Appliances

Product overview

Welcome to New Zealand’s trusted, independent source of practical consumer information. Join us now to access all our information and Consumer advisers when you need them.  

Slow cookers and multi-cookers

15jun slow cookers hero2 default

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 18 models, plus 4 multi-cookers which can also pressure-cook.

From our test

Join us now for instant access

Join more than 100,000 members today and you'll get:

  • Independent info
  • Thousands of test results and research you can trust
  • Everything in one easy place
  • Expert support a phone call away if things go wrong


What to look for

Consider these features when you're choosing a slow cooker.

  • Get the right 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.
  • Make checking easy: a glass lid allows you to check progress without lifting the lid.
  • Get the most convenient 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

Here's what the settings on a slow cooker are used for.

  • 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 "low".

Multi-cookers

Fast cook, slow cook, sear and steam. Versatile multi-cookers do it all. Our slow cookers test included 4 multi-cookers.

A multi-cooker offers both slow cooking and pressure cooking – and it also cooks rice. The pressure-cooking function uses pressure to tenderise the meat so you’ll get a dish that’s usually slow-cooked done double quick.

Features to look for

  • Steam: perfect for cooking fish and vegetables.
  • Warm: keeps the food warm after the cooking time is finished – great for families who eat at different times.
  • 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

  • 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.

Tips for using your multi-cooker

  • Check the pressure-release valve to make sure it’s free of food residue before and after each use.
  • Remove and clean the silicone rubber seal regularly – soak the seal in baking soda and water to remove odours.
  • Store the lid upside-down on the pot so the gasket doesn’t lose its shape.
  • Use a tea towel or oven mitt to protect your hands when you open the pressure-release valve.
  • Don’t overfill when using the pressure cooker setting – the cookers usually come with a maximum fill line for liquid and you only need a small amount of water to fill the cooker with steam.
  • Practice makes perfect! We found it takes trial and error to get the cooking times right, even with the recipe books and instructions provided by the manufacturer.

More slow cooker variations

We've taken a quick look at several versatile appliances that can also be used as slow cookers.

Safety tips

Slow cookers cook food at a low enough temperature to be left unattended for hours. But the food must reach a core temperature of at least 60°C to kill harmful bacteria.

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:

  • Boil dried beans for at least 10 minutes before slow cooking to destroy toxins which will otherwise survive the lower temperatures of a slow cooker.
  • Always completely thaw frozen meat, poultry or vegetables before putting them in the cooker.
  • Vegetables cook the slowest, so place them at the bottom and sides of the pot and then add the meat.
  • Don't overload the cooker – fill it to about half its capacity (two-thirds at most).
  • Don't take off the lid during cooking unless the recipe calls for it. Removing the lid lets heat and moisture escape, so you will have to extend the cooking time.
  • Add any dairy products, fish or seafood when you get home – or within the last half-hour of cooking.
  • Don't leave cooked food to cool down completely in the bowl or pan. It should cool at room temperature for 2 hours and then go into the fridge.
  • Never reheat leftovers in your slow cooker – use a microwave, cooktop, or oven.
  • If there's a power cut while you're out, check the temperature of the food with a meat thermometer. If it's lower than 70°C, it's probably not safe to eat.
  • Slow cookers cook food at a low enough temperature to be left unattended for hours. But the food must reach a core temperature of at least 60°C to kill harmful bacteria.

Hot stuff

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 80ºC 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.

Chilli beef recipe

This slow cooker recipe serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups soaked dried borlotti, pinto or black beans (soak overnight, drain and rinse) or 2 cans red kidney*, pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 kg whole beef, chuck, flank or blade steak
  • 4 medium-sized brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium-sized garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 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.

Method

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.

Tips

  • When soaking dried beans soak extra as the unused beans can be portioned into freezer bags and frozen for up to 2 months. Portion into 2 cups per bag. (1 kg dried beans makes approximately 10 cups soaked beans.) They are then ready for soups, stews or casseroles.
  • Jalapeño chilli is very hot. If you want a mild chilli use the long green chillies instead or just one jalapeño chilli .
  • Serve the chilli with corn chips, tacos or tortillas, guacamole and sour cream.
  • Leftovers can be frozen up to 2 months.
×