2018 – Slow Cookers Compared
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Review slow cookers from ALDI, Breville, Crock Pot, Kambrook, Kmart, Russell Hobbs and Sunbeam on their cooking performance, ease of use, design, ease of cleaning, functions and features, value for money, and overall customer satisfaction.
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Canstar Blue research finalised in October 2018, published in October 2018.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Russell Hobbs turns up the heat in slow cooker ratings
For many of us, the humble slow cooker is an absolute saviour. Culinary novices, lazy bachelors and busy mums can rejoice at the thought of preparing a meal in the morning, and coming home at the end of the day to find dinner all but served. Few appliances can match a slow cooker’s ease of use, with the handy cooker able to be left alone while you kick back and relax or keep busy with other household chores. The convenience can be worth its weight in gold. But when it comes to finding the right slow cooker for your kitchen, some may ‘feel the heat’ during the decision-making process.
To help you get the best deal, Canstar Blue produces an annual customer review of slow cookers, asking consumers to rate their recent purchase on a number of important factors, helping you to make a better purchase decision when you go shopping. This year, more than 800 Australians – who have bought and used a new slow cooker in the last two years – have given us their feedback, with their views reflected in the star ratings table you see above.
The seven major brands included in our 2018 slow cooker review have been rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:
- 1st Russell Hobbs
- 2nd Sunbeam
- 3rd Crock Pot
- 4th Kambrook
- 5th ALDI Lumina
- 6th Breville
- 7th Kmart
While Russell Hobbs has claimed top spot for the second year in a row, it was given a run for its money, with strong challenges from popular brand Sunbeam and wallet-friendly ALDI, both earning top marks in one category. But in the two years of our slow cooker ratings, Russell Hobbs remains the brand to beat. Is anyone up to the challenge? We’ll wait and see.
This year’s research found that cooking performance, ease of use and design are the greatest drivers of slow cooker satisfaction for Australian consumers, with value for money, ease of cleaning and functions & features considered less important. That’s worth keeping in mind when you’re looking for a new slow cooker – a competitive price is important, but it’s ultimately the cooker’s performance that will keep you happy in the long run. Here are some of the other standout findings from our survey:
What even is a slow cooker?
As the name implies, a slow cooker is an appliance that slowly cooks food at low temperatures, helping to bring out flavours and textures you can’t generally get from cooking at higher temperatures. Usually used for stews, soups, curries and meats, slow cookers are an ideal option for those looking to cater for plenty of hungry mouths, with many slow cookers featuring a ‘keep warm’ function for when dinner is ready, but your guests aren’t.
How do slow cookers work?
Slow cookers are generally comprised of three components – a heating element, ceramic bowl, and glass lid. The heat generated by the element spreads evenly through the bowl, with the steam generated inside the bowl creating a vacuum seal with the lid, helping the pot to retain moisture during cooking.
The low temperature and moisture retention of slow cookers makes it virtually impossible to burn food. This means that certain slow cooker recipes permit you to leave the cooker unattended for hours. If you’re often too tired to cook after work, slow cookers give you the option to start cooking dinner in the morning and come home to a perfectly cooked meal in the evening.
Best-Rated Slow Cookers
Well known within the home appliance market, British manufacturer Russell Hobbs has plenty of products on offer to help consumers fill their kitchens, ranging from toasters to microwaves, as well as the humble slow cooker. Available at major homeware stores and electronic retailers, Russell Hobbs has a number of models available, regardless of whether you’re cooking for one, or for a mob.
With capacities ranging from 3.5L up to 7L, Russell Hobbs slow cookers include a removable ceramic bowl, as well as a tempered glass lid and cool touch handles for easy use and to help ensure you keep safe while cooking. With multiple heat settings – including a handy keep-warm function for when you have to round up the troops for dinner – most Russell Hobbs models additionally include dishwasher safe parts, making the after-dinner clean up easy.
If you’re looking to add a twist to your cooking, Russell Hobbs offers a Searing slow cooker, which allows those busy in the kitchen to place their slow cooker on the stove to sear the ingredients before returning to a low heat, cutting down on cooking time.
- Rated five stars for overall satisfaction, Russell Hobbs also picked up the only top rating for ease of use, design, ease of cleaning and functions & features, with four stars for cooking performance and value for money.
Another popular household name, American brand Sunbeam has a number of slow cookers for Australian families to choose from, including the ‘SecretChef’ range. Capacities range from 4.5L up to 7.5L, meaning home cooks will be able to find a size suitable to how many mouths there are to feed.
Each Sunbeam model features a wrap-around heating element, ensuring that your food is evenly cooked throughout, as well as preventing food from sticking to the bottom, making it a handy feature for when it comes time to clean up. Speaking of, Sunbeam’s slow cookers also contain dishwasher-safe pans and lids, making it even easier for when it’s your turn to do the dishes.
Sunbeam’s cooker range additionally includes a searing model, which includes a frypan function to brown and cook meats before switching to the slow cooking. The searing model also includes an electronic timer and temperature control, along with multiple heat settings to ensure you get the most out of your meal.
If you’re looking to mix things up in the kitchen, Sunbeam additionally offers a sous vide and slow cooker in one, allowing you to cook via low heat, or via steam. Including an electronic user panel for temperature control and pre-setting cooking times, the sous vide cooker may be better suited for those looking to get adventurous in the kitchen.
- Rated four stars for overall satisfaction, Sunbeam achieved the only five-star review for cooking performance, with four stars in all remaining categories, including design and value for money.
Available at electronic retailers and homeware stores, popular brand Crock Pot offers a number of models for all household sizes and culinary levels, with classic slow cookers and hybrid appliances available.
Crock Pot’s introductory model, aptly named Traditional, may be suited for smaller households with a 3.5L capacity, but it includes plenty of features to score plenty of compliments when dinner is served. Including oven-safe materials, the Traditional cooker includes a wrap-around heating element, as well as multiple heat settings and a keep-warm function to ensure dinner is never served cold.
Other Crock Pot appliances include the Lift & Serve model, which includes a hinged lid for easy serving, as well as dishwasher safe materials for easy clean up. With a 5.7L capacity, it may be a handy kitchen extra for larger households, or those who like to cook in bulk.
Also available is the Sear & Slow model, allowing households to sear meats as well as create slow-cooked meals. With an LCD screen and 20-hour programmable digital timer, the Sear & Slow model allows you to get ahead of dinner time, with the pot able to be placed on gas, electric and induction surfaces, handy for households regardless of what your kitchen runs on.
- While rated four stars for overall satisfaction, Crock Pot got three stars in all remaining categories, including ease of cleaning, design and functions & features.
Australian brand Kambrook has been offering household and kitchen appliances for close to 50 years, with the slow cooker no exception, with a number of models available at major homeware stores and electrical retailers. One of the cheaper options available on the market, Kambrook might be a good option for those trying a slow cooker for the first time.
Primarily available in the ‘World of Flavours’ range, Kambrook’s slow cookers are available in 3L and 4.5L capacities, each with multiple heat settings to match your cooking style and personal preferences. With a wrap-around heating element, Kambrook models also include cool touch handles for increased safety, as well as a dishwasher safe bowl and lid for easy clean up.
If you’re looking for something a bit more serious, Kambrook also offers the ‘Deluxe’ model, which has a 6L capacity and stainless steel design, handy for those who are big on appliance aesthetics. In addition to multiple heat settings and a keep warm function, the Deluxe cooker also includes dishwasher safe parts and cool touch handles.
- Scoring a mix of three and four star results, Kambrook was rated four stars for overall satisfaction, ease of use and ease of cleaning, with three stars in all remaining categories.
Another Australian brand, Breville is a household name when it comes to kitchen appliances, with several slow cookers to help with dinner plans. Available to purchase online as well as in-store, you can pick up a Breville slow cooker at major electronics stores and homeware retailers.
Breville’s introductory model, the Flavour Maker, is available in 5L and 7L capacities, making them a handy addition for larger families. The Flavour Maker additionally comes with searing capabilities, allowing users to change up dinner plans to suit different textures and preferences when it comes to what you serve up on the plate. With a stainless steel finish and a dishwasher safe lid, the Flavour Maker can also be used on a cooktop for easy use.
Other Breville slow cookers include the ‘Smart Temp’, which includes a programmable timer and a sensor to automatically control the temperature to prevent overheating, and the ‘Fast Slow Cooker’ which comes with pressure cooker functionality to further open up dinner options.
- While rated three stars for design and value for money, Breville scored four stars for all remaining categories, including cooking performance, ease of use, ease of cleaning, functions & features and overall satisfaction.
One of the cheapest ranges on the market, homeware giant Kmart has a number of slow cookers available for shoppers to snatch up, with capacities ranging between 3L and 5L to suit most household sizes.
Available with multiple heating settings, Kmart’s slow cookers can be purchased in either black or silver finishes, with a tempered glass lid and removable crock pot. While the Kmart range might not include as many features as some of the other brands available on the market, the discounter may be a worthwhile visit for those on a budget or those who aren’t looking for all the bells and whistles.
- Kmart was rated three stars for overall satisfaction, cooking performance, ease of use, design and function & features, with four stars for value for money and ease of cleaning.
Only available at the occasional Special Buy event, ALDI’s slow cookers may be a suitable option for those looking to snag a bargain, or trying a slow cooker for the first time. A good entry-level appliance, you may say.
While they may be short in the features department, ALDI’s slow cookers might be worth a trip down the middle aisle if you’re looking for something simple to produce slow cooked meals with.
- The only brand to score five stars for value for money, ALDI got four stars in all other categories, including overall satisfaction and cooking performance.
What to look for when buying a slow cooker
Slow cookers come in a number of sizes, with capacities usually ranging between 3.5L and 7L. Larger slow cookers will also have large heating elements, so size should not affect performance. With that said, large capacity slow cookers are also generally more expensive.
Most slow cookers are oval in shape, but some models are rectangular. The different shapes don’t amount to any considerable difference in performance, though rectangular slow cookers are generally considered easier to store.
Cheap slow cookers usually have two settings: Low and high. Some mid-range slow cookers will include a medium or ‘warm’ setting. For those who are serious about their slow cooking, some top-tier models have temperature controls that let you perfectly set your cooking temperature.
Like many modern kitchen appliances, certain slow cookers include features to make cooking a little bit easier.
- Timer: Some slow cookers include timers that alert you to when the set cooking time is reached. This isn’t an essential feature these days since most of us can set an alarm on our phone, but it’s always a bonus if there’s one built in.
- Automatic adjustment setting: With this setting, when a certain temperature or time is reached the slow cooker will automatically adjust from the high setting to the low setting. This ensures that your food stays warm until you’re ready, without overcooking it.
- Touch interface: Buttons and dials are the enemy of any messy cooker – the fewer crevices, the better. Touch interfaces are easier to clean, however are generally only found on more expensive models.
- Delayed start setting: This feature lets you set your slow cooker to start at a later time. This is a handy setting if you’re going out all day but your recipe doesn’t require all that much time to cook.
Should I buy a slow cooker?
The short answer is yes, if you’re going to use it often enough to justify the purchase price. To explain why, here are some of the highlights of slow cookers.
- Sturdy: Slow cookers are hardy appliances that can last for many years, depending on the quality and treatment of the appliance.
- Low fat: There is enough moisture inside a slow cooker that food won’t stick to the ceramic pot. This means there is no need to add any extra oil to your cooking.
- Cheaper ingredients: Slow cookers cook the meat in a way that makes it fall straight off the bone. This means that you can use cheaper cuts of meat to create the same delicious meaty dish.
- Simple cooking: As we’ve mentioned, making a delicious meal in a slow cooker can be as easy as throwing in all the ingredients from the start and waiting.
- Easy to clean: The ceramic bowl inside slow cookers is usually removable for easy cleaning. Also, since it’s difficult to burn anything in a slow cooker, you won’t have any burn marks to scrub away.
What are the downsides to a slow cooker?
The most glaringly obvious downside to a slow cooker is of course that it’s slow at cooking. This means its cooking application is rather restricted. While some of the best slow cookers out there will boast a myriad of features that let them cook a wide range of foods, most cheap models will be limited with three settings – low, high and warm.
Slow cookers tend to be very large and bulky, which can be troublesome if cabinet space is at a premium in your kitchen. If storage space is a concern, keep in mind that oval shaped cookers tend to take up more space than rectangular models.
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Which slow cooker should I buy?
When it comes to putting food on the table, there are plenty of appliances to help create crowd-pleasers, with the slow cooker adding another element when it comes to grabbing a feed. The ability to simply set a timer and come back a few hours later to find a nicely cooked meat dish or curry is often a winner for many households, but which cooker you decide to trust your next meal with can be a tough decision.
Ultimately, which slow cooker you decide to add to your kitchen will come down to your preferences, as well as how many meals you plan on cooking with it. With 37% of survey respondents indicating that they don’t use their slow cooker as much as they thought they would, it’s important to do your research before you head in-store, as you may find a better deal elsewhere, or may even decide that a multi-cooker may be the way to go for your household.
Frequently Asked Questions
Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and used a new slow cooker in the last 2 years – in this case, 832 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.