Are you thinking of buying a slow cooker but aren’t sure which one is the best? We tested several models and cooked lots of different recipes, including stewing steak, pork loin and whole chicken. The large and good value Crock-Pot DuraCeramic 6.0L was our best in test. The Crock-Pot is a slow cooker with a real cooking pan which gives it a premium feeling that many other models lack.
We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our test of slow cookers, cooking enthusiasts used them at home in their everyday lives and with different dishes.
In order to be able to impartially assess the different models, at least one stew with beef was prepared in each slow cooker. We used the following parameters when assessing the various machines in order to be able to nominate a test winner.
Functions: Is it possible to choose different temperatures? Are there keep warm and timer functions?
Ease of use: Is the machine easy to use? How easy is it to clean the machine? Is it possible to brown directly in the pan? How hot does the slow cooker get during use?
Results: Does the slow cooker deliver a good result when it comes to the finished dishes?
Our scores are based on the overall experience of the product in relation to the price.
Effective, high quality slow cooker with excellent frying pan
Breadth approx: 36 cm Depth approx: 29 cm Height approx: 27 cm Weight: 3.2 kg Power: 250 W Volume of pan : 5 L
This is the slightly smaller, slightly cheaper sibling of the Crock-Pot DuraCeramic 6.0L. As the name suggests, this pan holds 5 litres, or 1 litre less than the 6.0L. On both models Crock-Pot use a real pan with a DuraCeramic non-stick coating. The pan works really well on the stove for browning meat or vegetables. We prepared delicious recipes such as pork tenderloin and chicken stew, but also vegetarian dishes such as pea soup. The pan is thick and doesn’t warp when exposed to high heat. The shape of this pot is round and quite deep. This means that the actual bottom surface of the pot is small, which of course means that it only holds a small quantity at a time when you brown the ingredients. As usual, the rule "brown in batches" applies.
The controls consist of buttons and a display. Instead of using the words "High, Low and Warm", the manufacturer has chosen to use symbols, and unfortunately it’s not completely obvious how they should be interpreted. After checking the instruction manual it did become clear, but better symbols or text would have been preferable.
Again, one clear advantage of the removable pan was apparent when cooking carnitas. Carnitas is a Mexican recipe for wild boar, which is cooked with spices. Once the meat is cooked, the liquid should be reduced down until a delicious dry mass remains. This is impossible to do in a traditional slow cooker. But you can do it by simply lifting the pan out of the slow cooker and putting it on the stove, then leaving it to reduce until ready. Overall, this is a very effective slow cooker, with few weaknesses. An extremely good purchase.
Large and easy-to-use slow cooker that’s dishwasher safe
Dimensions approx.(WxDxH): 45X33x34.5 cm Weight: 6.5kg Power: 235 W Volume of pan: 6.8 l
With a capacity of 6.8 litres, this is a huge slow cooker, that can effortlessly cook food for large groups. It has an attractive design with a stainless steel base, a black ceramic pan and a glass lid. A digital display and clear front buttons mean the design leaves nothing to be desired. However, the user manual is very short and we’d have liked it to be more detailed when it comes to explanations of the various functions, for example.
The ESC7400 has three different heat settings where most other models have only high/low, increasing the ability to customise your cooking however you want. There is also a special soup function and a buffet mode. Unfortunately, there’s no clear information about what the different functions actually do, which would have been useful. However, the buffet mode seems to be a keep-warm mode with a higher temperature than the normal keep-warm mode. This is suitable for buffet serving where the lid is frequently removed and the temperature risks dropping.
Possible to wash the pan in the dishwasher
The ceramic pan is large and consequently quite heavy. The weight and size make it a little difficult to handle, but it is possible to wash it in a dishwasher,which is a clear advantage. Unfortunately, as with all ceramic pans, you can’t use it on the stove or in the oven. Being able to brown meat and vegetables directly in the pan both facilitates cooking and takes full advantage of all of the flavours, so it’s a pity that Electrolux chose to use ceramic material. The outside of the slow cooker becomes very warm during cooking – so hot, in fact, that it can be difficult to handle without good oven gloves.
When it comes to the quality of the cooking itself, the ACX7400 delivers top-of-the-range results. The ability to select the temperature in three stages is an advantage, and everything we cook is absolutely as good as can be expected from a slow cooker.
On the whole, this is a good value slow cooker, as long as you’re careful to use oven gloves!
Large slow cooker for a low price, with the option to brown directly in the pan
Breadth approx: 40 cm Depth approx: 27 cm Height approx: 26 cm Weight: 2.9 kg Power: 200 W Volume of pan : 6 L
The Russell Hobbs Maxi Cook is a really big slow cooker, perfect for filling the freezer or making a huge Sunday lunch for all the family. This is the big brother of Russell Hobb's small "Chalkboard” model. If you’re cooking a meat stew, the 6-litre pan can easily hold enough for 8 servings. The pan is made of aluminium and treated with a non-stick coating that works well; nothing sticks. This pan can be placed directly on the stove to brown your ingredients.
Unfortunately, the pan is so thin that the bottom of it deforms when it gets hot. The test version became so distorted that only a small part of the bottom was left touching the hotplate. This, in combination with the thin material, means that the pan easily loses temperature and the meat is cooked instead of browned. Because of that, it’s extra important not to try to brown too large quantities at the same time. Several batches and small amounts each time is the best way.
The Maxi Cook has a digital display with timer, delayed start, high/low mode and keep warm functions. The slow cooker automatically switches to keeping warm after your selected time has elapsed. When left on for 10 hours, the machine automatically goes into standby mode, a good function which offers extra safety. Overall the slow cooker is easy to use and results are excellent if you avoid browning a lot of food at the same time.
Simple but effective slow cooker
Breadth approx: 37 cm Depth approx: 28 cm Height approx: 24 cm Weight: 3.7 kg Volume of pan: 3.5 L
This is Crock-Pot's smallest, most stripped-down model. The ceramic pan holds 3.5 litres, which is enough for about 3-5 people, depending on what you're cooking. It’s a fairly simple construction with a single knob on the front with four different positions. Off, Low, High and Warm. There’s also a small light on the front that indicates when the Crock-Pot is on.
There’s no timer function and that means it’s less appealing to leave the appliance switched on while you’re out at work. Even though margins for cooking times are wide when it comes to slow cookers, it feels a bit worrying that the machine doesn’t turn off if you’re delayed and don’t get home on time. This particular Crock-Pot gets very hot on the outside when it’s on. In fact, so hot there’s a risk of burning yourself if you touch it without oven gloves. You can’t place it on or near anything sensitive to heat, so read the instructions carefully.
Like other slow cookers with a ceramic inner pan, it can’t be used on a stove for browning ingredients, which is a shame. When we tried cooking a meat stew, the result was good, the meat was tender and the vegetables just right. With no timer function, however, you have to monitor the cooking to an extent to ensure your food isn’t overcooked.
Small and simple slow cooker with a nice matte black colour
Breadth approx: 28 cm Depth approx: 28 cm Height approx: 28 cm Weight: 3.9 kg Power: 200 W Volume of pan : 3.5 L
The Russell Hobbs Chalkboard stands out from other models in our test with its stylish matte black colour, which also serves as an old-fashioned blackboard. With the included chalks, you can write or draw on the outside, which is a fun detail. Instead of buttons, this cooker has an old-fashioned analogue knob with four different positions: Off, Low, High and Warm. It’s simple and gives a really solid impression. However, there isn’t a timer function to allow the slow cooker to automatically switch off or keep warm after a certain time. Nor is there any lamp or other indicator to show that the appliance is switched on.
The pan itself is made of ceramic. It’s worth noting that the instructions for use say it’s possible to use the pan on your stove to brown ingredients, but this is actually a printing error. During the test, of course, we tried this, which ended with a ceramic vessel that was cracked in several places. The manufacturer has since informed us that their operating instructions will be updated.
This slow cooker operates at a high temperature. In both modes – low and high – the food actually cooks quite strongly and quickly. This differs from other slow cookers in the test that work at a lower temperature and simmer food towards the end of cooking. Something more subtle would have been nice, as many dishes do benefit from being cooked at a lower temperature and for a longer period of time. But if you take into account that temperature issue, the little Chalkboard does a reasonable job, especially considering that it’s one of the cheapest models in our tests.
A slow cooker is a type of electric cooker that is used to cook at low temperatures. It’s a cooking method that preserves both taste and nutrients better than "normal" cooking. They are mainly used for dishes that are to be stewed or simmered, for example soups and casseroles, but they also have other uses. It’s possible to bake bread and cook some desserts in a slow cooker, but they’re most useful when it comes to slow cooked food such as pulled pork or boeuf bourguignon. Vegetarian recipes are also popular, with our personal favourites being rice pudding and vegetarian chilli bean casserole.
Slow cookers have been around for quite a while. The first ones appeared in the USA as early as the 1950s and over time helped recipes such as Texas Chili ribs and classic Steak Diane become popular again. They have made a bit of a comeback in recent years, with the slow food trend and more and more people wanting to cook something nutritious with recipes from scratch, rather than using prepared products. The electric slow cooker can be described, a bit inaccurately, as a modern variant of the classic 1970s clay stew pot, which was immensely popular a few decades ago.
The idea behind these appliances is that you can prepare the ingredients in the morning, or maybe the night before, and the slow cooker then cooks the food while you’re at work. You just chop up the ingredients you want to use, put everything in your slow cooker and turn it on. When you come home, the meat sauce, beef, pork fillet, chicken or whatever is ready to be served. Or why not let it simmer overnight and wake up to the finished slow cooked dish? Many people today are so short of time with their work and children that they rarely have the time to follow recipes and cook a proper meal, and that’s one of the reasons slow cookers are so popular.
But food cooked at lower temperatures than in "normal" cooking also retains its flavours better. Just like with all other cooking where you work with a low temperature for a longer period of time, it’s possible to use cheaper and "worse" cuts of meat, for instance, and still get them to come out tender and delicious. So you also save money while cooking from scratch.
One alternative to an electric slow cooker is a standard cast iron pot, which you place in the oven at low temperature. The advantages of a slow cooker are that they use a little less power and also, in most cases, have a built-in timer that finishes cooking after a predetermined time and then switches over to keeping the food warm. You never have to worry about the food burning or getting ruined if you’re late home from work.
A slow cooker usually consists of two parts. A container in which the food is cooked and a base that contains all the heating elements, other electronics, buttons etc. The top part is usually made of some form of ceramic or metal lined with non-stick material, which together with the low temperature means that nothing burns.
Most of these containers can also be put in the dishwasher, which of course facilitates cleaning. Some of the containers can be removed from the slow cooker and placed on the stove and used as a normal pan, which is useful. More about that later in this article. The size of the top part varies, of course, but a good tip is to buy a really big slow cooker. This type of cooking is ideal for cooking large quantities, so choose an appliance as big as you have room for, and make large batches that you can then freeze. This is one of the ways slow cookers really come into their own and save you both time and money.
Superficially, the basic method for using a slow cooker is to just put all your favourite ingredients in the pan and press start, to then be met by a fragrant stew of some kind when you get home. Of course you can do that, but if you want to get a good result, there are a few other things you should bear in mind.
1. Brown all meat and vegetables before you cook them
When you brown – especially things like beef, pork and chicken – hundreds of flavours are developed that improve both the taste and appearance of a finished dish. A meat stew where the ingredients haven’t been browned first will be just a pale and tasteless version of what it could have been. This is why it’s so useful if the top part of the slow cooker can first be used as a pan on your stove. Then you can brown stuff on your stove, before returning the pan to the slow cooker – thus preserving all the flavours of your food.
2. Use it for dishes that benefit from the cooking method Most stews and soups work really well. Bread can be baked in a slow cooker and some desserts work too, but in all honesty these gain nothing from being cooked in this way.
3. Watch out for the liquid As no liquid evaporates during slow cooking, the pot or soup is not reduced as it would be in “normal” cooking. When you reduce a liquid, the flavours are concentrated and a stew/soup thickens. As this doesn’t happen in a slow cooker, you must instead be careful how much water or other liquid you use from the beginning, otherwise the result will be watery and thin.
If you use your slow cooker the right way and for the right things, you will hopefully be happy with it and it will become a faithful companion in the kitchen.
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