For busy parents, the slow-cooker is enormously convenient: with little effort, a delicious meal is on the table when you get home. You can prepare a variety of dishes: from a delicious Dutch pea soup to Rendang, a popular recipe from Indonesian cuisine – without looking back. How exactly a slow cooker works and what the advantages and disadvantages are you can read in this beginner’s guide: especially for anyone considering a slow cooker for the first time.
If you’re buying a slowcooker for the first time, you probably don’t know exactly what it is, how a slowcooker works and why it’s so useful. In our beginner’s guide, we answer all your questions and show you exactly what you can do with a slowcooker. Get to know the slowcooker:
- What is a slowcooker?
- How does a slowcooker work?
- What do you prepare with a slowcooker?
- What is the advantage of a slowcooker?
- Is a slowcooker healthy?
- What does a slowcooker cost?
- What is the consumption of a slowcooker?
- What brands are there?
- What is the best slowcooker?
Our team at The Kitchenary Lab is a big fan of slowcookers. We use the slowcooker regularly, especially on busy weekdays, it’s our lifesaver. Already have a slowcooker in your home and looking for inspiration? Then check out our slowcooker dishes.
What is a slowcooker?
A slowcooker or slow cooker is a kitchen appliance for preparing recipes at a low temperature. The way of cooking is the same as with a stew pot with the advantage that you do not have to constantly stand by it. In the morning you fill the slow-cooker with meat, vegetables and fresh herbs and when you get home there is a delicious and healthy meal waiting for you. A slow cooker is actually nothing more than an electric pan.
The brand Crock-pot is the inventor of the slow cooker. A slow cooker is therefore often called a Crock Pot. A Crock-pot is indeed a slow cooker, but not every slow cooker is a Crock-Pot. Today, fortunately, there are many more suppliers of slow-cookers, which helps the price.
A slowcooker consists of a heating element, a kind of pan with a lid. The best is a slowcooker with a removable inner pan. This is a little easier to clean. A slowcooker is a bit like a rice cooker, but more versatile.
How does a slowcooker work?
A slowcooker works very simply, which is why we, like many others, are big fans of this kitchen tool. A slowcooker (often) runs on electricity. Under the inner pan is a heating element that ensures a constant temperature. You fill the inner pan with different ingredients, plug it in and set the cooking time and temperature. That’s it!
The slow cooking preserves the nutrients and flavors. This is because the moisture cannot escape and remains in the inner pan. Yet it is good to know that one slow cooker is not the other, the difference lies in the functions.
The ‘traditional’ slow cooker
With simple and (often) cheaper slow cookers you have a choice of two temperature settings: setting low and setting high. With the low setting the cooking time is about 8 hours, while with the high setting the cooking time is about 8 hours. These slow cookers do not have a timer, so the cooking time depends on the temperature setting.
When finished, the slow cooker automatically jumps to the keep warm function. Handy, that way you don’t have to reheat the food again.
Slow-cooker with digital timer
A slow-cooker with digital timer lets you set the desired cooking time. This is handy, because with certain ingredients a long cooking time is less desirable. With a slow-cooker with timer you have more control.
A more expensive slow-cooker often comes with extended features:
- Automatic cooking programs: such as roasting, steaming and baking. It is then often called a multicooker. Learn more about the differences here.
- Saute function: this means you can use the removable inner pan on the stove. This is useful when you want to saute the dish (often meat) first, which is a requirement for certain recipes.
Tip: We always recommend choosing a slow cooker with a glass lid. This way you can immediately see how the food is doing and it is easier to clean the lid.
What is the advantage of a slow cooker?
The biggest advantage of a slow cooker is that you don’t have to worry about it. You can leave the house with peace of mind without worrying about dinner. Nutrients are not lost due to the low temperature and that moisture cannot escape from the inner pan. This is something to keep in mind when making a soup, for example.
- For meat dishes: deliciously tender meat!
- Baking is not possible
- No need to stand around. The slow cooker does it all!
- Nutrients preserved: healthy way of cooking
- Flavors remain intact because the food cooks at a low temperature.
- You use less oil because you cook a complete meal in one go
- Structure of the food remains intact
- Little washing up
There are so many advantages to a slow cooker that we have dedicated an entire article to it.
Things to keep in mind:
Certain dishes and not all ingredients are less suitable for the slow-cooker. There is a chance that these will be cooked to pieces.
- Slow cooker takes up a lot of space
- Burning or searing of meat should be done in another pan.
- It takes a long time, so a slowcooker is not suitable for a quick bite.
- a slow-cooker cannot bake. If you want to cook a piece of meat, it has to be browned beforehand. More luxurious slow-cookers are equipped with a saute function.
- The amount of moisture released by a slow-cooker can create a “pool effect. Fortunately, there are several tricks to solve this such as using starch.
What do you prepare with a slow cooker?
A lot is possible with a slow cooker. For example, it is perfect for meat dishes and hard vegetables, as well as stews, soups, fish or a whole chicken. Our favorite slow-cooker recipe is rendang, beef cooked in coconut milk with Indonesian spices. The big advantage of a slow-cooker is that you can use it to prepare complete meals.
We regularly share our favorite slow-cooker dishes on our site, such as:
- Our favorite soup dishes for the slowcooker
- Our favorite meat recipes for in the slowcooker
- Our favorite stews for the slowcooker
Here are some more examples of recipes you prepare in a slowcooker:
Thai chicken soup
This comforting chicken noodle soup is packed with flavor thanks to the red curry paste, fish sauce, coconut milk and ginger. Source.
Turkey and spinach stuffed shells
This classic is delicious! Fill jumbo shells with a spinach and ground turkey mixture and apply several layers of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.
Nothing is more autumnal than a big bowl of hot pumpkin soup. You can immediately spice up this dish with a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and croutons.
Pasta night just got a lot more exciting thanks to this baked spaghetti dish loaded with ricotta, minced meat, and marinara sauce.
Other great recipes include:
- A Classic Hachee
- BBQ spareribs
- Vegetable or tomato soup
- Chili con carne
- Mexican pulled pork
The inspiration of the above dishes comes from Tasty.
A slow cooker is very suitable for hard vegetables, but less so for “soft” vegetables. This is because these are quickly cooked to pieces.
Slow cooker recipe book
Certain dishes are better suited for a slowcooker than others. For inspiration, a slow-cooker recipe book is always handy. This will ensure that you get the most out of your slow cooker. There are quite a few slow-cooker recipe books on the market, of which this one is our favorite. This recipe book contains more than 500 slow-cooker recipes for less than 10 euros.
If you don’t feel like buying a recipe book, take a look at our inspiration blog.
Is cooking with a slow cooker healthy?
Yes, definitely! Cooking with a slow cooker is actually very healthy. Where normally nutrients can be lost when evaporating water or at high temperatures, this is not the case with a slow cooker. The moisture has no possibility to escape and because of the slow cooking all nutrients are preserved.
Another advantage of a slow cooker is that you use less oil. In fact, with the slow cooker you prepare entire meals at once. In normal cooking, you often cook the various ingredients separately from each other, so you will most likely use more oil.
Can I brown meat first in a slow cooker?
The purpose of searing meat is that the moisture in the meat is not lost, resulting in a tender piece of meat as a result. If you want to sear the meat first (which is highly recommended) then choose a slow-cooker with a separate inner pan that you can put on the stove. Look carefully at the material of the inner pan; aluminum, stainless steel and cast iron are suitable for the stove. Ceramic is not.
Which slow cooker can run on gas?
If you like the meat to burn first, but you have a gas stove then choose an aluminum or stainless steel removable inner pan.
What does a slowcooker cost?
You can buy a simple slow-cooker starting from a few tens of dollars. There are many suppliers on the market so you can buy a slow cooker for little money. These are the traditional slow cookers with only a low and high setting. A more luxurious slow cooker with timer, automatic programs or a saute function you can buy from about 60 euros.
The … we declared in our slowcooker test as the “best buy,” meaning it is a bargain without compromising on quality.
Of course, with a slow cooker you not only have to deal with purchase costs, but also with running costs. With a cooking time of 6 – 8 hours you would probably think that a slow cooker consumes a lot of power. You can read how this works below.
What is the consumption of a slow cooker?
Contrary to what many people think, a slow cooker uses little energy, which makes them energy efficient. Slow cookers such as those of Crock-Pot use between 75 and 150 watts of electricity on the low temperature setting and 150 to 210 watts on the high temperature setting. This is comparable to a standard light bulb.
Depending on the size of the slow cooker, the wattage is between 50 and 300 watts. For example, a 200-watt slow cooker consumes only 1.6 kWh. In comparison, if you leave a simple light bulb on while the slow cooker is cooking, the light bulb consumes almost as much or even more energy.
Conclusion: so you don’t have to worry about the power costs of a slow cooker. In fact, it uses much less energy compared to a kitchen appliance such as an oven, multicooker and/or microwave.
Crock-Pot is the best-known brand, since it is also the inventor. Today there are many (cheaper) alternatives that work just as well. Below we discuss the most popular brands:
The first slow cooker was launched by the American brand Crock-Pot. Since then, the brand name has become a household name worldwide. A Crock-Pot may be slightly more expensive compared to other slow-cookers; it has an excellent reputation regarding build quality and some even claim that you prepare tastier dishes with a Crock-Pot than with other slow-cookers.
The downside of a Crock-Pot is that they are quite expensive. If you want a bargain look at the brands below.
Bestron is a Dutch kitchen appliance brand. It sells only two different slow cookers, though they are wildly popular because of their price and stainless steel finish. Bestron is a great option if you are looking for an affordable slow cooker.
Russell Hobbs slow cooker
With the English brand Russell Hobbs you are at the right place for cheaper and more luxurious slow cookers. You can buy a slow cooker for as little as a few tens of dollars and prices go up to over 100 euros. The price difference depends on the capacity and the number of extra functions.
Tristar slow cooker
Tristar is another Dutch manufacturer of kitchen appliances, including slow-cookers. Like Bestron, Tristar has a small range of affordable slow cookers that are very popular because of good value for money.
What is the best slow cooker?
The Crock Pot Slow cooker Express-Pot CR051 was voted the best slow cooker in the test by our editors. This is a multifunctional slow cooker with pre-programmed fast cooking functions. In addition to slow cooking, use this Crock-Pot for high pressure, steaming and searing. With a capacity of 5.6 liters, this slow cooker is very suitable for a large family.
- See also: our test results with the best slowcookers 2021
What is the best buy slow cooker?
Just want a good slow cooker with no frills for little money? The Tristar VS-3915 slow cooker was voted by our editors as the best buy from the slow cooker test. This simple slow cooker has 4 temperature settings including a keep-warm function.
Factors to consider when buying a slow cooker
When buying a slow cooker pay attention to the size / capacity of the slow cooker, the controls, the material of the inner pan and the number of temperature settings. We recommend that you always choose a slow cooker with a removable inner pan and warming function. That makes using a slow cooker a lot easier. Want to know more? Read our slow cooker buying guide.
You choose a multicooker when you want to use other cooking programs besides slow cooking, such as baking, roasting, boiling, stewing and steaming. Find out in this article whether a slow-cooker or multicooker better suits your needs.
Frequently asked questions
A slowcooker is a relief to have in your home. But if you’re buying a slowcooker for the first time, you may still have some questions. Below we hope to answer them:
A slowcooker is very convenient to use and can save you a lot of time. The downside is that it takes up quite a lot of space. Fortunately, there are also smaller slow-cookers.
Personally, I don’t recommend filling the inner pan to the brim. It’s better to leave a little room.
No, the big advantage of a slow-cooker is that you don’t have to stand by it. Because the liquid stays in the pan, the food will never burn.
That varies per slow cooker and per dish. With some slow cookers you can set the time. With cheaper slow cookers the cooking time depends on the temperature setting, which often comes down to 6 to 8 hours.
That’s hard to say, but in general users are very appreciative of slow cookers from Russell Hobbs and Crock-Pot.
There are many different slow cookers for sale, which makes it difficult to choose. In our buying guide, we help you find the right slowcooker. Take a look at our TOP-10 of the best slowcookers or go directly to our buying guide.