How to buy the best slow cooker

Looking for a delicious dinner, but trying to save some money? A slow cooker might be the answer.

The best slow cookers make it easy to create recipes from cheaper cuts of meat, a variety of vegetables, or whatever else is left in your fridge, for a simple, inexpensive meal.

And what’s even better is that the cooking is made for you.

If you don’t know where to start, this guide will walk you through what you need to consider before choosing a slow cooker.

Do you just want to see the best models? See you in our overview of best slow cookers.

Types of slow cooker

Slow cookers are simple and easy to use devices. They come in two basic forms:

  • Tower – generally smaller cooking capacity, can be cheaper, smaller size.
  • oval – can be larger, with more space to hold bulky foods, such as a whole chicken or a leg of lamb

An oval shaped slow cooker is more versatile, so if you plan to batch cook a vegetarian chili or tackle a whole chicken or a leg of lamb then you will be better off with an oval shape. It’s harder to wedge a chicken in a round slow cooker, and you’ll have a hard time removing it in one piece. The larger capacity also lends itself well to batch cooking.

A smaller round slow cooker may be ideal if you’re cooking for one or two people or aren’t worried about having a lot of leftovers to freeze.

If you plan to cook only stews or curries, either shape will work fine – just choose the one that’s large enough for your needs.

Looking for an easier way to cook rice? See our overview of best rice cookers.

How much do I have to pay to have a decent slow cooker?

Slow cookers can be inexpensive. We’ve seen these for as little as £ 9 in the past, but our best buys start at around £ 35, proving that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a decent slow cooker.

Some of the more expensive slow cookers we’ve tested cost up to £ 100. These models have digital controls, timers, and even multicooker options, but price doesn’t always equate to value.

Our rigorous testing also revealed a Don’t Buy of £ 13, so before you commit to spending more than you need to, it pays to read our independent slow cooker reviews to avoid an unnecessary slow cooker – even if that seems a big deal. little to negotiate.

Filter our slow cooker review to find one for your budget.

What size slow cooker do i need?

Vegetables in a slow cooker

Don’t be fooled by what the box says about your slow cooker size, and don’t be swayed by the commercial promising gallons of space.

It may promise six liters on the can, but you won’t get six liters of your favorite recipe in the cooking bowl.

Most slow cookers have a large claimed capacity, but the usable cooking space is about two-thirds of its declared capacity – that’s because it’s a safety risk if you overfill your slow cooker.

We check declared and actual cooking capacities, and list them in the specifications, so you can find the right size slow cooker for your household.

Generally speaking, sizes fall into the following categories (indicating capacities indicated):

  • Small (1-2 people): 1.5 to 3 liters
  • Average (3-4 people): 3 to 5 liters
  • Big (5 people or more): 5 to 6.5 liters

For a bulk family kitchen, look for an advertised capacity of around 6 liters (which corresponds to a useful volume of around 4.5 liters). This will feed five to eight people at one time or is ideal if you like batch cooking for the freezer.

If you’re cooking for one or two and don’t intend to freeze leftovers, choose a smaller 3.5-liter slow cooker (usable volume about 2 liters).

The best slow cooker features to look out for

What settings do I need?

The range of settings for your slow cooker will depend on how much you are spending. Most basic slow cookers will have a high, low, and possibly keep warm setting, which you will need to select manually. So if you aren’t too bothered with something more fancy then save the money and go for a basic slow cooker.

Slow cookers with digital controls and other cooking options are generally more expensive, but have more options and are a bit more versatile. Check out the different slow cooker settings below, or use our guide on getting the most out of your slow cooker to help you know which settings are best for different foods.

Seeing

It sounds obvious, but an indicator light will instantly let you know your slow cooker is on and running. Not all slow cookers have one, especially very basic models.

Keep warm

This useful setting does exactly what it says – it will keep your food warm after cooking is finished. Typically, this is a setting that you manually select on many slow cookers, but some more expensive models have the option of automatically switching to the keep warm setting.

Automatic kitchen

Cooking in automatic mode means that the machine starts at high power and then goes down to low power for the remainder of the cooking time. Some will even automatically switch to “keep warm” for you at the end of cooking. Auto cook settings can be found on mid-range slow cookers, so you don’t have to spend too much to get this useful addition.

Timer

A built-in timer is handy, but they are usually found on more expensive models with digital controls. They are ideal if you are going to be away from the slow cooker for longer than the recipe suggests. Once the cooking time you set on the timer has been reached, the slow cooker will switch to the “keep warm” setting or stop. This means your food will always be ready to eat when you are, without overcooking it.

Hotplate resistant pots

Some slow cookers have an inner pot that can be used first on the hob. Some can be used on electric, gas, and (less often) induction hobs, but you’ll need to check before you buy. This is a great feature to look out for if you like to sear meat or caramelize vegetables before slow cooking. It also helps cut down on dishes, makes cooking easier, and can add flavor to your dish.

Pot material

Ceramic and stoneware pots are generally heavier than aluminum ones, especially when filled with hot curry or saucepan. If you have trouble moving heavy pots, go for an aluminum pot. Sometimes these have a non-stick coating as well, which makes cleaning a lot easier. All of our reviews will tell you which parts of the slow cooker are dishwasher safe or should be hand washed.

Microwave / oven safe

Some slow cookers, like some slow cookers, have baking dishes that can be put in the microwave and / or oven. This can be useful for reheating food or serving as a casserole dish in the oven. If this feature sounds appealing to you, check that the baking pan check fits your microwave before purchasing.

Popular slow cookers compared

If you’re looking for an inexpensive slow cooker, we’ve tested the most popular slow cookers from a range of brands, including Morphy Richards, Russell hobbs, Crock-Pot and cheaper competitors by Argos, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Read on for a quick rundown of how key models measure up to specs, including capacity, price, and features.

Head straight to the best slow cookers to see which models we recommend.

Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Rose Gold 460016, £ 40

Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Rose Gold 460016 Slow Cooker
  • Capacity: 3.6 liters
  • Characteristics: Oval shape, medium size, three settings (low, medium and high), aluminum inner pot with non-stick coating

You can get about three or four servings of food in this sleek slow cooker, which has a matte black finish and rose gold trim. The pot can be used on both electric and gas hobs to sear ingredients before slow cooking. It has manual controls and comes with cooking instructions as well as 13 recipes. The oval shape is useful if you want to take out stews while roasting meat.

See the whole Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Rose Gold 460016 review to see if it can make a delicious casserole on both settings.

Take a look at all our Morphy Richards Slow Cooker Reviews.

Crock-Pot CSC052 Lift & Serve, £ 45

Crock-Pot CSC052 Lift & Serve Slow Cooker
  • Capacity: 4.3 liters
  • Characteristics: Round shape, medium size, three settings (low, high and keep warm), stoneware inner pot

This premium slow cooker features a dishwasher-safe hinged lid for easy serving. The pot cannot be used on the hob, but this slow cooker has electronic controls and a countdown timer to let you know how long it will take to cook. It’s large enough to feed three people and there are nine recipes included for culinary inspiration. The lid and pan are dishwasher safe, and the keep warm feature will keep food warm for at least an hour.

See the whole Crock-Pot CSC052 Lift & Serve Reviews to find out if it’s worth the hefty price.

Take a look at all our Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Reviews.

The best slow cookers – go directly to the models we recommend

Slow Cooker Recipes: Where Can I Find Them?

Many slow cookers come with a cookbook, or at least a few recipes in the instruction manual to get you started. They should also give a guide on how to convert recipes for slow cooking – reducing the amount of liquid, for example.

But if you’re short on inspiration, a quick internet search will give you plenty of other slow cooker recipes to try. There is no end to what your slow cooker can do, and even your favorite recipes can be adapted.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Stews, stews and curries
  • Risotto
  • Dishes made with legumes such as dal
  • Chili, bolognese and even lasagna
  • Porridge
  • Hot drinks such as mulled wine and hot chocolate
  • Faking

Slow cooker vs pressure cooker

Slow cooking uses low temperatures, while pressure cooking uses high pressure steam, but both methods allow you to prepare meals with tender meat and a great depth of flavor. The main difference is the weather. Slow cookers take several hours to cook a meal, while pressure cook times are much shorter.

Like some slow cookers, electric pressure cookers can also double as multicookers, with some that can slowly cook, steam, or even air fry your food. This added feature makes these slow cookers more expensive than the base models.


Don’t have time to simmer? Head to our best pressure cookers rather.

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