All Slow Cookers perform the same function: they cook food on a very low heat. Most cookers have two heat settings for cooking, but then they vary - considerably. This guide to buying a Slow Cooker helps you decide which features you want to narrow down your choice.
I've had a slow cooker for years - decades actually - and at times it's been in weekly use and then there are years when it comes out at Christmas for mulled wine and maybe for chicken stock - or maybe not.
I recently decided to upgrade my old crockpot to a newer model with a smaller footprint and with a dishwasher-safe pot. A quick search on Amazon for Slow Cookers totally flummoxed me with the array of options now available and a range of prices from under £20 to almost £200.
After weeks of deliberation, I made my choice and decided to put together a few of the points to consider when you're buying a Slow Cooker.
1. Size - Capacity of the Slow Cooker Pot
- 1.5-litre - If space is at a premium or you're usually cooking for 1-2, this is ideal - but you won't get a chicken in it
- 3.5-litre - This is the size I use. It's big enough for a casserole for 4-6, including vegetables and I can get a 1.5kg chicken or a gammon in it
- 6.5-litre - If you have a large family, like to cook plenty for the freezer, or often feed 6+ people I would buy this. You don't have to fill it if you are cooking something smaller.
2. Digital vs Manual Timer
Digital timer pros
- You can programme the cooking time as well as the heat setting
- Usually has an automatic KEEP WARM function
Manual timer pros
- Simple to use
- Usually cheaper than digital
- You can delay the start time by using a timer on the plug socket or a remote control
- The cooker will stay on until you turn it off.
3. Metal Pot vs Ceramic Pot
Metal pot pros
- You can put the pot on the hob so you can brown the meat in it
- It won't break if you drop it
- Usually dishwasher-proof
- Usually lightweight.
Ceramic pot pros
- Looks better on the table - no need to transfer to a serving dish.
Ceramic pot cons
- You have to be careful not to put hot liquids into the cold pot or cold liquids into a hot pot, in case it cracks.
You get a good choice of a basic Slow Cooker for £20-50. You pay more for a digital timer or a larger capacity.
Otherwise, it's down to what you like the look of and whether you want it to be more than just a Slow Cooker.
- Many of the higher-priced cookers (over £100) have other functions, e.g. as a pressure cooker. If you want both and you don't want to store two large pieces of equipment, this is a consideration.
- AUTO cook (HIGH to get up to temperature then switches to LOW).
Keep warm function
- Keeps the food warm once cooking has stopped.
- In theory, useful to see what's going on, but it can steam up.
What did I buy?
I wanted a digital timer and a 3.5l cooker with a glass lid. I also wanted a metal dish so that I can brown the meat in it. So I bought a Morphy Richards slow cooker that does all that and that I like the colour of (brushed steel).
What I found was that once I had decided on size/ temperature control/ type of dish, the choice was narrowed down considerably and it was quite easy to make a decision.
If you have a ceramic pot or your metal one doesn't clean easily, you could try slow cooker liners, which cut down on the washing up. They're also useful if you're cooking a joint or a whole chicken so that you can get it out of the pot easily!
Slow Cooker Recipes
Some slow cooker recipes to try: