01.Want to come home to find dinner cooked?
Ready, set, forget
Getting dinner ready is as easy as preparing the ingredients in the morning, adding liquid, setting the temperature – then forgetting about it. The slow cooker prepares your meal at a relatively low temperature while you're busy elsewhere, and you can relax knowing it’s designed to cook safely while unattended. Come home at the end of the day, and your dinner is ready! And best of all, it works with cheap cuts of meat so you'll save money too.
How big does it need to be?
If you’re cooking for two, you’ll only need a 3-4.5L slow cooker. But if you want the capacity to cook more food or cater for more people, look at a 5-8L model.
Searing slow cookers
There are makes on the market that will allow you to sear meat and veggies on the stovetop without needing to use another pan, cutting down on transferring from one pan to another and all that subsequent washing up.
This appliance isn't just for those hearty winter meals, either. In summer, your slow cooker can make a roast or one-pot meal without heating up your kitchen as an oven does.
What else should I look for?
Consider how much food you expect to cook for you and your family, the cupboard space required for storage and bench space for usage. Round slow cookers tend to waste space. Rectangular cookers generally use space more efficiently, particularly in storage.
Look for bright indicator lights and a control switch that’s easy to access and is clearly labelled.
There should be few or no cracks or crevices for food to get trapped.
Each part should be easy to clean. A stainless-steel exterior may show fingerprints and need more wiping. Large cooking bowls can be awkward to clean in the sink or fit in the dishwasher, and you need to be able to wash up. Or get someone else to!
A timer is handy as it counts down the cooking timeon your slow cooker and then alerts you when it's finished. A few CHOICE members have been keen to get hold of a slow cooker with a delayed timer, which you can set to turn on or off while you’re away. But we don’t reckon you should, as leaving food in the cooker at a warm-ish temperature will breed bacteria. If you find your slow cooker turns off prematurely, throw the contents out straight away – it’s not worth risking food poisoning.
An automatic setting is helpful as it starts the process on high to bring the food up to temperature, then switches to low temperature for the remaining cooking time.
Someone with a disability should look for a cooker that’s not too big and is easy to handle – a huge bowl may be heavy or not fit into a small sink. It should have clear instructions and large, well-labelled controls at the front that are easy to operate.
A hot tip
When cooking on high, keep an eye out for spillage. Condensation forms when the food heats up and, because all the lids are loose-fitting, can splash out. So put your slow cooker where a few spills won’t matter, or keep an eye on it when cooking on high.
Anywhere from $25 to $200, depending on brand and features.