The best slow cookers and how to use them

Discover our top slow cookers, plus recipes and practical cookery advice. We tested leading brands including Morphy Richards and Tefal.

Slow cooker beef stew served in a bowl with two slow cookers in background

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There is much to love about a slow cooker, not least the ease and convenience of arriving home to a hot meal ready to eat.

Slow cooker recipes are hugely popular and include everything from curries to yogurt, grains, dhal and puddings.

Slow cookers vary in price, you can pick one up for as little as a tenner or as much as a few hundred pounds. Different models meet different criteria and come with additional features.

So, which is the best slow cooker for you? We extensively tested a wide range of models to find our top 10 slow cookers. 

For more unbiased expert buyer's guides, visit our review section to find 200+ round-ups of everything from food processors to coffee machines.

The best slow cookers to buy in 2020

Tefal Multicook 8-in-1 multicooker on a white background

1. Tefal RK302E15 Multicook 8-in-1 multi-cooker – best value multi-cooker

Pros:

  • pop-up vented lid
  • fingerprint-free stainless steel exterior

Cons:

  • only displays minutes left to cook in the last hour
 

The multiple functions, safety features and reasonable price of the Tefal 8-in-1 multi-cooker make this a highly desirable piece of kit. The recipes we tested were impressive. The beef stew was beautifully thick, thanks to the vent in the lid releasing vapour, and the gravy was glossy and dark. At the end of cooking, the meat stayed in large, meltingly tender chunks.

Read our full review of the Tefal 8-in-1 multi-cooker

 

Ninja Foodi multicooker in black on a white background

2. Ninja Foodi multi-cooker OP300UK – best multi-tasking slow cooker

Pros:

  • multi-gadgets all-in-one at a good price

Cons:

  • bulky
  • requires two heavy lids
 

This well-built multi-cooker has many functions. These include slow and pressure cooking, air frying, roasting and grilling. The sear function means you can prepare meat and veg without having to use pans on the hob. Its size makes it perfect for families and batch cooking. The tested recipes were excellent, with thick sauces and fresh flavours. 

Read our full review of the Ninja Foodi multi-cooker

 

Sage Fast Slow Pro multicooker on a white background

3. Sage the Fast Slow Pro™ – best slow cooker and pressure cooker in one

Pros:  

  • stylish appearance
  • impressive functions

Cons:

  • price
 

The Fast Slow may be expensive and have fewer functions than some multi-cookers, but it's worth the investment for its great looks, searing, sautéing and reducing functions. It has a relatively small footprint for a multi-cooker and the build is solid – all features feel robust and well-built, from the strong handles to the hinged lid.

Read our full review of the Sage Fast Slow Pro

 

Tower Infinity slow cooker in black and rose gold on a white background

4. Tower Infinity 3.5-litre slow cooker – best no-nonsense slow cooker

Pros:  

  • cool touch handles

Cons:

  • long flex cord
  • can't sear ingredients


Available to buy from Tower (£38.49)

This slow cooker has simple, straightforward functionality and looks good enough to leave it sitting on the worktop. It may not come with the fancy flourishes and added settings of more expensive models, but its strength lies in its cooking performance and value for money.

Read our full review of the Tower Infinity slow cooker

 

Lakeland digital slow cooker 6.5L capacity on a white background

5. Lakeland Digital slow cooker 6.5-litre – best slow cooker for families

Pros:  

  • able to sear ingredients in the pot, including on induction
  • option to delay start time

Cons:

  • inner pot
  • slightly domed base a little awkward


Available from Lakeland (£59.99)

This is a seriously good choice if you want a larger machine for family meals or batch cooking. Being able to sear ingredients in the pot on the hob, including on induction, and the delayed start option are two functions worth having, with the added bonus that it cooks food superbly. 

Read our full review of the Lakeland Digital slow cooker

 

Crock-Pot lift and serve digital slow cooker on a white background

6. Crock-Pot Lift & Serve digital slow cooker – best kitchen-to-table slow cooker

Pros:  

  • ability to lift and serve direct to table
  • value for money

Cons:

  • fiddly lid hinge
 

This slow cooker represents superb value for money given the quality, with an impressive digital screen and smart hinged lid for clean, drip-free work surfaces. Its stylish good looks mean dinner can be served straight to the table from the pot. 

Read our full review of the Crock-Pot Lift and Serve digital slow cooker

 

George at Asda slow cooker on a white background

7. George 3-litre stainless steel slow cooker – best basic slow cooker

Pros:  

  • great value for money 
  • easy to use

Cons:

  • flimsy construction 
  • small capacity


Available from George at Asda (£13)

If budget is a consideration and you don't need a lot of capacity, this slow cooker is a straightforward, uncomplicated option. The build isn't as robust as the others tested, but the cooking results were good and it's a great beginner model, ideal for student kitchens.

Read our full review of the George stainless steel slow cooker

 

Morphy Richard Sear, Stir and Serve slow cooker on a white background

8. Morphy Richards Sear, Stew and Stir slow cooker – best everyday slow cooker

Pros:  

  • handy stirring function
  • ability to sear in the pot

Cons:  

  • bulky

Available from: 
Morphy Richards (£43.99)
Amazon (£43.99)

This is a well-made, reliable appliance. It's bulky, but offers an automated stirring function and the ability to sear in the pot. It's worth noting that the stirring function isn't suitable for every recipe, for instance those using large joints of meat. 

Read our full review of the Morphy Richards Sear, Stew and Stir slow cooker

 

Salter chalkboard slow cooker on a white background surrounded by vegetables

9. Salter EK2842 chalkboard 3.5-litre slow cooker – best slow cooker for innovative and practical design

Pros:  

  • surprisingly useful chalkboard finish  
  • small kitchen footprint 

Cons:  

  • short electric lead

Available from: 
Robert Dyas (£24.99)

Amazon (£25.99)

With its great cooking results and reasonable price, this is an excellent option, especially for those with limited kitchen space. The quirky, chalkboard finish is a surprisingly useful feature for noting cooking times, as the machine doesn't have a timer. The stay-cool handles live up to their name, allowing you to easily lift out the inner pan.

Read our full review of the Salter chalkboard slow cooker

 

Wilko slow cooker on a white background

10. Wilko 6-litre slow cooker – best budget slow cooker

Pros:

  • bargain price
  • family-sized 

Cons:  

  • high setting is fiercely hot

Available from Wilko (£25)

This generously-sized cooker easily makes enough food for six people. The high setting is a little too fierce for some recipes but a few adjustments and you have excellent bargain buy. We recommend using the low setting for the best results. We were particularly pleased with the results of the chicken curry test – the sauce was glossy and the flavour excellent.

Read our full review of the Wilko slow cooker

Four slow cookers on a kitchen surface

How we tested slow cookers

We tested a range of slow cookers, including multi-cookers, with two favourite BBC Good Food slow cooker recipes. The first, a slow cooker beef stew, was cooked on the high setting for 4 hours. As the meat requires searing before cooking, where this was an available setting on the cooker, we did this too.

The second, an easy slow cooker chicken curry, requires marinating overnight, making it perfect for switching on in the morning and leaving for 6 hours of cooking. The chicken isn't seared first, making it a fuss-free recipe to prepare. 

We scored the slow cookers against the following criteria:

Capacity and size: the bowl capacity and the footprint for using and storing in the kitchen

Heat retention: how the cooker holds heat for safety on the worktop and whether the food catches or burns

Ease of use: how easy it is to assemble and use

Functions:  additional functions on the cooker including browning, reheating, reducing and whether it is hob or oven-safe

Versatility: does the cooker make a range of dishes?

Quality of material: the material and the construction of the machines

Design features: the type of lid, handles, automatic warming, countdown and indicator lights

Finished results: the tenderness of the meat and vegetables, the consistency of the cooked sauce and the heat of the food when serving

Manual: how helpful was the instruction book and did it include recipes?

Packaging: excessive use of plastic in packaging was scored negatively

Slow cooker chicken tikka masala in a bowl with rice on the side

Slow cooker recipes 

Slow cooker beef stew
Slow cooker chicken curry
Slow cooker Bolognese
Slow cooker sausage casserole
Slow cooker ratatouille
Slow cooker lasagne
Slow cooker gammon
Our best ever slow cooker recipes
Healthy slow cooker recipes
Slow cooker chicken recipes
Summer slow cooker recipes
Slow cooker curry recipes
Slow cooker beef recipes

Which slow cooker should I buy? 

With so many variations of slow cookers out there, choosing can be confusing. Here are a few questions you might want to consider.

How many are you cooking for?
With sizes starting at 1-litre through to a whopping 6.5-litres, choosing the right size for you is imperative. The smallest sizes are suitable when cooking for one or two or those with small appetites. 3-litres to 4.5-litres (one of the most popular sizes on the market) serve four, and the large 6 – 6.5-litre models are super for families and batch cooking. It's also worth bearing in mind that the capacity stated on the sales blurb is the size of the bowl, not the working capacity, which can sometimes be half that. 

How much space do you have?
A slow cooker takes up space on the worktop and in the cupboard. There are two shapes, the round and tall, which has less of a footprint, and the oval, which takes up more room but can be more versatile. 

What is your price range?
If it is a straightforward, no-frills slow cooker you're after, then you can pick these up from £10. Choose digital models with additional features or multi-cookers with multiple cooking functions and the price jumps. These can also be cost-effective if you use all the extras.

Slow cooker beef stroganoff served in a bowl with tagliatelle pasta

Slow cooker vs pressure cooker

Both slow cookers and pressure cookers offer a convenient and versatile way to cook, as the machine takes on some of the work. They can both be effective at braising and stewing, however there are some key differences between the two gadgets. 

Slow cookers are plug-in electronic appliances that use a gentle heat over a long period of time (usually four hours or more) to cook liquid-based dishes.

Pressure cookers can be hob-top or electronic and operate at high temperatures, employing pressure to quickly work through ingredients that traditionally require slow cooking, such as hard pulses and tough meat cuts. Similar to slow cooking, pressure cooking is a wet cooking technique and liquid should always be used. 

As for one versus the other, there are pros and cons to both. Slow cookers can result in watery sauces, while pressure cookers can be intimidating to use. With practice and the right recipes, they can be very useful for busy households. Investing in a multi-cooker is a good way to get the best of both worlds. 

Read more about pressure cookers and how to use them.

Danish split pea slow cooker soup served in bowls with mustardSlow cooker tips

No liquid escapes from a slow cooker, so when adapting a recipe not specifically written for a slow cooker, reduce any added liquid by a third to compensate.

Don't remove the lid too often to avoid heat loss.

The inner pot needs to be at room temperature before you start cooking. If you've kept a slow cooker dish in the fridge, you must wait for it to warm up before turning it on.

Slow cookers vary considerably, so follow your manufacturer's manual for guidelines on temperatures and cooking times.

Rice and pasta dishes work best cooked on high for the shortest time possible. Always use easy-cook rice, rinsed well first – the more starch you rinse from the rice, the better the finished result. 

Take time to brown your meat really well. Slow cookers tend to leach meat of its colour, so it’s important for appearance and flavour that they are well browned to start with. Flavours won't become more concentrated because the liquid doesn't reduce, so try to pack in as much flavour as you can.

For more, read our top 10 tips for using a slow cooker.

How to use a slow cooker: video



Slow cooker storecupboard essentials

Gravy granules will add colour to stews, as food cooked in a slow cooker is usually pale. Marmite will do the same job. Season at the same time.

Use arrowroot or cornflour to thicken sauces by removing a spoonful of sauce from the pot and whisking in 1-2 tbsp of flour before adding it back in. 

A dash of cream or crème fraîche at the last minute will enrich sauces and soups.

This review was last updated in April 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk. 

Do you swear by your slow cooker? Leave your recipe ideas in a comment below...

Comments, questions and tips

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Gina Bassett's picture
Gina Bassett
2nd Feb, 2019
I've recently bought a 3pot slow cooker and use it so much more than the previous one. Even for 2 people use 1pot, friends 2pots, variety of dishes 3pots. So many combinations. Marvelous
Gillfr
23rd Nov, 2017
I bought a Tefal slow cooker in September 2005 and it is still going strong, despite heavy use over the years. This one has a round metal bowl which is starting to look a bit marked now and I have just bought the 2017 model of the same which promises 8 functions (not sure which ones yet). For rice I use basmati rice and make variations on the Gordon Ramsey pilau rice which is on this site and adapts perfectly to the slow cooker with no change in quantities.
jacquietinch
5th Oct, 2017
I have had two slow cookers and both times the internal ceramic glaze has crazed and the food ends up with an 'off' taste. I can't work out why it happened as I always followed the instructions carefully (especially the second time!) and haven't ever allowed them to cook dry or any other logical reason. I still have my second one but only use it for cooking and re-heating Christmas puddings for which it is excellent and as the food is not in contact with the water, there is no taste cross-contamination.
twohoots
29th Jan, 2017
slow cookers are brilliant, have had one for as long as I can remember. Even made Christmas puddings in it one year. Definitely cut back on the liquid added, but if you do nothing else, put your chicken carcass in with a few vegetables and liquid in the morning and at the end of the day you have a large amount of stock ready to portion, cool and freeze, ready for the next casserole.
fragrantfran
22nd Sep, 2016
I have had three of the modern slow cookers, although they did the job, they weren't a patch on my original Prestige Crockpot. I foolishly ditched it in the eighties in favour of a shiny new ceramic one. It's taken me two years now and I have finally got one of the originals -a stoneware one, the one drawback, which, I can cope with now, is that it doesn't separate from the heated element. However, I just soak it for a couple of hours and it's fine. I cooked stews, curries and roasted a chicken etc. in my original and do so again now. The taste is so much better than the ceramic ones. Sometimes the older clumsier things work better. Stoneware is better for casserole pots as well.
vidapura
6th Sep, 2016
WONDERBAG? I just checked it out. Looks good BUT their pricing schemes are.. to me.. questionable. Its €26 in South Africa, but its €50 on the Irish site... this rises to an eye watering €90 euro on the french site... and different again on the German site. This might all be for a good cause and all that ... but smacks of opportunism.
perky2512
3rd Feb, 2016
Great reviews but I wish you had included the Wonderbag. A slow cooker without gas or electricity. Totally transportable, use it for camping and festivals. Have a look.
jacquietinch
5th Oct, 2017
A modern twist on the hay box. You still need to be able to cook your meat dishes for 30 minutes before they go into the Wonderbag, so not a complete replacement for a slow cooker where the pre-cooking is minimal, if at all.
abitterpill
14th Feb, 2014
On: "Our best buys": Comment and Tip: Don't forget that supermarkets will offer some very good cookware for a few pounds. Why waste your money on a stylish brand named slow cooker (unless the style is more important of course)? Instead opt for a cheap and cheerful version that does the same job for less. The idea is to be tasty *and* economical. I had a Crock-Pot. It was lovely. It lasted just over a year.. Then I bought a Tesco slow cooker for about £12.00. I've had it 4 years now and I use it all the time. The results are great, it looks suspiciously like the Judge model shown on this page but without the price tag. I have seen a number of these, all very similar, and an advantage I can see here is that if you accidentally break the pot, it's very easy and cheap to replace.
Ginger1964
11th Dec, 2016
I have a crockpot that has low, high, and warm settings. I'm having a big family Christmas dinner and I was wondering if I could make the mashed potatoes ahead of time and use the warm setting as a warmer to keep the potatoes warm for dinner. If so, how long could I keep them in there without a crust forming on the potatoes?
goodfoodteam's picture
goodfoodteam
17th Dec, 2016
We haven't tried this ourselves but know, for food safety reasons, the food must be piping hot if you're going to use the warm setting. Most instruction manuals will tell you how long you can use the warm setting for so check what they suggest. With the lid on the slow cooker, there's no reason why a crust would form.
spitfire
11th Sep, 2016
I own a small slow cooker, the 1.5l Lakeland one in fact, but find that most recipes are for 4 people and simply halving the ingredients does not work adequately - there is usually either too much liquid or not enough. I like to cook enough so I can freeze half for another time so would I be better off getting a slow cooker the next size up, ie 3.5l?
goodfoodteam's picture
goodfoodteam
13th Sep, 2016
Thanks for your question. For tips on how to adapt slow cooker recipes, take a look at our slow cooker feature. A 3.5l slow cooker can serve 3 - 5 people depending on appetite. Hope that helps!
lindij01
7th May, 2016
Do I have to put water under the inner pot?
irish66
21st Mar, 2016
Hello from ireland. Today I bought a second slow cooker. It's a murphy richards. Although it cost me 20 euros, so looking at your price for a murphy richards, I wonder if I paid too much. But it's big enough to get a duck into. All I have done is put the duck in, and turned on it low. Should I have added water. Should I have put tin foil around the duck. Any advice for a slow cooker novice would be welcome.
goodfoodteam's picture
goodfoodteam
20th May, 2016
Yes we would add a little stock when using a slow cooker to cook a duck. To add more flavour add onions with bay leaves or fresh thyme in the base first too. The liquid and onions can then be used to make a gravy.
sasharoy
28th Jan, 2016
What about slow cooker for a beginner? I am a bachelor and eat mostly outside which is expensive and I do not have a kitchen to begin with. I was wondering if this device would work or not. Can you recommend some slow cookers for me?
danchos3
2nd Feb, 2016
I actually own four crock pots in varying sizes. The small one is great for breakfast oatmeal or a side dish of dried beans. The largest can hold a whole chicken or small turkey or baked potatoes for the whole family. And the in-betweens are perfect for a typical chili or soup meal. The one MUST HAVE feature is a removable insert; the first one I ever had (a hand-me-down from my parents when I was in college) was a one-piece thing, and it was a pain to wash. A removable insert can to into the dishwasher. Beyond that, the differences are minimal - of course, I must admit that I have no experience with the browning features; they might be worthwhile. I'll also recommend two websites: http://topreviews.best/main-review/slow-cooker and http://www.365daysofcrockpot.com/ You'll be surprised at just how many things you can cook in a crock pot.
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