Best slow cooker 2020: 8 buys for effortless soups and summer puddings

Find the best slow cooker for effortless meals this summer from big-named brands – such as Morphy Richards and Crock Pot – in our expert guide

best slow cookers: WAN 1.5L SLOW COOKER RETRO
(Image credit: Swan)

Like easy dinners? Us, too. Especially during summer. The best slow cooker is all you need to create healthy, delicious meals during the school holidays so you can spend more time with the family. And the best bit about ALL this is that there is no need to turn the hob or oven on because you can (literally) leave this appliance to its own devices.

They're a fab alternative to cooking simple, delicious mains and scrumptious summer puddings. Plus, batch cooking fresh ingredients into something you can put in the freezer to make your fresh food shop go further, too. All you'll need to do is select your ingredients and chop them up if required, then you can just set and forget about the rest.

There is now such a wide range of slow cookers that it can be hard to figure out which one is worth the spend. Keep scrolling to see which of the eight models made our shortlist – which take in to account budgets, capacity and ease of use – then check out our best slow cooker recipes so you can get stuck straight in when yours arrives. 

Our pick of the best slow cookers to buy in 2020

best slow cooker

(Image credit: John Lewis & Partners)

1. Sage Fast Slow Pro™ Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker all round: it looks professional and it will create professional-tasting meals, too

Specifications
Capacity: 6L
Power: 1100W
Finish: Brushed stainless steel
Dimensions: H32cm x W30cm x D37cm
Reasons to buy
+11 settings+This one can reduce, sauté, sear and slow cook+Clear LCD display to see food’s progress
Reasons to avoid
-Quite large so can be hard to store

Get more for your money by splashing out on this professional-looking design, which is a pressure and slow cooker in one.

Multi function

Simply press one button and the cooker will decide how to cook your food. There are sensors both at the top and bottom that will keep a check on its progress, setting the temperature and pressure needed.

Auto steam

Some people are scared of using a pressure cooker, as they imagine the designs of old where the steam shot up without warning. Today’s models are completely safe, and this model has a hands-free automatic steam release, which can be Quick, Pulse or Natural.

Easy cleaning

As well as a three-way safety system, the lid is also removable and can be cleaned in the dishwasher while the ceramic cooking bowl can also double as a serving dish.

  • Buy the Sage Fast Slow Pro

Best slow cooker for looks: SWAN 1.5L SLOW COOKER RETRO

(Image credit: Swan)

2. Swan 1.5L Retro Slow Cooker

Best small slow cooker: perfect is your tight on space and on a budget

Specifications
Capacity: 1.5L
Power: 120W
Finish: Green, cream, black, grey or blue
Dimensions: H20.5cm x W28cm x D20cm
Reasons to buy
+Removable, dishwasher-safe ceramic bowl +Allows you to check on food’s progress thanks to its glass lid+Auto function keeps meals warmer for longer
Reasons to avoid
-It is pretty basic so no fancy programmes or features (compared to the others in this guide)

When you don’t want to spend much, this slow cooker form Swan is for you as it’s keenly priced and still comes with all the basics you’d expect from a slow cooker.

Removable pot

For ease of use and easy cleaning, look for a slow cooker with a removable bowl inside. This means you can carry your food straight to the table for serving and wash it afterwards too. Check if it’s dishwasher proof. Most models are.

Toughened glass lid

With a see-through lid you can keep an eye on cooking progress without letting the heat escape. 

Heat settings

Get more for your money with a slow cooker that offers a variety of heat settings. This one comes with low, high and auto, which keeps food warmer for longer. Ideal if the family eats at different times or you go back for seconds.

  • Buy the Swan 1.5L Retro Slow Cooker 

Best slow cooker for ease of use: MORPHY RICHARDS SEAR & STEW HINGED LID SLOW COOKER

(Image credit: Morphy Richards)

3. Morphy Richards Sear & Stew Hinged Lid Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker with hinged lid: add ingredients, herbs or spices as you cook

Specifications
Capacity: 3.5L
Power: 163W
Finish: Black
Dimensions: H20cm x W33cm x D25cm
Reasons to buy
+Non-stick pot that can be used on a gas or ceramic hob+Can be used to sear or sauté before slow cooking
Reasons to avoid
-The bowl can get hot so transferring it back into the slow cooker can be tricky

This slow cooker is a redesign of the original Sear & Stew, as it now comes with a hinged lid that makes it easier to add ingredients as you’re cooking.

Hinged lid

An update on the original Sear & Stew design, this new model has a hinged lid, which makes it easier to add ingredients, herbs or spices, as you cook.

Sear and stew

Simply remove the non-stick pot before you start and use it on a gas or ceramic hob to sear or seal meat before returning to the slow cooker to carry on with stock and vegetables. This means less mess and less washing up.

Aluminium pot

Lightweight and hardwearing, the non-stick bowl inside can not only be used on the hob but it can also be taken directly to the table for serving. It won’t crack or shatter if you drop it either and it’s dishwasher-safe, too.

  • Buy the Morphy Richards Sear & Stew Hinged Lid Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for families: CROCK-POT CSC052 LIFT & SERVE DIGITAL SLOW COOKER

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. Crock-Pot Lift & Serve Digital Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for families: it's large capacity makes this a great choice for meal times

Specifications
Capacity: 4.7L
Power: 220W
Finish: Black
Dimensions: H22.3cm x W35cm x D32cm
Reasons to buy
+Hinged lid comes off easily+Digital timer and screen+It’s easy to clean after use
Reasons to avoid
-Some say the lid seal isn’t great, this means moisture can drip onto the worktop while cooking

Ideal for cooking everything from casseroles and soups to tagines and chocolate puds, this Crock- Pot has a large capacity bowl, which makes it perfect for families.

Digital timer

Set your cooking time from 30 minutes to 20 hours, ideal for having dinner ready when you get home from work or Saturday’s footie match with the kids. It also has a keep warm setting so there’s no rush to eat as soon as it’s ready.

Hinged lid

This makes serving and stirring while cooking so much easier and less messy. No more splashes and spills on the worktop when you remove the lid. It’s also dishwasher safe, too.

Large capacity

The 4.7L bowl is great for cooking larger quantities and it’s also removable, dishwasher safe and oven-proof.

  • Buy the Crock-Pot Lift & Serve Digital Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for fun: RUSSELL HOBBS CHALK BOARD SLOW COOKER

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Russell Hobbs Chalkboard Slow Cooker

Best budget slow cooker: you can write on it with chalk, too

Specifications
Capacity: 3.5L
Power: 1000W
Finish: Matt black
Dimensions: H23cm x W23cm x D23cm
Reasons to buy
+Fun chalk board exterior+Removable pot and lid+Cooks on three basic settings
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing high-tech in terms of features

Kids will love this chalkboard slow cooker from Russell Hobbs, as it has a matt black finish that you can write on with chalk – so you can let the family know what’s for dinner before you get home! Or why not use it to leave notes such as, ‘stir and add seasoning at 5pm’.

Large capacity

The 3.5L black ceramic bowl makes this model a perfect choice for families, those who like to have friends round for meals or those who freeze food for later on in the week. It easily cooks up to four portions so is also a great buy for singles or couples.

Matt black coating

Use the two pieces of chalk that come with the slow cooker to write menus on the side, or instructions or notes for the family.

Real Homes rating 3.5 out of 5 stars

  • Buy the Russell Hobbs Chalkboard Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker on a budget: Crock-Pot Slow Cooker 3.5 L - Red

(Image credit: Amazon)

6. Crock-Pot Slow Cooker

Best oval slow cooker: this is the original slow cooker and it's available in a selection of colours

Specifications
Capacity: 3.5L
Power: 210W
Finish: Red, grey, cream or blue
Dimensions: H25 x W36 x D23.5 cm
Reasons to buy
+3 different settings+Bowl and lid are dishwasher safe+Different colours available
Reasons to avoid
-Basic settings, although 3 may be all you need!

Made in 1971, this slow cooker soon became hugely popular in North America and now, worldwide – we find it very easy to see why. Although very much affordable, it's most definitely up there with the best slow cookers you can buy since it's easy to use, clean and store – and it comes in a range of colours to jazz up your worktop.

Family-friendly

Featuring a 3.4 litre capacity, the Crock-Pot Red can happily serve three to four people or two adults and three children. It also features dishwasher friendly components for easy cleaning, as well as cool touch handles for safety reasons. 

A bargain

With an RRP of just £36.99, this slow cooker is a steal. Not to mention it's usually on sale, too. Included in the price is also three machine compatible utensils.

  • Buy the Crock-Pot Slow Cooker

best simple slow cooker: Lakeland 3.5L Slow Cooker

(Image credit: Lakeland)

7. Lakeland Slow Cooker

Best Lakeland slow cooker: a neat, sturdy and no-frills slow cooker

Specifications
Capacity: 3.5L
Power: 2010W
Finish: Brushed Chrome
Dimensions: H35 x W24 x D17cm
Reasons to buy
+Simple to use+Glass lid to see the cooking+Dishwasher safe
Reasons to avoid
-Not hob safe

For those who like a simply made, delicious slow cooked meal, without any additional fuss or a huge number of settings, this slow cooker from Lakeland offers a neat and sturdy construction and unbeatable value for money. 

Three heat settings

There are basically three settings on this slow cooker, which makes it extremely easy to use. Want the absolute best tenderness and flavour? Set it on low. In a hurry? Set it on high. Couldn't be easier

Three sizes

We've picked the standard 3.5 litre size, but the Lakeland slow cooker also comes in a family-sized six litre size, and a very compact 1.5 litres, which is ideal for making meals for one. 

Dishwasher safe

All the parts of this slow cooker can be safely washed in the dishwasher.

Glass lid

Like to see what's going on in your slow cooker? The glass lid on this is very satisfying to look through. 

  • Buy the Lakeland Slow Cooker

The best Instant Pot slow cooker: Instant Pot Duo V2

(Image credit: Amazon)

8. Instant Pot Duo V2 Slow Cooker

The best Instant Pot slow cooker: a good choice for the more serious chef

Specifications
Capacity: 5.7L
Power: 1000W
Finish: Steel
Dimensions: H31 x W34 x D31.7cm
Reasons to buy
+Great for making complex dishes+Cooks fast
Reasons to avoid
-Might not be best for simple food prep

This slow cooker from Instant Pot is perfect if you're ready to do some serious cooking. It can do so much, from pulled pork to curry to yogurt.

Three temperatures for versatility

The choice is yours here: want a quick meal after work that tastes like it's taken much longer to prepare? The fastest cooking time on this Instant Pot is 30 minutes. Want the full benefits of slow cooking during the weekend? Its longest programme is 20 hours.

Delayed cooking

Want to come back straight to a hot meal? There's a delay option of up to 24 hours.

For more than just stews

This cooker doubles up as a rice cooker and even yogurt maker, and has a dedicated 'bean/chilli' programme.

  • Buy the Instant Pot Duo V2 Slow Cooker

What are the benefits of using a slow cooker?

There are many benefits to using a slow cooker: mega easy to use and they'll cook your meals or puddings for you, are the top reasons which come to mind. Here's some more reasons (if you need) why owning the best slow cooker is good move, no matter the weather or season:

  • For many dishes you simply pop the raw ingredients into the pot, set it to go and leave it until it's time to serve up;
  • A slow cooker can transform cheap ingredients, whether meat or pulses, into hearty meals that don't rely on tons of fat to be tasty; 
  • You'll be surprised at what you can cook in a slow cooker: yoghurt, porridge and the Sunday roast are just three unexpected slow cooker meals. Find more slow cooker recipes in our feature.
  • They're cheap to run, despite being left on all day.

What can I cook in a slow cooker?

Slow cooker friendly ingredients to have in your cupboard

For those evenings when you just don't want to go to the supermarket/don't feel like making anything elaborate, the following ingredients can very easily be thrown in together for a delicious stew (no cooking knowledge required):
1. Tinned tomato: there's nothing it won't make better;
2. Carrot: use sparingly, as it's a strong flavour;
3. Potato: best peeled first;
4. Tinned chickpeas/beans: to add protein;
5. Stock. Choose veggie or chicken for even more flavour;
6. Mixed herbs and salt, for flavouring.

Perhaps the best question to ask here is what CAN'T you cook in a slow cooker? A slow cooker is one of those essential mealtime gadgets which you didn't realise you needed, until you take the plunge and start using one. They make effortless dinners, with a minimum amount of prep, and puddings too. All slow cookers work in the same way, some with the added benefit of smart tech, which is to cook at a consistent temperature, locking in flavours to produce mouthwatering results. Take our slow cooker roast beef and slow cooker pulled pork, for example. These are quick, easy meals which will dinner guests. And why not finish off with a slow cooker rice pudding for a healthy dessert (breakfast, or snack!).

Need some more inspiration? No worries: check out our best slow cooker recipes.

What is a good size for a slow cooker?

Slow cookers are available in all shapes and sizes but, as a general guide, most families will not need anything over a 7 litre capacity. If you're cooking for two, a 1.5 - 3 litre slow cooker would be plenty, a larger 4 - 5 litre will feed a family of four and those slow cookers with capacities of 5.5 to 7 litres is suffice for larger families or when an occasion calls. As luck would have it, this guide includes slow cookers up to a 6 litre capacity so all is catered for.

How much should I spend on a slow cooker?

Because there are so many slow cookers out there, it can be a little confusing when it comes to making a choice, especially if your budget is limited. So, how much do slow cookers cost – and what do you get for your money?

As with any kitchen appliance, to a degree, you get what you pay for – but the good news is that slow cookers don't have to be expensive. 

Budget slow cookers

At the cheaper end of the market (think £20 upwards, such as the Swan 1.5L Slow Cooker Retro; the Morphy Richards Sear & Stew Hinged Lid Slow Cooker; the Russell Hobbs Chalkboard Slow Cooker or the Crock Pot 3.5L Slow Cooker, which all feature on our list above), you'll get basic features and you may find the slow cooker gets hot on the outside or that it's not as easy to clean or to use on a hob as a more expensive model. However, they'll still do the job of slow cooking many dishes – and if you're new to this type of cooking, they're a good place to start.

What won't they do? You can't sauté in them because they don't reach the required heat, so you'll need to dirty a frying pan for this (and ensure you scrape all the juices into the pot from it to capture the flavours). 

Blow the budget slow cookers

Bump the budget up towards and beyond £100 and you'll get a multi-functional appliance that might have pre-programmed recipes, smart features, can be used on the hob, go in the dishwasher and may even be perform the functions of a pressure cooker, too (such as the Sage Fast Slow Pro).

There's more on slow cooker features to look out for below. Our advice? If you're new to slow cooking, start with the best model you can afford and be prepared to upgrade if you become hooked on it.

What is the best slow cooker?

So, let's recap...if you want the best slow cooker (in our opinion) we wouldn't hesitate to buy the Sage Fast Slow Pro, because it can do so many things such as searing, sautéing, slow and pressure cooking as well as keeping meals warm. It also automatically knows the time, temperature and pressure to use for best results every time.

We would also highly recommend buying the Swan 1.5L Retro Slow Cooker which comes very reasonably priced and with all the basic settings you need to create a tasty meal, too.

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