A good slow cooker should be capable of producing home-cooked meals like your granny used to make, with minimum effort. It can also be a cost-saver as cheaper cuts are great for using in the slow cooker.
Don’t assume more expensive options are better. Sometimes you’re paying for fancy controls, more timer options and even auto-stir functions. Be sure that you genuinely need these if you fork out for them.
Think about the size of the pot – it’s no good buying a cheap and cheerful slow cooker that’s on offer if it only feeds two people and you have a large family. Generally speaking, 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 5-6.5L will feed five or more people. You can get bigger ones too for six or more people.
Consider how easy it is to set up, how long it takes to cook, and whether you want to be able to do extra things like roast a chicken (in which case, oval shape is better). Do you need a keep-warm setting? Or a timer that turns the machine off automatically? Do you want digital controls? And does it come with a recipe book?
1. Cookworks Slow Cooker: £20, Argos
This is a great price for a large capacity slow cooker that’s easy to use and feeds around six people, with evenly cooked results and tasty, moist sauces that didn’t dry up even after hours of cooking. We even managed to cook a leg of lamb in it and pulled pork is fantastic. The stainless steel body marks easily and it’s not as robust as other machines, but for under £20, this is an absolute bargain.
2. Morphy Richards Sear and Stew: £49, Amazon
At last – a slow cooker that looks different to all the rest. And that’s not all this machine, which feeds six to seven people, has going for it. We found it produced the richest, tastiest sauces and the most tender meat and veg, with the added benefit that you can bung the pan on the hob. It’s intuitive to use and feels like it will really last. It was much easier to clean than we anticipated too, although it does have to be switched off manually.
3. Sage The Fast Slow Pro: £200, John Lewis
This is a lot to spend on a slow cooker, but its stand-out feature is that you can use the one-pot cooker for fast cooking too, as it doubles up as a pressure cooker, as well as being able to sear, sauté, reduce and steam. It’s got all sorts of bells and whistles that monitor food types and tell you what’s happening during the cooking process, while the keep-warm function lasts up to two hours. It’s easy to clean too.
4. Vonshef 6.5L Digital Slow Cooker: £35, Domu
This is a great one for feeding the masses – around 16-20 people – thanks to the 6.5-litre capacity. Too big? There are smaller sizes available too, in 3.5L and even 1.5L. We found it well-made, robust and easy to use, with three heat settings of low, warm and high, all of which produced succulent meat and moist, flavoursome sauces. Handily, the parts are dishwasher-safe and the recipe book is good as well.
5. Russell Hobbs 19790: £25, Amazon
Whether you want a basic Irish stew or a more complex tender duck and pineapple red curry, this machine will do you proud. It will even roast a whole chicken and feeds four people comfortably. We found you get much better results on the high-heat setting, with the lower one failing to soften vegetables – particularly potatoes – or make meat succulent. Be warned that it has to be switched off manually, and have some oven gloves handy as the handles can get extremely hot.
6. Lakeland 3.5L Slow Cooker: £33, Lakeland
Here’s another machine, where you get tastier, more tender results from cooking on high. It’s lightweight with a nice ceramic pot that you can take to the table, and it feeds three to four people easily. There’s an auto-warm function for keeping food at serving temperature, but we’d have liked a better instruction booklet. If you’re unsatisfied with it, Lakeland will give you your money back.
7. Family Crock-Pot Family Slow Cooker: £58, Lakeland
Crock-Pots are as synonymous with slow cooking in the States as Hoovers are to vacuuming here. This one is sturdy and well-designed, with an automatic timer, oven and microwave safe pots, keep-warm function, and a countdown timer. Our herby bean sausage stew was delicious, although it did take longer than other machines to cook. And while the parts are dishwasher safe, the whole thing is tricky to keep looking shiny.
8. Wilko Oval Slow Cooker: £25, Wilko
We tried a slow-cooked ribs recipe in this one and it came out a treat, feeding six to seven hungry people, although it was ready a lot quicker than the recommended time. Next up was a roast chicken – also delicious, as well as succulent. The large machine was ready to use from the box, but it’s a shame it’s so heavy and has to be cleaned by hand, with no dishwasher-safe parts.
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