The Best Slow Cooker

Or how to whip up impressive meals with minimal effort.

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November 7, 2019
Best slow cookers

Slow Cookers

Forget sliced bread, slow cookers are one of the best inventions. Delivering flavour-packed meals, mouth-watering aromas, falling-off-the-fork meat and tender yet never mushy vegetables, they’re an incredibly convenient way to cook. The best slow cooker is easy to use, with intuitive controls and a variety of cooking modes for maximum flexibility. It’s also easy to clean, with dishwasher-safe parts, and durable, representing good value for money. This is a guide to the top slow cookers in Australia, informed by independent testing and real Aussie consumer insights.

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Our top picks

Breville Flavour Maker 7L
Best Overall

Breville Flavour Maker 7L

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Combining convenience with depth of flavour, the Breville Flavour Maker takes you directly from searing your meat to cooking it, in just 1 pan. Easy clean with a standalone pan that’s oven, cooktop, dishwasher and fridge safe, it’s big enough to feed a crowd, with minimal washing up.
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Sunbeam SecretChef HP5520
Also Great

Sunbeam SecretChef HP5520

See price on Amazon
Simple to operate and care for, the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520 offers a dishwasher-safe lid and bowl and cook-and-serve ability, thanks to its detachable power cord. Although it doesn’t offer the functionality of our Breville Flavour Maker winner, its 5.5L-capacity bowl is an affordable way to feed a family.
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Slow Cookers

Forget sliced bread, slow cookers are one of the best inventions. Delivering flavour-packed meals, mouth-watering aromas, falling-off-the-fork meat and tender yet never mushy vegetables, they’re an incredibly convenient way to cook. The best slow cooker is easy to use, with intuitive controls and a variety of cooking modes for maximum flexibility. It’s also easy to clean, with dishwasher-safe parts, and durable, representing good value for money. This is a guide to the top slow cookers in Australia, informed by independent testing and real Aussie consumer insights.

Slow Cookers
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How we picked

We started with CHOICE, Australia’s consumer advocacy group. They put a huge number of slow cookers through their paces across 24 criteria chosen by their expert testers. This gave us a good starting point.

We then turned to ProductReview.com.au, Australia's first consumer opinion site, to see how these slow cookers performed in real Aussie kitchens, not a test environment. We also searched for the most popular slow cookers as judged by ProductReview.com.au users, rather than the CHOICE testers.

Finally, we looked at Canstar Blue, an Australian consumer review and comparison website. They ran a slow cooker survey, which gave us a good understanding of popular brands in Australia, although not specific models.

This gave us a shortlist of slow cookers. We chose our picks based on how easy they were to use and clean and weighed up price and independent testing against consumer insights and trying to avoid certain brand dominance.

Important features to consider

Slow cookers (not to be confused with pressure cookers) tend to offer very similar things, which can make choosing between them difficult. Here’s what to look for when shopping for one.

Litre capacity

Slow cookers are designed to feed a crowd. The smallest capacity we reviewed was 5L, going up to 7L. The smallest capacity you might find is 3.5L. Which means you can cook for 3-7 people, approximately. The cheapest slow cookers we reviewed were the smallest (5L and 5.5L). The largest slow cooker (7L) wasn’t the most expensive, that goes to a 6L one. So, size seems to be somewhat linked to price. 

Shape

Slow cookers tend to be oval, round or rectangular. While this doesn’t impact on performance, it can impact on storability. Rectangular slow cookers are thought to be easier to store.  

Cooking settings

Basic slow cookers usually have 2 settings: low and high. These are all you need to slow cook effectively. 

Warranty

From our consumer research, it seems slow cookers are prone to some issues. As a high-use item that endures high temperatures for an extended period, it’s not too surprising. The most complaints we found related to non-stick coatings peeling off and lids shattering – though how many of these are related to user error, we’re not sure. 

Check the warranty. Five of the slow cookers we reviewed came with a 1-year warranty. Only 1 (the Russell Hobbs) came with a longer 2-year warranty. Also be aware of the cost of replacement parts – you don’t want to end up spending half the amount you paid for the cooker on a new lid or bowl. 

Control dial

The simplest slow cookers feature a control dial that you turn to your desired setting. This basic control is easy to use and doesn’t create too many crevices for food to lurk in. 

Easy clean

There shouldn’t be much to clean with a slow cooker: just the bowl, and perhaps the exterior may need a quick wipe. The bowl should ideally be dishwasher safe. If it’s not, check how heavy and bulky it is – you need to be able to easily wash it in the kitchen sink so it should fit under taps. A stainless-steel exterior may look modern, but it’ll also show up fingerprints.

What you get if you spend more

Pay more and you might get some features that up the convenience factor, although they probably won’t impact much on the performance.

Keep warm function

Not ready to eat? Once cooking is over, you can switch to keep warm mode which will keep your food at a safe temperature. Some more expensive models switch this mode on automatically. It’s a nice to have. But if you’ll be at home when the cooking is over, you probably don’t need this.

Timer

A lot of slow cookers don’t have a timer - our winner, at around $150, included. Pay more and you’ll probably get one. It’s not essential, as a lot of us use our phones to set alarms.

Auto cooking feature

This basically means the slow cooker will start on the low setting, before cranking up to the high setting after a certain amount of time (or vice versa). On more expensive models, the slow cooker will automatically adjust between settings once a certain temperature is reached. It’s intended to ensure your food stays warm until you’re ready, without overcooking it. 

Digital display

Buttons and dials can be mess-attracting crevices. Top-end slow cookers opt for digital displays instead. These touch interfaces are easier to clean, but they attract a premium price and are more likely to misfunction than a basic dial. 

Delayed start setting

Going out all day, but your meal doesn’t need that long to cook? This function lets you set your slow cooker to start later. 

Cooking modes

Most slow cookers offer 2-3 cooking modes, low, medium or high. Opt for a higher-end model, and you’ll get more control over your cooking. The most expensive slow cooker we reviewed – the Breville Fast Slow Pro BPR700 – offers 11 different cooking modes. If you’re that serious about cooking, you probably don’t need a slow cooker…

Sear-in-pan

This is 1 feature that might affect your meal’s taste. Searing your meat first caramelises it, making it more flavourful. Doing it in the same pan as what you’ll slow cook it in gives you this additional flavour hit, while also minimising washing up and the number of pans you need.

Best Overall: Breville Flavour Maker 7L Slow Cooker

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Breville Flavour Maker 7L
Combining convenience with depth of flavour, the Breville Flavour Maker takes you directly from searing your meat to cooking it, in just 1 pan. Easy clean with a standalone pan that’s oven, cooktop, dishwasher and fridge safe, it’s big enough to feed a crowd, with minimal washing up.
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Slow cooking is all about convenience combined with depth of flavour. This is a combo that the Breville Flavour Maker 7L Slow Cooker nails. That’s because its pan can be used on the stove top to sear meat, before being directly transferred to the slow cooker to tenderise the meat in its delicious browned juices. You can even use the pan in the oven, making it a multifunctional standalone tool. Removable silicone handles mean you can transfer it safely between stove top / oven and slow cooker. 

It has 3 settings: low, high and auto to allow you to cook a wide range of deliciousness. The low setting gently simmers pot roasts and braises. The auto setting cooks for high for 2 hours, then switches to low. It also comes with a stainless-steel trivet for roasts and puddings.

When you’re done, the non-stick coated cooking pan is easy to clean – it’s dishwasher (and fridge) safe. The lid’s dishwasher safe too. Serving is a breeze: take off the power cord and bring the slow cooker to the table.

With a generous 7L capacity, you can feed the whole family. All this, for around $150. CHOICE has thoroughly tested it and it’s got over 4 stars from almost 100 reviews on ProductReview.com.au. 

Why buy the Breville Flavour Maker 7L

7L size – the generous capacity means you can fit an entire roast in the pan, with some veggies fitted in too. This makes it great for families, cooking for a crowd or anyone who likes to fill the freezer with leftovers. 

Stove top to cooker – searing meat first helps to produce rich caramelised flavours. Being able to do it in a pan and then slot it directly into your slow cooker means you’re getting these flavours with minimum effort – and washing up.  

Standalone pan – the pan can be used by itself in the oven and on the cooktop, although it’s not suitable for induction. You’re not just getting a slow cooker; you’re getting a searing / roasting pan too. 

Non-stick pan – for easy cleaning! Some customer reviews raise issues with the non-stick coating coming off. We’ve seen a lot of these complaints, and not just about this slow cooker or brand. Overall, it seems to be isolated cases rather than a genuine issue.

Easy care – with the pan being dishwasher and fridge safe, this is an easy to look after slow cooker – you’ve only got 1 pan to care for which can be popped in the dishwasher. 

Removable power cord – this means you can dish up at the table, saving you using and washing up a serving bowl.

Price – at around $150, we think all these features make the Breville Flavour Maker excellent value for money.

The not-so-good bits

Size and weight – its 7L pan means it’s going to be heavy and bulky to store: it weighs 5kg. Measuring  46 W x 28 H x 23cm D, you’ll need adequate storage space. 

No timer – with no built-in timer, you’ll need to set your own timer.

No keep warm function – a keep warm function is handy, keeping your food warm at a safe temperature, but not cooking, until you’re ready to eat it. We don’t think it’s a deal-breaker not having this function but even the $20 Kmart model packs one. 

1-year warranty – it’s a shame to spend around $150 and only get a 1-year limited warranty.

Non see-through lid – taking off a lid during slow cooking is a big no-no. It can have a big impact on the cooking time. A see-through lid can be handy for having a look at what’s going on. But given you can’t take it off, there’s not a huge benefit in being see-through. Think of this as a slow cooker that’s good for people who like surprises.

In summary 

Combining convenience with depth of flavour, the Breville Flavour Maker takes you directly from searing your meat to cooking it, in just 1 pan. Easy clean with a standalone pan that’s oven, cooktop, dishwasher and fridge safe, it’s big enough to feed a crowd, with minimal washing up. You can even dish up directly from the table thanks to the removable power cord. Three settings and an included stainless-steel trivet provide maximum cooking flexibility. All for around $150 – phew.

Also Great: Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520

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Breville Flavour Maker 7L
Simple to operate and care for, the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520 offers a dishwasher-safe lid and bowl and cook-and-serve ability, thanks to its detachable power cord. Although it doesn’t offer the functionality of our Breville Flavour Maker winner, its 5.5L-capacity bowl is an affordable way to feed a family.
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If what you’re looking for in a slow cooker is a simple, no frills cooker that you simply switch on and let work, we reckon the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520 is the way to go. Its 5.5L capacity is family-sized and it offers 2 heat settings, plus a keep warm function. 

It’s got a see-through lid, which is dishwasher safe like the bowl, so it’s easy care. Like our winner, it has a detachable power cord for cook-and-serve functionality. Unlike our winner, the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520 doesn’t offer a searing function. You’ll need to use a separate pan for this, which generates more washing up. 

Even though its capacity is 1.5L smaller than our winner, it’s deeper and heavier. It weighs around 6kg and measures 45 W x 20 H x 29cm D – which is 6cm deeper. Bear this in mind if you’re limited on storage space.

It’s been thoroughly tested by CHOICE and it’s currently got just under 4 stars on ProductReview.com.au. Sunbeam is also Canstar Blue’s 2nd most popular slow cooker brand. Sunbeam achieved the only 5-star review for cooking performance, with 4 stars in all remaining categories, including design and value for money. With a RRP of $60, it’s a highly affordable, excellent slow cooker.

Why the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520 is worth considering

Price – at RRP $60, this is less than half the price of our winner making it a very affordable slow cooker.

Easy care – with the lid and bowl being dishwasher safe, it’s very quick and easy to look after.

Cook-and-serve – like our winner, it has a detachable power cord for serving up on the table.

Easy operation – with a dial that offers low, high and keep warm options, this couldn’t be simpler to use. 

See-through lid – so you can keep an eye on your meal. 

5.5L capacity – making it family-sized, or great for producing leftovers. 

Keep warm setting – not ready to eat just yet? Use this function to keep your food at a safe temperature until you’re ready to serve.

Popular brand – as Canstar Blue’s 2nd most popular slow cooker brand, you’re getting a brand that’s trusted and loved by Aussies. 

The not-so-good bits

No searing function – you can’t go straight from the stove to the cooker with this, which makes it slightly less convenient.

No timer – not a dealbreaker, but a nice to have.

1-year warranty – at this low price point, a 1-year warranty seems fair, but it’d be nice to be a little longer, especially if this is going to be a high-use item. 

Size and weight – even though it has 1.5L-less capacity than our winner, it’s heavier and deeper making it tricky to store. 

In summary 

If you’re looking to throw ingredients into a slow cooker, switch it on and let it work its magic, try the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520. Simple to operate and care for, the lid and bowl are dishwasher-safe, and you can cook-and-serve thanks to its detachable power cord. Although it doesn’t offer the functionality of our Breville Flavour Maker winner, it’s a well-priced way to feed a crowd.

The Competition

There are hundreds of slow cookers on the market competing for your attention. These are the ones we think are worth considering. 

Breville Fast Slow Pro BPR700

Oxymoron of a name aside, the Breville Fast Slow Pro BPR700 is an impressive beast that offers more than slow cooking; it’s also a pressure cooker. There are 11 pressure cook settings, plus slow cook settings from high to low. It allows you to reduce, sauté, sear, slow cook, and pressure cook steam. Once you’ve got to grips with it, it automatically adjusts time, temperature and pressure between fast and slow cooking modes to deliver the best taste. The keep warm function automatically kicks in when cooking is complete. 

An auto steam-release setting helps minimise overcooking and safely releases steam, hands-free. A LCD display lets you know what’s going on, with plenty of information including a pressure indicator, temperature, countdown timer, and steam release indicator. The lid can be put in the dishwasher, but the bowl can’t. 

It has a 6L capacity and comes with a stainless steamer basket and rack, plus recipe book. It packs a huge RRP – $370 – but still only a 1-year warranty. 

Choose this if – you need a high-end slow cooker that’s also a pressure cooker, which can handle a huge range of cooking tasks far beyond simply chucking in ingredients and switching on. You’ll need to commit some time to learning how to use it. But it could pay off – over 200 Aussies rave about it on ProductReview.com.au. 

Kmart 5L Slow Cooker

At the other end of the slow cooker scale is the Kmart 5L Slow Cooker. This is seriously no frills. It has low, high and keep warm settings. The bowl is dishwasher and fridge safe. It has a see-through lid and a basic instruction manual. And that’s it, really. 

It costs just $20. As you’d expect, it doesn’t have features like a detachable power cord, or timer and it has a 1-year warranty – the same as the $370 Breville Fast Slow Pro! But it’s been thoroughly tested by CHOICE and clocks up over 4 stars on ProductReview.com.au from almost 100 reviews. 

Choose this if – you want a super basic, no frills slow cooker for a ridiculously low price. 

Breville the Smart Temp BSC420BSS

Take the guesswork out of slow cooking with Breville the Smart Temp BSC420BSS. It has a sensor that automatically adjusts the temperature to prevent overcooking. It also offers 3 pre-programmed settings – low, medium and high – plus a keep warm function that automatically kicks in once cooking is complete. With a dishwasher-safe lid and bowl, it’s easy clean. 

The ceramic bowl holds 6L and Breville reckons you can “Serve on the table in this premium crockery bowl”. Note that it doesn’t have a detachable power cord, so you can’t take the whole unit to the table.

It’s easy to use and care for, and well-tested by CHOICE. There are good, but limited, reviews on ProductReview.com.au – both our winner and runner-up have more reviews. With a RRP of $110, it’s less than our winner but offers less functionality. It’s $50 more than our runner-up, which is probably due to the LED display and smart temperature sensor.  

Choose this if – you want an upgrade to our runner-up pick that boasts a LED display and temperature sensor for good results.

Russell Hobbs Searing Slow Cooker RHSC650

The Russell Hobbs Searing Slow Cooker RHSC650 offers the same functionality as our winner: sear your meat in the pot on the cooktop, and then transfer to the slow cooker. Unlike our winner, the non-stick pot can’t be used in the oven. It’s also not dishwasher safe. But multiple reviews mention that the pot is lightweight, making it easy to handwash.

It offers 3 heat settings – high, low and warm – plus an auto function, which begins at high before switching to low when the desired cooking temperature is reached. It has a digital display and buttons, with a timer for easy use. It holds up to 6L and has a RRP of $90, considerably less than our winner’s $150. It also has the longest warranty of any slow cooker we reviewed: 2 years.

Russell Hobbs is Canstar Blue’s most popular slow cooker brand. They picked up the only top rating for ease of use, design, ease of cleaning and functions and features, with 4 stars for cooking performance and value for money. There are currently very limited (although great) customer reviews, which is why this didn’t earn a top spot. 

Choose this if – you’d like an alternative to our winner, which offers some of the same functionality, particularly sear-then-slow-cook, for a lower price plus a digital display. You’ll need to be happy to accept limited customer reviews.

The Bottom Line

Slow cookers can be life-changing, making mealtimes much easier. At their most basic, you simply chuck in your ingredients, select the right cooking mode and leave it to it. Pay more, and you might get more cooking options or even greater convenience – like being able to sear and slow cook in 1 pot. 

We reckon the Breville Flavour Maker is Australia’s best slow cooker. It offers great convenience: you can sear your meat on the cooktop before slow cooking it – in the same pan. With this pan being cooktop and oven-safe, it’s multifunctional and you can use it standalone. Easy care thanks to its dishwasher-safe lid and pan, it holds a huge 7L making it suitable for families, crowds or leftovers.

A simpler but still great slow cooker is the Sunbeam SecretChef Slow Cooker HP5520. Simply put your ingredients in, turn the dial and let it go. It doesn’t offer the same functionality as our winner, but it has a much lower price tag. It’s also equally easy to care for, and you can cook-and-serve with it too, thanks to its detachable power cord.

Sarah Idle
Words by Sarah Idle

Sources

1. "How to buy the best slow cooker", CHOICE

2. "Slow Cookers", ProductReview.com.au

3. "Slow Cookers Compared", Canstar Blue