Slow cookers are useful for busy people: you fill the bowl with ingredients, switch it on and leave it to do its thing. We’ve tested a range of models, including some multi-cookers which can also pressure cook.
Snapshot: The Russell Hobbs Slow Cooker 4443BSS’s capacity is a small 3.5L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Cuisinart 3 in 1 Multi-Cooker MSC-600A’s capacity is a medium 5.7L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Home & Co 3L Slow Cooker Black SA-SC-1235 has a capacity of 3L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Necessities 3L Slow Cooker SRO8301’s capacity is a small 3L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Cuisinart Programmable Slow Cooker PSC-400A’s capacity is small 4L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Russell Hobbs 4L Slow Cooker RHSC4 has a capacity of 4L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Home & Co 5L Slow Cooker XJ-13220B has a 5L stated capacity. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Maxim 6.5L Slow Cooker NSC-650 has a 6.5L stated capacity. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Cuisinart 6.5L Slow Cooker PSC-650A’s capacity is a large 6.5L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Russell Hobbs 6L Searing Slow Cooker RHSC650’s capacity is a large 6L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The KitchenAid Artisan Slow Cooker KSC6222’s capacity is a medium 5.7L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Cuisinart CPC-610A Pressure Cooker Plus is a multi-cooker with a large 6L capacity. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Zip Elegance 5L Slow Cooker 223’s capacity is a medium-sized 5L. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
Snapshot: The Russell Hobbs Express Chef Digital Multi Cooker RHPC1000 has a 6L stated capacity. How easy is it to use and how well does it cook?
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In our test kitchen to be classified as a multi-cooker, a product must be able to pressure cook as well as slow cook. The pressure-cooking function uses pressure to tenderise the meat so you’ll get a dish that’s usually slow-cooked done double quick. They also double-up as a rice cooker.
All the cookers will produce food that's safe to eat – provided you follow both the cooker's instructions and standard food-safety practices.
To cook food slowly and safely:
The exteriors of slow cookers get hot enough to burn if you touch them while they’re cooking – we've measured temperatures of up to 80°C on the “high” setting.
We'd like to see slow cookers better insulated. Not only will this reduce the “burn” risk; it’ll also lower a cooker’s energy consumption.
1½ teaspoons paprika
2 fresh green chillies or jalapeño chillies, de-seeded and cut lengthwise into thin strips
1 bunch fresh coriander roots, finely chopped (save the leaves to stir through at the end)
1 litre beef stock
1 400g can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Sour cream and rice to serve
*Slow cookers don’t reach high enough temperatures to destroy a natural toxin which dried red kidney beans contain. Before using dried red kidney beans in a slow cooker you must first soak them for at least 5 hours then pour away the water and boil them for 10 minutes in fresh water.
In a large saucepan, or in a slow cooker pan that can be placed on a stove top, heat the oil on medium-high heat, brown the steak for 5-10 minutes.
Remove the meat, add onions and garlic, fry for 5 minutes. Add cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin, coriander and paprika, cook for 1 minute. Pour in beef stock, bring to a gentle boil.
Add steak, onion and stock mixture to the slow cooker pan with the fresh chilli, soaked dried beans (if using canned beans add to slow cooker 1 hour before end of cooking time), tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir well to distribute ingredients.
Cover and slow-cook until the meat is very tender, 5 hours at the high-heat setting or 8 hours at the low-heat setting.
Remove the meat from the slow cooker and gently shred the meat using a fork. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and keep warm until ready to serve.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir in fresh coriander leaves. Serve with rice and a dollop of sour cream.
Once you’ve tried sous vide food, you may never want to cook another way again. Seen on the likes of MasterChef, the "sous vide" method is like giving your food a time- and temperature-controlled spa bath. Anova's Precision Cooker is an easy way for you to do this at home.
Sous-vide cooking involves sealing food in a vacuum-packed bag and cooking this in a water bath at a precise temperature. The bag makes sure the food’s natural juices, moisture and flavours don’t escape – keeping the food tender.
We tested the sous vide by cooking pork chops for 4 hours and a chicken breast, salmon and beetroot for 1 hour. It did a very good job of cooking beetroot: while this was slightly undercooked, it was easy to cut for salads. The sous vide wasn’t so good on the other cooking tasks: the pork chops were slightly chewy and a little dry and the chicken breast was slightly undercooked.
The slow cooker test consisted of 2 tasks: shredded chilli beef and beans cooked for 5 hours initially and then for another 2; and corned beef cooked for 8 hours. The corned beef was fairly tender – but even after the extra 2 hours, the chilli beef and beans were still undercooked.
You need to be organised to do sous vide. For example it takes about 50 minutes to heat the water from 24°C to 83.5°C. As well, since different foods cook at different temperatures you can’t cook meat and vegetables at the same time. You also need to add some finishing touches afterwards – most meats cooked in the sous vide need a quick sear at the end of cooking to brown and caramelise the outside of the meat.
The Duos was easy to fill with water – it needs to be filled to the maximum level so the food sits under the water.
The instructions were reasonably comprehensive and included some recipes and a very basic temperature and cooking-time guide. But because sous vide is a new way of cooking we think you need more detail.
The Duos was very easy to clean. After using the sous vide you simply tip out the water then wipe dry with a soft cloth. The removable pan and lid are dishwasher-safe but the stainless-steel exterior may require a little more attention.
You’ll need to invest in a food sealer to use the sous vide – and, like all bigger appliances, it’ll take up space in your kitchen.
Sunbeam Duos Sous Vide and Slow Cooker MU4000
Rating: 3 stars
The Sunbeam Duos has a 5.5 litre cooking capacity and comes with a non-stick cooking pan, electronic temperature control and a countdown timer. It also comes with a “pouch rack” that separates the bags for more even cooking. The sous vide has a 40°C to 90°C temperature range (with a 1° increment selection); the slow cooker has low, high and auto “keep warm” settings.
If food is cooked or kept in the “temperature danger zone” (5°C to 60°C) for long periods, food-poisoning bacteria can grow. The bacteria has to be there in the first place – which is often the case with chicken.
On the other hand if food’s cooked in this temperature zone for short periods, it could be undercooked and not kill the bacteria.
To reduce the risk of food poisoning, food that’s cooked sous vide in the “temperature danger zone” should be cooked thoroughly – but it shouldn’t be cooked (or kept warm) for more than 6 hours. As well, any pieces of meat should be the same size and weight.
Sunbeam doesn’t recommend sous-vide cooking for pregnant women, small children, elderly people, or people who have an immune deficiency.
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