The faster your life, the better a slow cooker looks.
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.
To be classified as a multi-cooker in our test kitchen, 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.
Things to consider when choosing a slow or multi-cooker
Size: a 5 to 6 litre cooker gives a useable volume of 4 litres — a
good size for large groups. For 1 or 2 people, 3.5 litres (2 litres
useable volume) is enough.
Glass lid: makes checking easy. It allows you to check progress
without lifting the lid.
Searing function: Slow cookers produce moisture as they cook, which
means sauces can end up watery and lacking flavour. Slow or
multi-cookers with non-stick metal pans or a built-in searing feature
allow you to brown the meat (which produces better flavours) before
the slow cooking starts. And at the end of cooking you can turn up
the heat or transfer the pan to the stovetop to reduce the liquid and
concentrate the flavours — all without creating extra dirty dishes.
You’ll pay more for this feature, but you’ll get a more versatile
Functions: Some cookers can also steam, cook rice, bake or make
Bowl shape: a round pot is fine if you plan to cook only stews and
curries, but an oval cooker allows you to cook longer cuts of meat
such as lamb shanks or roasts as well.
Settings: Low gently simmers food for a long time. High cooks over a
shorter time, although the food may need stirring to improve the
flavour and you may have to add water. Warm is for keeping the food
at serving temperature – but you shouldn't use this setting for more
than 4 hours. Auto cooks food on "high" for a while, then switches to
Multi-cooker features to look for
Pressure settings: more than one setting allows you to adjust the
time it takes to cook different dishes. The higher the pressure, the
quicker the cooking time.
Pressure-release valve: a valve you can turn to release steam. It
means you don’t have to bother cooling the cooker before you open it.
Pressure-regulator valve: controls the rate at which steam vents out
of the cooker and the degree of pressure inside the cooker.
Downsides to multi-cookers
We found all the tested models fiddly to clean, with areas where food
particles can get trapped.
None of the cooking bowls have handles (which makes it difficult to
stir food or remove the bowl without using an oven mitt).
They all take up lots of room in your kitchen cupboard.