Instant Pots, slow cookers and pressure cookers cover a large array of provisions for the home cook.
From the traditional stews to rice, proving bread, risotto, sous vide cuts of meat and steaming vegetables, the traditional crock pots and wrench-like saucepans are no longer the only kind of multi-cookers on the market.
The offerings have been souped up, adding temperature probes, air fryers and flame-proof sauté pots.
Slow cooker buying guide: what to look for
Let’s set out the three types of cookers we’ve reviewed.
First up is the slow cooker, designed to extend cooking time from 1-2 hours in a conventional oven to 6-8 and beyond when cooked low and slow. The key idea is that the food maintains more of its nutritional value by being cooked so gently, and develops a greater depth of flavor. It also allows for unattended cooking, with no danger of an abrupt pressure release, unlike pressure cookers. These machines often rely on timing systems and can be timed up to 12 hours for a slow cook.
Pressure cookers use high levels of pressure and heat to speed up cooking time on items that usually take hours, such as lentils, homemade yoghurt, beans and tougher cuts of meat. The pressure cooker prepares similar items to the slow cooker, but it’s about speeding up the process, not taking hours on end.
The Instant Pot-styles, also known as multi-cookers, combine systems. By turning digital, manufacturers such as Instant Pot and Crock-Pot can offer speed and a slower pace, as well as added benefits such as steaming, sous vide and searing.
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For controlling timings and temperatures, we favored machines that gave us the best of both worlds. A hands-off, settings-only approach is helpful when slow cooking meat for stews or soups for hours on end, but we also looked out for customisable settings so cooking time and temperature can still be adjusted when necessary for steaming, sautéing or searing.
When weighing up which cooker is right for you, it’s best to consider the kind of food you cook at home, as well as the amount. If batch cooking to fill up the freezer is your deal, we’d suggest a multi-cooker with a large capacity. If you love leaving joints of meat to simmer away until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender on a Sunday, a slow cooker with a sauté pot option might be for you.
The best Instant Pots, pressure cookers and slow cookers, tested, ranked and rated
The point might sound obvious, but with so much innovation in this section of the market, it’s easy to get carried away with a multi-cooker that claims to revolutionise your kitchen, when you might really be looking for a simple slow cooker option to feed a family.
We’ve broken down the best of each category below, from one-person multi-cookers to 6 litre behemoths.
While lots of pressure cookers claim to offer an array of programmes, Instant Pot takes it a step further with their next-gen electric cooker that’s a slow cooker and pressure cooker all-in-one.
This means you can slow cook, steam and sauté, pressure cook and choose from 14 programmes. True to its name, the Instant Pot speeds up lengthly cooking times and allows up to a 24 hour delay start.
A compact model with searing, steaming and roasting under the lid, Instant Pot packs a punch and brings a much needed update to the pressure cooker design. It's our well-earned pick of the bunch here.
Prepare to completely change your dinner party game thanks to Russell Hobbs’s nifty bit of kit.
The 6.5 litre (6.8 quarts) ceramic pot produces perfectly steamed fish and next-level meat dishes, with a huge capacity able to cater to a giant gathering.
In fact, while testing this machine, we could already see new traditions emerging in our weekly cooking: a beef brisket prepared on Friday for the weekend with guests, or a super easy midweek sous vide salmon fillet dinner for friends.
If you’re already at home in the kitchen and ready to flex some new skills, the Sous Vide Slow Cooker has a lot to offer, and is well worth considering over even the Instant Pot, providing you know what you're doing with it.
Even the most reluctant home cooks will find Morphy Richards’ Sear & Stew easy to navigate.
It may operate with just three settings and be a far simpler model than its rivals, but we think it is possible to completely change how your cook for your friends and family with this robust and reliable slow cooker.
Creating delicate slow cooked meats, and being light enough to pull in and out of storage with ease, it's recommended for the occasional cook. However, the lack of a timer, pressure cooking or instant cooking options pulls it down from greatness.
Still, we're fans of its easy-access lid, and a low profile design makes it one of the easier appliances to store away.
A household name almost interchangeable with the slow cooker, Crock-Pot’s multi-cooker design has come a long way since the 1970s.
Their Digital Slow and Multi Cooker offers all the benefits of a slow cooker, plus super high temperatures for roasting and baking. We loved the handles and capacity, which are ideal for pot-lucks and large families.
Where it starts to fall down is with its lack of pressure cooking capabilities, and the fact its non-stick pot can mean you have to keep a close eye on what's being cooked – not great when the main draw of a slow cooker is being able to set it up, walk away and forget about.
While it might feel like the world of pressure cookers and slow cookers only caters for families the size of the Waltons, Lakeland’s Mini Multicooker makes slow cooking for one a viable option.
This machine strips it back to the bare essentials in a small, compact and convenient model, that still covers rice, yoghurt, porridge and bread proving.
However, don't get too ambitious with those portion sizes – overdo it, and you'll be left with a messy overflow to clean up once your brew starts bubbling. It's also the least versatile machine on this list, at least in terms of pre-set cooking options to work with.
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