Home cooking every meal sounds good in theory, but in practice when we’re juggling work, family and social commitments, it’s not always possible. Buying, prepping and cooking ingredients into a delicious and nutritous dish three times a day often feels like a job all in itself.
Thankfully there are plenty of kitchen gadgets to help you shortcut restaurant-quality dishes at home, and front and centre is the mighty slow cooker.
They offer a handy solution to your evening meal woes by reducing the effort needed to make to create a delicious plate of grub - often it’s a case of simply slinging in the ingredients and pressing start.
With prices that range anywhere from £20 to a few hundred, not all of them are made equal, so finding the right one for your needs takes a little research. That’s where your trusty team of ES Best shopping supremos come in. We’ve scouted the best models available to help you get the most bang for your buck.
Below we’ve listed some of the elements you need to consider.
Tempting though it is to make a joke about the importance of size, it’s not so much about getting the biggest slow cooker you can find but, rather, about picking one that reflects the size of the meal you need to make. Bear in mind that a 4L capacity cooker won’t actually yield 4L of food - you should only be filling them up halfway with ingredients. A good guide is 1.5 to 3L for 1-2 people, 3-5L for 3-4 people and 5-6L for larger groups.
Some slow cookers just have a heating element on the bottom, whilst others have them integrated within the sides of the pot. Those with integrated heating systems are probably a little more expensive but won’t require as much stirring during the cooking process as the heat will be more evenly distributed.
Not all slow cookers come with timer settings, so it’s important to take note of the display before you buy. If you’re someone who’s home a lot, you should be fine with a cooker that works with a simple set of on/off dials. However, if you work late or tend to get home at varying times, opt for one with a countdown timer so you can relax knowing that it will have automatically turned off once the food is cooked and you won’t be coming home to, at best, a dinner of mush or, at worst, a smoky kitchen.
Tefal RK302E15 8-in-1 Multi Slow Cooker
Including a nifty carrier handle, this small but perfectly formed slow cooker is easy to move around and compact enough to fit into the tightest of kitchens.
Despite its size (big enough to cook four portions) its power makes it an efficient and high quality option with a measuring cup, spoon, steam basket and recipe booklet included, you’re given everything you need to get started on some slow-cooked dishes.
One of its best functions is the delayed start, which lets you program it 15 hours ahead (great if you want to prep your food the night before you need it) or the keep warm option that will work for up to 24 hours. With a bowl that’s removable and dishwasher safe, it’s even easy to clean too. Tefal really has thought of everything with this one.
Ninja Foodi Mini 6-in-1 Multi-Cooker 4.7L OP100UK
Why get a slow cooker when you can get a similarly sized machine that does so much more? Ninja's machine is genius on so many levels; as well as slow cook, it can pressure cook, air fry, steam, bake/roast - even sear and saute, all in one handy pot. All ingredients go into one pot, which can be slung in the washing machine once dinnertime is over. What makes this machine really special is its TenderCrisp technology which ensures succulent cuts with a golden finish at 70 per cent faster than other methods.
£149.99 | Ninja *On sale from £169.99
Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Slow Cooker
You’d be hard pressed to find a slow cooker as stylish as this Morphy Richards one, which comes in a fetching matte black and rose gold combo. Aesthetics aside, it has plenty to offer function-wise: thanks to the sear function, you don’t have to brown off meat in a separate pan and there are even options for baking.
With a removable inner crock that’s easy to clean, a dial that even the most technophobic could handle and a glass lid for monitoring progress, it’s got everything you need to whip up a one-pot meal with ease.
CROCK-POT SCCPRC507B-060 Slow Cooker - Black
From Crock-Pot, the best known slow cooker company, comes this digital model. Available in glossy black, it’s a good size for a larger family as it will yield enough food for around five or six people. With two sturdy handles the model is easy to use and move from cupboard to work surface and having the lid attached eliminates the risk of losing or dropping it.
Though on first glance the interface looks a little complicated, with a quick read through the instruction manual you’ll find that it offers a reliable set of useful functions that are easy to key in. It comes with a timer function and the digital display handily shows you exactly how long it has left to cook.
Sage Fast Slow Pro Slow Cooker
With controls that are clear and easy to follow, this is a simply designed but powerful slow cooker. We love the digital screen, which allows you to select the kind of dish you’re making (such as risotto, curry and soup) and adjusts its settings accordingly.
With a 6L capacity, it’s large enough to feed around six people comfortably and the powerful 1100W motor ensures dishes are heated thoroughly. It also comes with a handy Keep Warm function, which allows you to keep food heated to serving temperature for up to two hours.
£149 | Currys *On sale from £199
Lakeland 1.5L Slow Cooker
Another great one for people only cooking for themselves or for two, this Lakeland slow cooker will get the job done for just under £30. There are three heat settings (low, medium and high) that allow you to control the speed and temperature at which your meal is cooked and the glass lid allows you to keep an eye on its progress.
Best of all, this has one of those all-encompassing heating elements we mentioned earlier, meaning your food will be heated evenly. The crock is also removable and dishwasher safe - you get a lot of bang for your buck with this one. Comes with a three year guarantee.
Russell Hobbs 22750 Maxicook Digital Slow Cooker
Though this one comes with the standard three heat settings, its delayed timer function makes it one of the best for large families. Rather than having to turn it on as soon as you leave for work, you can set it to start later in the day, meaning that by the time you arrive home you’ll have a hot meal ready and waiting. This also means you’re less likely to overcook meat - one of the biggest risks when using a slow cooker. Light and fairly slimline it’s easy to store as well.
Yeeyo Electric Multi Cooker
Want more from your slow cooker? This stylish non-stick design offers three in one functionality: it can slow cook, yes, but also be used as a frying pan and a hot plate to boot. It makes cooking (and clean-up) a whole lot easier - you can practically do it all in one pot. Small in size, it's portable too, so you can use it outdoors as well as in. Al fresco fondue anyone?
£60.99 | Amazon *On sale from £79.99
Tefal Cook4Me+ CY851840 Electric Pressure Cooker
When time is tight to get dinner on the table, this small Tefal slow cooker can have food ready in as little as 15 minutes. Stuck for inspiration? Turn to the free Cook4Me app, a digital recipe book with more than 250 tasty ideas. The fact it's so easy to use makes it perfect for first time users and students, who can batch cook and freeze extra portions to save funds. Simply follow the on-screen prompts, and away you go.
£141 | Very *On sale from £199.99
For both price and functionality, the Tefal 8-in-1 Multi Cooker takes our top spot. The designers have really thought about what the customer wants from a slow cooker and the delayed timer and compact size make it a really handy model. Ninja’s 6-in-1 multicooker comes a close second for the sheer range of cooking capabilites but it is pricey and rather large, so you’ll need to ensure you have the money and space to welcome it.