There is no better way to kick off a new year than with hearty and healthy batch-cooked meals. Perfect for staving off temptation when you can't be bothered to cook, a slow cooker will allow you to make flavour-packed dishes to enjoy throughout the week, so all you need to do is heat them up.
An increasing number of the best slow cookers also feature multi-cooking tech to pressure cook and sear in one smart machine. Some from Ninja and Instant Pot even come with lids to rival the best air fryers. For simple slow cooking though, you can choose between manual and digital models. Manual models come with a selection of temperature settings but you won't be able to set a timer to shut off or switch to a keep warm setting automatically. A digital model will be better for those who want a model to switch on and off while they're away from the kitchen.
Some slow cookers cost as little as £25, but you can also opt for premium models that go up to £100. From stews and curries to low-effort soups, pick one of the best slow cookers with our top 10 guide.
Best slow cooker reviews
If you like to use digital settings and are after a flexibility cooking option, then this is one of the best crock pot slow cookers which is worth a look.
Removable inner bowl
This is mega handy. The bowl can be removed so you can sauté on the stove, even on an induction hob. It can also go in the oven, in the fridge or be used as a serving dish which will avoid any more washing up. Having said that, though, the bowl and lid are dishwasher-proof, so cleaning up is super fast.
Not only has the slow cooker got a large 5L capacity but it's still got a big on-the-worktop presence. Yep, it's quite big (H32cm x W25cm x D35cm), so either ensure you have plenty of worktop space and/or cupboard space to stow it away.
Real Homes rating 4.5 out of 5 stars. Read our full Crock-Pot CSC026 DuraCeramic Sauté 5L Slow Cooker review
A slow cooker with a sous vide? Yep. This one has one so you can cook your dishes to perfection, just like the experts.
Sous vide function
The sous vide element is a metal stand (akin to a toast rack) that sits in the pot, and into which you can sit bags of food (not included – you need to buy these separately). You'll need to do a bit of research to find which bags were recyclable and whether it’s OK to use them under heated conditions, though.
Other useful features
The lockable lid with carry handles means you can easily take this slow cooker off to a family party with no hassle. And the temperature probe is a great additional feature which takes out all the worry about whether a large joint of meat is cooking as expected and it is simple to use.
Real Homes rating 4 out of 5 stars. Read our full Russell Hobbs Sous Vide Slow Cooker review
It would be easier to ask what the Ninja Foodi MAX 9-in-1 Multi-Cooker can't do in the kitchen than explain everything it does. With nine cooking modes, it's a great slow cooker with much more under the hood.
Pressure, steam, slow cook, sear, air crisp, grill, dehydrate, and roast with this slow cooker. It's got two lids that can be switched out depending on which mode you're using, and it's easy to change the timer and temperature using the front dial.
The 7.5 litre capacity will fit an entire chicken or leg of lamb. It fits enough to cook an entire feast, and we've used it to make everything from curry to an apple crumble.
The Ninja Foodi MAX 9-in-1 Multi-Cooker has a sear mode that allows you to essentially use it as a frying pan to cook off onions and carrots before adding meat and stock.
Real Homes rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Read our full Ninja Foodi Max 9-in-1 Multi Cooker 7.5L review
Morphy Richard's latest release is a redesign of the original Sear & Stew. It's got an attractive black and rose gold design, and you can also opt for a grey if that's more to your liking.
Easy to clean
Put the dishwasher-safe pot straight into the machine for quick cleaning once your meal is finished. We also enjoyed how well the non-stick prevented any messes from becoming stuck to the side of the bowl, which can often happen when making stews.
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.
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. It's nice and lightweight, which is a refreshing difference from some of the ceramic option in this guide.
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’.
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. Read our full Russell Hobbs Chalkboard Slow Cooker review
Get more for your money by splashing out on this professional-looking design, which is a pressure and slow cooker in one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Real Homes rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Read our full Instant Pot Duo review
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 4.7L bowl is great for cooking larger quantities and it’s also removable, dishwasher safe and oven-proof.
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.
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.
With an RRP of around the £20-mark, 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.
Black Friday slow cooker deals 2021
Although it won't officially begin until the 26th of November, we're all gearing up for some brilliant Black Friday slow cooker sales in 2021. If last year is anything to go by, deals will be dropping early, with savings on some of our favourite brands like Crock-Pot, Morphy Richards, and Instant Pot.
Although many of the best slow cookers are already budget-friendly, last year we saw savings of up to 40% on some of the more premium models in our guide. Stay turned for big savings by bookmarking this page: we'll be highlighting all of the best discounts as and when they drop.
What are the benefits of using a slow cooker?
Where to buy the best 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 mouth watering results. Take roast beef and pulled pork, for example. These are quick, easy meals which will dinner guests. And why not finish off with a rice pudding for a healthy dessert (breakfast, or snack!).
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 (opens in new tab); the Morphy Richards Sear & Stew Hinged Lid Slow Cooker (opens in new tab); the Russell Hobbs Chalkboard Slow Cooker (opens in new tab) or the Crock Pot 3.5L Slow Cooker (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab)).
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 Crock-Pot CSC026 DuraCeramic Sauté 5L Slow Cooker, which is budget-friendly but still a brilliant slow cooker for smart features.
We also love the Ninja Foodi MAX 9-in-1 Multi-Cooker 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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