If you’re after a means of cooking that takes next to no effort, but yields delicious results, these machines are godsend – and more cost effective than always ordering takeaways
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Why buy a slow cooker?
Slow cookers are a must for anyone who’s looking to make cooking easier. The appliances make cooking all kinds of dishes a doddle: you simply plug them in, prepare your ingredients, go about your day and leave it to do its job for at least four hours. By the time you come back, your meal will be ready and perfectly cooked, without you needing to stir, check or add ingredients in the meantime.
Convenience isn’t the only reason to go for a slow cooker. They’re energy-efficient and economical to run, they offer a healthier method of cooking and they also allow you to maximise and retain the nutrients and flavours in your ingredients.
What is out there?
So what kind of slow cooker should you opt for? Slow cookers range from those that cost under £15 for a basic option, to those costing hundreds of pounds for a gadget with multiple functions. Which one you should go for depends on your lifestyle.
Do you simply need a cooker in which you can chuck all your ingredients and come back to a perfectly cooked meal? If so, a cheap and cheerful option will probably suit you well.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit fancier with more advanced functions, you can invest in a cooker with smart features, such as those that allow you to steam, sear or sauté.
Consider the size
You should also consider what size to go for, as this can range hugely across slow cookers and you’ll need to find somewhere to store it. If you don’t have much storage space and you’re cooking for yourself only, a small, 1.5L slow cooker will probably be ideal, whereas if you’re cooking for a larger family, you might want to size up to one of 6L or more.
We tested a range of slow cookers across different budgets, cooking a range of meals in them to test out their various features. We took into account the appearance of the slow cookers, their functions and features, their value for money, their ease of use and how effectively they cooked and retained flavours. Whatever your budget and priorities, you’ll find a slow cooker to suit.
Sage the Fast Slow Pro
If you’re a keen chef, the Fast Slow Pro from Sage is more than worth the investment.
The innovative machine allows you to choose between pressure cooking and slow cooking, with numerous settings allowing you to do everything from reducing to sautéing.
The clever LCD display allows you to choose what you’re cooking and automatically adjusts to create the optimal time, temperature and flavour to maximise flavour, whether risotto, stew or bolognese.
The display takes all the guesswork out of cooking and also tells you what’s happening inside the pot as your meal bubbles away. It comes with a handy recipe book by Heston Blumenthal which is easy to follow even for novice cooks, and the brushed stainless steel machine will also look smart in every kitchen.
Our tester found it a dream to use with the personalised settings, and loved the fact it offers both pressure and slow cooking depending on how much time you have on your hands.
Judge Electricals Slow Cooker
If you find cooking stressful and want all your gadgets to be as simple to use as possible, it doesn’t get much easier to use than this easy-as-pie slow cooker from Judge Electricals.
Available in three sizes, from 1.5L, perfect for smaller kitchens with not much storage, to 5.5L for larger families, the cooker couldn’t be simpler to use. It has three settings, low, high and keep warm, and comes with a small selection of easy recipes, so even if you’re a complete novice, you can’t go wrong.
Our tester made a tasty tomato and courgette soup using the suggested recipes, and loved using the sturdy ceramic pot, which can be used to cook and then to serve from.
It’s ideal for newbies who feel intimidated by more expensive machines with loads of features, and who just want to make cooking easier.
Morphy Richards Sear, Stew and Stir 3.5L Silver Slow Cooker
If you’re after a slow cooker that’s affordable and simple to use, but also comes with clever features, opt for the Morphy Richards Sear, Stew and Stir slow cooker.
With three heat settings, it’s easy to get the hang of in seconds, and you can cook a variety of meals for between four to 10 hours.
Its standout feature is its auto-stirring paddle, which stirs without prompting every 30 minute to ensure the ingredients are mixed regularly, which not only improves the taste but also helps retain heat in the pot without the need to lift the lid, and there’s also a ‘pulse’ feature so you can stir on demand.
We particularly liked the cooker’s non-stick aluminium pot, which means you can sear or sauté on the hob and transfer straight over to the slow cooker, making washing up easier.
Russell Hobbs Sous Vide Slow Cooker
Sous vide is a technique that involves cooking food in a vacuum-sealed pouch in water in controlled temperatures, which allows the food to retain as much flavour as possible.
This large cooker from Russell Hobbs allows you to bring this method to your kitchen, while also offering a more conventional slow cooker, all in the same device. There’s also a handy temperature probe so you can make sure whatever you’re whipping up is cooked at the optimal heat.
We loved making a variety of dishes in this handy slow cooker, with the temperature probe proving to be a helpful addition, and the sous vide function adding a new element to our cooking routine.
We found the instructions to be clear to understand, and the machine very easy to get the hang of.
Lakeland 2-Pot Slow Cooker
If you often find yourself cooking multiple dishes in one go, or want to prepare sides or desserts alongside your main dish, opt for the Lakeland 2-Pot Slow Cooker.
The handy slow cooker comes with two two-litre ceramic stew pots for simultaneous slow cooking, and with three clear heat settings, and dishwasher and oven-safe pots, it’s super-simple to use.
Our tester found the instructions clear and easy to follow, and it comes with some recipes too.
It’s a fantastic time-saving option that allows you to multitask and save time on your cooking, perfect for families or couples with different dietary preferences.
Tower 3.5L Stainless Steel Slow Cooker – Silver
If you’re after a simple, basic slow cooker for under £20, you can trust the 3.5L Stainless Steel Slow Cooker from British kitchen brand Tower.
It’s fuss-free and easy to use with three heat settings, a keep warm function and a dishwasher-safe ceramic pot that you can also serve straight from.
Best of all is its affordability – it’s a great option if you’ve never used a slow cooker before and want to experiment with recipes without the commitment involved in buying more expensive machines.
It’s also great value for money considering its generous 3.5L size, perfect for medium-sized families.