machine, from the original slow cooker brand, produces mouth-watering tagines, succulent joints and tasty puddings – and there’s enough to feed a family of four. The hinged lid is great for clean freaks as any condensation just drips back in, and you can remove it for easy cleaning (this, plus the bowl, can go in the dishwasher). Other handy features include the adjustable timer (from 30 minutes to 20 hours) and digital display, so you never have to guess how long is left. There are three settings – low, high and keep-warm, we thought the recipes in the booklet were rather good too.
Morphy Richards sear stew and stir slow cooker 461010: £69.99, Amazon
This is a one-stop-shop for preparing dinner in minimal time, thanks to the fact that it sears and stews, then the removable paddle can stir automatically if needs be. There’s also a pulse mode, as well as four different heat settings. The non-stick pot is much lighter than most and can go on the hob – handy if you need to finish something off – while the glass lid allows for checking on progress. The 3.5L pot is pretty average size-wise – ideal for a family of four – and everything feels very well engineered. But it’s not as modern looking as some.
Sage the fast slow pro: £119, Amazon
As pricey as this may be, it is so much more than a slow cooker. You can use this one-pot wonder for fast cooking too, as it doubles up as a pressure cooker, as well as being able to sear, saute, reduce and steam. We enjoyed some delicious soups and rice dishes, among other things. It’s got all sorts of features (this is a brand with Heston Blumenthal behind it) that monitor food types and tell you what’s happening during the cooking process. There's a keep-warm function that lasts up to two hours and it’s easy to clean, too.
Russell Hobbs chalkboard slow cooker: £24.96, Amazon
We love this quirky slow cooker, the matte powder coating allows you to write on it. So whether it’s “hands off until dinner time!” or “Veronica’s venison stew”, get the chalk at the ready for your feisty or frivolous messages. The 3.5L capacity caters for up to four people and there are three heat settings, including a keep-warm feature– perfect if anyone is running late. But frustratingly, removing the “write on me” branded sticker makes a horrible sticky, gooey mess – nail polish remover was the only thing that would remove ours.
Bella Cook and serve 3 pot slow cooker: £39.95, Amazon
The USP here is the option to cook more than one dish at a time, with a keep-warm function that means the food can all stay in its respective pots until you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t get much more hassle-free than that. Great for small dinner parties, the pots even have spoon indentations and lid stands. We tried making curries, with good results. There’s more washing up (although the stoneware pots and glass lids can go in the dishwasher) and you’ll have to find extra storage space as it’s pretty bulky. But for slow-cooking on mass, we think it’s worth investing in.
George at Asda grey compact slow cooker: £10, Asda
This light grey 1.8L slow cooker is aimed at households with one or two people (and, at a stretch, three) and makes rich sauces and super stews which it served up piping hot. It has two heat settings, a glass lid and dishwasher friendly ceramic bowl – and it’s a doddle to clean and to store away. At a mere tenner, it’s an absolute bargain so students, take note – although be warned there’s no keep-warm function.
Crock-Pot family multi and slow cooker: £119, John Lewis & Partners
This will set you back a bit, but costs hardly anything to run. It’s big at 5.6L and is much more versatile than most, enabling you to bake, roast, sauté, steam and slow cook. It’s a doddle to work and use, with the five pre-set programmes (although you can manually change the cooking times and temperatures too, which is good for precision cooking). We tried fish, veg and a cake and minimalised the washing up to practically zero. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect – the keep-warm function, a robust glass lid and even a countdown timer so you know when to bung the rice or tatties on.
Tower 6.5L slow cooker: £49.49, Tower
You won’t mind if the neighbours all invite themselves to dinner with this stainless steel machine, which has an extra large capacity of 6.5L – ideal for batch cooking or homes with more hungry mouths to feed than most. There are two heat settings, plus keep-warm, and a glass lid. It’s quite bulky, which you’d expect given the larger size, but the non-slip feet means it stays put and the pot is easy to take out and clean up afterwards. Our meat didn’t dry out, sauces stayed succulent and our curry was as scrummy as they come. It would have been nice to have a delay timer at this price, though.
The verdict: Slow cookers
The Morphy Richards sear and stew slow cooker stands out from the crowd not just in terms of looks but practicality, not least because you can sear the meat first. We’re also big fans of the Lakeland 2-Pot slow cooker and the Bella cook and serve 3 pot slow cooker – ideal for simultaneously cooking different dishes at the same time.
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