We've been testing slow cookers for a while now – so the chance to review one with a built in sous vide was intriguing. Russell Hobb's Sous Vide Slow cooker is at the more expensive end of the scale when it comes to slow cookers, with an RRP of £99.99; that said, it has an added useful function: the slow vide.
We have it a thorough review to see if it produced the results it promised. The long and the short of it? We thoroughly enjoyed the ease of simply popping the lid on and three hours later having a fall-off-the-bone chicken with an enriched taste.
Read on to find out more about its features and how we got on. And for our pick of the best slow cookers, don't miss our expert buyer's guide.
Russell Hobbs Sous Vide Slow Cooker: the basics
The Russell Hobbs dual-use slow cooker is a large (6.5 litre, H27cm x W25cm x D19cm) chunky pot, with an elegant and simple design and a small panel of buttons and lights for different the functions, such as temperature, cooking times and other specific food options.
The internal ceramic pot is heavy, especially when full. Its size makes it perfect for making large quantities to eat over several days, store in the freezer, for a party of people or just for a large family, however its size does mean it takes up a large amount of space in the kitchen.
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). Although the instructions mention using zip-lock bags for food storage for the sous vide function, they do not recommend a brand to buy. We had to research some information on which bags were recyclable and whether it’s OK to use them under heated conditions. It would be helpful if this guidance was included with this product, especially as the sous vide function is a big part of it.
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. It can be removed and used over an oven hob as well.
Russell Hobbs Sous Vide Slow Cooker: getting started
The instruction manual is simple and clearly guides you through the temperature options for different dishes. The two flame option which has a circle below is for keeping the pot warm; the one flame symbol is low heat; and high is the three flame symbol. We found that a little confusing at first but soon got used to it. There is a temperature-ready indicator so you know when to start.
There are also a few recipe leaflets enclosed which were all for the sous vide function (that is the more complex of the two functions when you're new to it). We have found, however, that it doesn’t show recipes using the slow cooker beyond the usual stews, such as full joints of meat, yet there are a wealth of slow cooker recipes around.
One issue to look out for: the lid handle goes through to the underside of the lid into the pot by a few centimetres. This means that if you have a whole chicken which is a little higher, it gets in the way – we had to squash the chicken down to fit having lost an extra few centimetres of height due to the handle. You will, therefore, need to keep in mind the depth of the bowl when choosing what you want to cook.
Using the slow cooker function
Simply place your ingredients in the pot on low or high – depending on how long you need – go out with for the day, and come back to a hot, ready-prepared meal, either timing your return perfectly or using the handy timer function. The ‘keep warm’ function is really useful, giving you flexibility of a further four hours.
We cooked several stews with different meats and all came out tender, succulent and perfectly cooked with minimal effort, as you would expect with a good quality slow cooker. We also tried a whole chicken with a few vegetables underneath (in case we burnt the underside). This was the recommendation of everyone on the internet (as there was no guidance for this or other joints of meat in the instructions or recipes provided).
This is where the temperature probe is so useful: the cooking instructions are between two to four hours on ‘high’ so, as our chicken wasn’t huge, we used the temperature probe to make sure it was cooked before opening the lid.
However, with no searing function, if you want the chicken or any other joint of meat to be browned you will need to pop it under the grill or in a pan at the beginning or end for a few minutes. We'd love to have seen a sear function on this model, but it's our smallest First World problem today.
Using the sous vide function
We were excited to see a slow vide function in a slow cooker and weren’t disappointed with the results.
An important point we feel should be highlighted more in the instruction manual is that the timer for any sous vide preparation will only start once the temperature of the water is at the desired setting. So, when we cooked the steaks thinking it would take only an hour, it took about 20 minutes to get to temperature before the one hour started – so dinner was a bit late. (This is why they want you to put hot tap water into the bowl to reduce the waiting time for it to heat up.) Once the zip lock bags are in, the water will still need time to get to the perfect temperature.
You may also need to keep the sous vide cooking guide table to hand until you have committed it to memory because there are multiple options, depending on the weight of your product and the way you like it to be cooked. But don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds and results were well worth it.
The sous vide meals that we tested included fillets of haddock and cod cooked with a few herbs and pepper and a small knob of butter to 'soft/flaky’. We followed the instructions and it was perfect and infused with the herbs. We're good at cooking fish (even if we say so ourselves), so were curious to see whether the sous vide’s gentle cooking would give us some competition – and it did, it was perfectly cooked.
We also cooked two fillet steaks with a slice of garlic, herbs and pepper – cooked to ‘medium: one hour’ – (we used slightly less time than they said because we wanted to sear it after and rest it), and again, it was absolutely melt-in-the-mouth tender.
How easy is it to clean the Russell Hobbs Sous Vide Slow Cooker?
The cooker's pot is dishwasher-safe, so very easy to clean. The lid is hand-wash only but, in all, there no nooks and crannies that might accumulate dirt on this appliance – and the rubber lip seal is easy to remove, although it does move around a bit, so when locking the lid down you need to be sure it is properly in place. A lovely additional benefit, too, is that there are no grill pans to clean, just warm water to empty and a quick rinse and the washing up was done!
Other features we liked
The lockable lid with carry handles means you can easily take this slow cooker off to a family party with no hassle. The body is cool to the touch, even when on high, worth knowing if you have inquisitive children. On that note, the lid is made of toughened glass. Lastly, it comes with a three-year guarantee when registered.
Things to note: the inner pot is not safe for use in ovens or on the hob.