Best slow cookers 2021 – our top 10 for autumn stews and soups

Invest in the best slow cooker from Crock-Pot, Morphy Richards, Sage, and Russell Hobbs to batch cook delicious stews, soups, curries and even desserts
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  • Buying the best slow cooker is the perfect investment you need to get autumn off to a great start. A slow cooker can be used to make hearty and healthy dinners from simple and seasonal ingredients, and from curry to rice pudding, there’s nothing you can’t do with these low-maintenance machines.

    We’ve reviewed ten of the very best slow cookers you can buy from Crock-Pot, Russell Hobbs, Sage, Morphy Richards, and Swan to bring you a range of budget-friendly slow cooker options with both digital and manual settings. We’ve also tried out a few top multi-cookers, which can be used in the place of a pressure cooker and even the best air fryers to make the most of your kitchen counter space.

    When shopping for the best slow cooker for you, take a look at the type of machine and whether it’s manual or digital. Manual slow cookers require you to check in and switch settings, or switch the slow cooker off when your meal is done. Digital slow cookers can be set with a timer to automatically switch to a keep-warm setting once your meal is finished, so if you spend a lot of time away from the kitchen, it may be worth spending a little more to get something with more smart settings.

    How much should I spend on the best slow cooker?

    A russell hobbs slow cooker with a temperature probe and locking lid, with a hearty stew in a bowl next to it.

    Many people opt for multi-cookers that can slow cook and also act as the best rice cookers. However, these machines can cost at least £150, whereas even the best slow cookers can cost as little as £25. If you want an option that can roast and bake with removable inserts that can be used in the oven or hob, which also boasts digital settings, you can expect to pay around £75.

    Ultimately, you don’t need to pay much to find a slow cooker to make tender lamb or beef, as well as easy bolognese and flavour-rich stews. Our best slow cooker guide features options from £25, up to £200.

    Best slow cookers 2021

    1. Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Slow Cooker

    Best slow cooker overall

    A rose gold morphy richards slow cooker, rated 5 stars

    Digital? No
    Capacity: 3.5 litre
    Features: Hob and dishwasher-safe bowl, three temperature settings
    Reasons to buy: It looks great and is easy to store thanks to its lightweight design
    Reasons to avoid: It’s not a digital model, so it won’t switch off automatically

    Feature-packed, versatile and so simple to get the hang of, you’ll be slow cooking everything you can with the Sear and Stew. It could revolutionise your mealtimes. Its pot is made from aluminium rather than ceramic, meaning you can use it on the hob (not induction) to brown meat and veg. You can then transfer it to the base to slow cook on either high, medium, or low heat.

    The Morphy Richards slow cooker’s high setting can also be used to reduce liquid after cooking. In tests, it was used to make a delicious slow-cooked curry, first sautéing meat on the hob. The pan’s base was slippery on the cast-iron support of a gas burner, so it had to be held in position when stirring. This required gloves as the handles grew hot. After, it was transferred to the base to cook on high for four hours.

    The slow cooker was easy to set, and although it lacks a keep warm setting, we found that the low heat setting was a suitable alternative. While cooking, it bubbled away well. The exterior of the base only grew slightly warm. Both the pot and the toughened glass lid are dishwasher-safe so clean-up was straightforward.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    Read our full Morphy Richards Sear and Stew 3.5 Litre Slow Cooker review

    2. 4.5L DuraCeramic Sauté Slow Cooker by Crock-Pot

    Best slow cooker for large servings

    A white crock-pot slow cooker, rated 5 stars

    Digital? No
    Capacity: 4.5 litre
    Features: Hinged lid, multi-use bowl, non-stick
    Reasons to buy: Easy to clean by hand, generous capacity
    Reasons to avoid: Quite expensive for a digital model

    Some things may deter you from cooking. Having to transfer food from a pan to a pot, cleaning up or that annoying puddle of water you get from putting the lid down on the worktop. If that’s you, you need this smart model.

    This slow cooker has been designed to be easy to clean – food residue just slides off. It’s also dishwasher-safe, and also oven and hob safe, so you can sauté in it. Be aware that the handles get hot, too. Slot in the hinged lid, which also has a seal around the edge, and you’re good to go.

    Its manual control features three heat settings – high, low and keep warm – and there’s an indicator light. Given its mid-range price, there are a few extra features you’d expect to have like a timer or automatic controls. Having said all this, it made a fantastic Bolognese sauce in four hours on high. Rich and tasty, with perfectly cooked meat and veg.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    3. Russell Hobbs Sous Vide Slow Cooker

    Best large slow cooker for families

    A russell hobbs slow cooker with a temperature probe, rated 4.5 stars

    Digital? Yes
    Capacity: 6.5 litre
    Features: Sous-vide, timer settings, keep warm mode, temperature probe
    Reasons to buy: Probe for perfectly cooked meat, lockable lid
    Reasons to avoid: Sous vide takes a while

    The Russell Hobbs 25630 Slow Cooker is a true multi-tasker. Armed with a temperature probe and sous vide capabilities, you can make sure that your meat is cooked just right before you cut it open, or fill up a water bath for succulent sous vide fish or veggies. This digital slow cooker comes with a probe and sous vide setting on its front control panel, as well as a regular slow cooker mode. You can set a timer, and choose between high and low heat, as well as a keep warm mode. 

    We tested the Russell Hobbs 25630 out on slow cooker stews, as well as a whole cooked chicken. This is when the temperature probe came in particularly useful, because we were confident that our chicken was cooked perfectly when we took it out, with none of the guesswork that come with roast chicken timings. Other features we enjoyed included the lock-safe lid and dishwasher-safe pot, both of which made mealtime easy and stress-free. 

    If you buy this slow cooker, you’ll probably want to use its sous vide mode. One thing we found is that you should account for how long the water will take to come to temperature when planning your meal around this. For us, it took about 20 minutes, so we suggest adding already hot water to speed this process along.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    4. Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker

    Best slow cooker for multi-functionality 

    A ninja multi-cooker with a locking lid

    Digital? Yes
    Capacity: 6 litres
    Features: Air frying, grilling, sear, pressure cook, keep warm, adjustable time and temperature
    Reasons to buy: It allows you to sear and simmer before switching on to slow cook
    Reasons to avoid: Add less liquid to avoid watery stews

    The Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker is certainly mighty, but if you like your gadgets it could be a great investment. You can of course just use this multi-cooker as a slow cooker, for which it has a generous 6 litre capacity, but you can also take advantage of the sear setting to brown meat and veggies before slow cooking for a more rich flavour.

    When we tested its slow cooking mode we found that it’s almost too good at retaining moisture. Recipes that came out more saucy in some slow cookers were a little less rich because it’s also designed to be an airtight pressure cooker. That can be remedied though by adding less liquid or taking into account the liquid that will come out of meat and veggies when you add them.

    You can place the cooking pot in the dishwasher or wash by hand fairly easily. The Ninja Foodi Multi-Cooker also has a basket insert and can be used to air fry other treats when not in use as a slow cooker. Is this the future of slow cooking? We think so.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    5. Russell Hobbs Chalkboard Slow Cooker

    Best budget slow cooker

    A russell hobbs slow cooker with a chalkboard exterior

    Digital? No
    Capacity: 3.5 litre
    Features: Chalkboard exterior, dishwasher safe
    Reasons to buy: Chalkboard can be very fun and useful, it’s nice and compact
    Reasons to avoid: No light to show when it’s on

    There’s lots to like about the Chalk Board Slow Cooker. It has a 3.5-litre ceramic bowl that can cook up to three or four portions. Its matt black finish is designed to be written on in chalk. So, for example, you could write on what time dinner will be ready, what’s cooking inside or what time to add a final ingredient. It features standard settings of high, low and warm but the control dial is manual so you’ll need to be there to switch between them.

    It’s affordable and a good medium size with enough capacity for newbies to experiment with, without occupying too much room. During testing, a few quirks emerged that you’ll need to work around. One is that adhesive left behind from a sticker made writing on the chalkboard area difficult. Another is that there’s no light to indicate it’s on, so you’ll need to preheat it before decanting dinner.

    When used to cook soup on high, some steam and condensation escaped from the lid, leaving a puddle of water on the worktop, while the exterior grew very hot. However, the low setting produced a tasty Bolognese meat sauce and the warm function kept food at a hot enough serving temperature. The pot and lid are dishwasher-safe, too, which is advisable as it’s tricky to see food on the pot’s black glaze.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    6. Sage The Fast Slow Pro

    Best slow cooker for batch cooking

    A sage multi-cooker with digital display and a range of settings, rated 5 stars

    Digital? Yes
    Capacity: 6 litre
    Features: Multi cooker, smart display, sear function and more
    Reasons to buy: It’s a real multi-tasker, with a custom setting for innovating
    Reasons to avoid: If you don’t want to pressure cook there are cheaper options out there

    Removing the need to sauté in a pan before transferring to the pot, the Fast Slow Pro is as useful for slow cooking converts as it is to experienced cooks. Functioning as both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker, it includes sensors at the top and bottom to monitor temperature. This makes inconsistently cooked stews a thing of the past. Also, you can set this slow cooker to heat for two to 12 hours – ideal if you’re going to be out of the house for a long day.

    Its slow cook presets correspond to different types of food, such as pudding, casserole, stock, pot roast and legumes – it also has a custom setting. All settings switch automatically to keep your dish warm at the end. In testing, the sear function was a little too hot and caused oil to spit. Also, the bowl was an awkward shape for turning a chicken while browning.

    The chicken was cooked on the pot roast programme after, set on a rack over water, and emerged juicy and so tender the meat fell off the bone. The machine also slow-cooked stock on low for six hours. This produced a rich, flavourful broth without making the kitchen smell from hours on the hob. The slow cooker’s ‘reduce’ function was useful for bubbling away excess liquid after slow cooking.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    7. Swan 1.5L Slow Cooker Retro

    Best slow cooker for a classic kitchen

    A red retro-style Swan slow cooker

    Digital? No
    Capacity: 1.5 litre
    Features: Retro look, dishwasher safe, transparent lid
    Reasons to buy: Looks the part, nice and affordable
    Reasons to avoid: No keep-warm setting

    Proving that limited worktop on space doesn’t mean compromising on style, this cheerful slow cooker is a welcome departure from so much stainless steel and purely functional designs. Not only is it available in a wide range of colours from pastel Blue to bright Red, it comes with generous chrome handles and a matching control knob.

    Inside, a white ceramic pot makes a change from the usual black, and it’s topped off by a glass lid. It’s quite compact, so best suited for solo households or couples and comes with plenty of recipes to try. The only catch here is that you’ll have to adjust the quantities to suit the size of its bowl as they’re portioned for bigger pots.

    One plus is the cooker’s auto mode, which cooks on the high setting before switching to low heat for the remainder of the time required. It wasn’t clear at what point in the cooking duration this happens but it provides a useful alternative to its high and low settings. Sadly, there’s no keep warm option, only the low setting if dinner needs to be delayed.

    We used it to cook chilli cooked on high, which required sautéing some ingredients beforehand in a pan. After two hours of cooking, the chilli was bubbling and the lid clear, making it easy to check on progress without lifting it.

    After four hours, there had been about an inch of liquid evaporation, with some of the meat slightly dry but soft beans. We also used it to simmer rice pudding on the low setting. After five hours there was a slight browned crust around edge but no burns and plenty of liquid, so the pudding wasn’t too thick or clumpy.

    The bowl and lid were both easy to clean and dishwasher safe.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    8. Bosch AutoCook Multicooker

    Best slow cooker for keen entertainers

    The Bosch AutoCook multi-cooker

    Digital? Yes
    Capacity: 5 litre
    Features: Multi cooking, smart controls, dishwasher-safe accessories
    Reasons to buy: Dishwasher-safe bowl and accessories, low maintenance
    Reasons to avoid: The controls can be fiddly

    There’s one area in which slow cookers truly excel and that’s producing top-notch meals that taste like you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen all day. In fact, all you had to do is pop some ingredients in a bowl and walk away. This is what the AutoCook slow cooker does brilliantly, stewing and simmering away while you enjoy a glass of wine with your guests.

    Strictly a multi-cooker rather than a simple slow cooker, Bosch’s AutoCook Pro nonetheless performs the role with gusto. Offering up a five-litre cauldron-shaped round bowl, it provides good capacity without the awkward depth. It also uses induction to heat it evenly, removing the issue of hot spots. Also unlike a traditional slow cooker, there’s an abundance of controls to get to grips with. Some are more confusing than others.

    The silver lining of this button bonanza is that you have more flexibility with your slow cooking time and temperature as it goes as low as 40C. In tests, the AutoCook slow-cooked eggs in their shells to gently poach them. The resulting eggs were still slightly watery after an hour. However, this slow cooker could be a time-saver for a dinner party. It made yogurt on a slow cooking programme that took eight hours and resulted in creamy semi-set yoghurt. Parts of the lid need to be washed by hand but the bowl and its accessories are all dishwasher-safe.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars

    9. Lakeland 1.5L Slow Cooker

    Best compact slow cooker

    The Lakeland slow cooker, rated 5 stars

    Digital? No
    Capacity: 1.5 litre
    Features: Compact, energy-efficient, dishwasher-safe
    Reasons to buy: The exterior stays cool, dishwasher-safe parts
    Reasons to avoid: Not many recipes

    Slow cookers rarely come as dinky as this compact model. If you’re only preparing meals for one or two people, its size will be a bonus, both for storage and energy efficiency. Comprising a 1.5-litre ceramic bowl this slow cooker has three manual settings of high, low and auto. The pot heats to a high temperature before dropping to a lower one (120C to 60C). A base element wraps around the bowl for even heat distribution.

    It might be small but it’s perfectly formed. It also comes with lots of advice for getting to grips with slow cooking but strangely, only a couple of recipes. The size of this slow cooker will be limiting for anyone wanting to make more than a small meal. In tests, it was used to make chilli. All the ingredients had to be sautéed in advance before placing in the bowl. Once in, though, they simmered away nicely, the glass lid coming in handy for checking on progress.

    The exterior also doesn’t get too hot when it’s in use. Both the lid and bowl are dishwasher-safe, making clean-up effortless. Also, as neither are especially big, they’re not overly heavy. The resulting chilli, after six hours on auto, was great, with moist meat, no dry beans and slightly hotter than serving temperature.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars

    10. Tower 3.5 litre Slow Cooker

    Best value slow cooker

    The tower slow cooker, with lid and handles

    Digital? No
    Capacity: 3.5 litre
    Features: Range of colours, ceramic pot, glass lid
    Reasons to buy: Affordable and generously sized
    Reasons to avoid: The lid fits very loosely

    If you’re on the hunt for an affordable slow cooker with plenty of capacity, this model should fit the bill. Its black ceramic pot has enough room for making a batch of soup or a family-sized casserole plus there’s stacks of advice in the instruction for converting standard recipes and getting the most from slow cooking.

    Where it falls short is recipes to try – there’s just two – and you’ll still need to sauté some ingredients in a separate pan. Its settings are low, high and keep warm, controlled by a neat knob at the front.

    It’s not all about functionality though – the cooker’s available in a choice of red, black or stainless steel finishes. The lid and pot are dishwasher-safe, although the pot isn’t too heavy and can be washed by hand easily enough.

    We made chilli con carne in it on the high setting. Quite a lot of condensation formed in minutes from putting the lid on, so it seemed to trap the heat and liquid well initially. After a few hours, we could see that the mixture was simmering around the edges.

    Around three hours into cooking, there was visible steam emerging from the edges of the lid even though its position hadn’t altered. At the end of cooking, there was still enough liquid left, although some smaller bits of beef were a little chewy.

    Next, we cooked rice pudding on the low setting. Four hours into cooking, we noticed that the milk had started to burn into a crust so had to turn it off and remove the remaining pudding. Some liquid was still left at the bottom of the pot, suggesting that the heat distribution wasn’t as even as it could be. Some dishes may require some extra stirring to help resolve this.

    Ideal Home’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars

    How to buy the best slow cooker for you

    Slow cooked curry

    Image credit: Will Heap

    Why do I need a slow cooker?

    Slow cookers have got so much going for them, it’s hard not to love them. Not only will a good one save you time and effort in the kitchen, it’ll save you money too. Slow cookers transform cheaper cuts of meat into tender dishes and liven up economical healthy pulses, like lentils, beans and peas. Plus, while they can be on all day, it’s at such a low wattage that it will only cost pennies.

    Take a look at the best microwaves for more convenient cooking

    Slow cookers are also brilliant for less-than-confident cooks, easily creating all those meals that seem a bit scary on the hob. That’s because slow cooking develops the flavours of food for richer, tastier results. It’s not just dinners that slow cookers excel at making either. They make great porridge, granola, stewed apples, bread and butter pudding, fudge and dips. You can use your slow cooker to melt chocolate, as a Bain-marie.

    How much should I spend on a slow cooker?

    Slow cookers are one of the most affordable small appliances, and you can buy one for as little as £20. At this price, it’ll be pretty basic in terms of features. Also, the dish may be the traditional choice of heavy, potentially breakable, ceramic. However, you should still be able to simmer and stew whatever you like.

    Spend more and you’ll find a greater array of features, such as automatic functions. A bigger budget will allow for a durable metal pot that can be used on your hob and is dishwasher-safe. Stretch your budget to the £100 mark and your slow cooker may also double up as a multi-cooker, so it can cook fluffy rice and steam food, too.

    What are the main features of a slow cooker?

    A Russell Hobbs chalkboard slow cooker with the word 'lasagna' written on it

    Image credit: Russell Hobbs

    Slow cooker capacity

    The first thing you need to consider with any slow cooker is its capacity – each will list its bowl size in litres. Bear in mind that this won’t translate to the same amount of food, as you shouldn’t fill slow cookers to the brim. This gap allows your food to bubble and simmer properly. The usable cooking space will be around three-quarters of its bowl size, for example, a five-litre cooker can accommodate around four litres of food.

    Slow cookers range in size from a compact 1.5 litres to a 6.5-litre bowl, so be sure to choose the right size for the way you intend to cook. As a rough guide, 1.5-3 litres will feed one or two people, 3-5 litres, three or four people and anything over five litres should suit a large family, with six litres or more ideal for batch cooks who like to fill the freezer. Alternatively, a larger cooker is great for those who like to eat what’s leftover for lunch the next day.

    Slow cooker controls

    Most slow cookers will have similar standard controls – high heat for meals cooked in less than a few hours, low heat for all-day cooking. A ‘keep warm’ mode should hold food at a serve-able temperature without actually cooking it. Some cookers will switch to ‘keep warm’ automatically after an elapsed cooking time, while more basic models need this altered manually.

    Slow cookers with digital controls may also have a delay start, which is ideal if you’re out of the house for more than eight hours. This means you can start cooking at a time to suit you – while it’s hard to overcook recipes with a lot of liquid, this gives more freedom with dishes that could potentially start to dry out. A timer is another handy feature – this will either turn the machine off after cooking or put it into a limited time keep warm mode.

    One-pot solutions

    Basic slow cookers won’t get hot enough to sauté meat or vegetables, so you’ll need to do this in a pan before transferring the contents to the bowl. However, more expensive models offer a different one-pot solution. This can either be bowls that you use on your hob or in your oven in place of a pan (some will even be induction compatible). They will need to be moved to the slow cooker base. Machines with a sauté function for high-heat browning can simply be switched to slow cooking.

    Try the best saucepan sets for cooking stews from scratch

    The advantage of this is not leaving all that lovely seared flavour behind in a pan, and it reduces washing-up. Finally, look for a slow cooker with a transparent lid, so you can keep an eye on your food’s progress. Lifting the lid of a slow cooker while it’s in use lets out heat and steam, prolonging cooking time. It’s always best to be able to see what’s going on without doing so.

    Are slow cookers easy to clean?

    The Morphy Richards sear and stew, pouring out a butternut squash stew

    You’ll only have a lid and a pot to wash but even so, it’s best to check the cleaning instructions. Budget models with large ceramic dishes may not be dishwasher-safe and the pot can be heavy and cumbersome to clean thoroughly by hand. Dark glazes may also make it hard to see stuck-on food. A non-stick coating on a lighter pot can be a better choice for straightforward maintenance.

    What other key questions do I need to ask?

    • Does your slow cooker have good heat distribution? Some can suffer from hot spots that cause drying out in corners or at the base. Uneven heat is something that’s more likely to occur in larger bowls.
    • Do you need a round or oval bowl? If you plan on making stews and curries, round bowls are ideal as the shape provides even heat. However, they can be awkward to use for a whole chicken or lamb shanks – in which case, an oval bowl will make getting meat in and out easier.
    • Do you plan to put food in and dash out of the house? Slow cookers can take a while to warm up, so look for a model with a light to show it’s on. This is a little extra reassurance that you’ve remembered to switch on the socket and aren’t coming home to uncooked dinner.
    • Do you need a separate source of recipes? Most cookers will come with a few ideas, which is useful for getting to know what sort of dishes you can make. However, there’s a huge amount of recipes online, so don’t just stick to what it comes with.

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