Multi-cookers might seem like just another thing to clutter up your kitchen or store-cupboard. But if it means you can do away with your existing roasting tins, slow cooker, pressure cooker, steamer and frying pan, it can actually be a way to de-clutter.
Good multi-cookers (and there are a lot of bad ones that didn’t make this round-up) have other advantages. They’re often quick to use as well as simple, with a choice between pre-set programmes and manual overrides.
And you can often use a timer so you have your dish ready for when you get home, as well as keeping it warm if you’re not quite ready to eat.
Make sure your machine has all the functions you need, and don’t be fooled into thinking that the more you splash out, the more functions it will have. But this can be no bad thing – doing a few things really well is surely better than doing everything with average or even poor results.
We tested the individual functions of all the multi-cookers below, as well as the consistency of results, the robustness of the machine and ease of use. Other considerations were how easy it was to keep clean and whether it came with recipe ideas. We also thought about size and weight.
Morphy Richards MyPot Pressure Cooker: £69.99, John Lewis
This looks a world away from the kind of pressure cooker you might remember your parents or grandparents using.
More like something you’d see in a futuristic kitchen, its powers are not to be underestimated, with its 10 pre-set functions that cover everything from pasta to puddings and soups to stews, while you can convert it over to manual mode if you prefer controlling your own cooking.
Features such as the keep-warm function and delay timer are a godsend if you’re busy with other things and it comes with a range of decent recipes. It feels well-made and doesn’t take up loads of room. The only thing that could improve it is a handle on the inner pot (instead, you’ll need your oven gloves at the ready).
Crock-Pot Express Multi Cooker CSC051: £89.99, Amazon
Mention Crock-Pot and most people think of slow cookers. In America, the brand name is as synonymous to them as hoovers are to vacuum cleaners here. Now they’ve come up with this machine that pressure cooks, slow cooks, sautés and steams.
You won’t be surprised to hear the slow cooker is top-notch, and we were also impressed with how well it browned meat and steamed rice - it doesn’t cook food quite as well as top-quality pressure cookers, but it’s not bad.
Feeding an average family or less, it works fast on many of its settings, cooking a whole chicken in half an hour, although you can only delay the cooking for up to four hours. It’s not the easiest to clean, though.
Lakeland Mini Multi-Cooker 1.8L: £49.99, Lakeland
This is ideal for one- or two-person households and despite its small size (handy for smaller kitchens), it is capable of great things, including soups, curries, yoghurt, cakes and particularly good rice.
We found it easy to set up and use, thanks to the LED control panel and whizzy features including a countdown timer and keep-warm function. It beeps when your food is ready and the removable cooking pot has a carry handle so you can pop it straight on the table – and it’s easy to clean afterwards. Shame there’s no recipe book included.
KitchenAid Multi-Cooker with Stir Assist: £218.95, Harts of Stur
This unusual-looking machine just about hangs onto the retro vibe of this popular brand and looks good on a worktop, especially the red one (it’s also available in stainless steel and black).
It has 10 pre-programmed settings including sauté, sear, soup, yogurt, risotto, rice, boil/steam, simmer, keep warm (up to 24 hours), and slow cook low and high, which means there’s very little it won’t cook.
We particularly like the way you can use it on a hob as well as independently, and give it particularly high marks for risotto (which normally requires frequent stirring) and low-temperature cooking like yoghurts. The recipe e-book includes some corkers and it’s easy to use, with exceptional results, but it is more aimed at keen cooks and it’s quite loud.
Kenwood kCook CCC200WH: £79.99, Amazon
With its three main accessories – processing blade, stirring paddle and steaming basket - this acts as a compact multi-cooker and steamer, as well as a chopper. You can use it manually or opt for a pre-set programme and bung everything in the dishwasher afterwards.
For one-pot meal, it’s a real boon – think casseroles, risottos, soups, curries and more – and with 200 recipes, you won’t run out of ideas.
A great machine for making light work of otherwise challenging dinners, although be warned you’ll need to read the instruction manual to make the most of it and it can take time to heat up. Shame it doesn’t sauté and you can’t add ingredients easily.
Sage Fast Slow Pro: £124.99, John Lewis
Not exactly compact - you’ll need some serious storage space for this - but it’s well worth it for this pressure cooker and slow cooker hybrid which also sears and steams.
There are dual sensors at the top and bottom of the machine, which monitor ingredients to check it’s running at the right temperature and pressure control and you can keep it warm for two hours.
We cooked lamb shanks in balsamic vinegar and tomato sauce and a steamed sponge pudding for afters – yum. Just the right texture too, although sometimes the veg can be a bit on the hard side. The six-litre cooking bowl means you can invite all the neighbours round and there are some lovely recipes included.
Lakeland Multi-Cooker 5L: £89.99, Lakeland
This is the kind of multi-cooker you’ll wonder how you ever lived without. There’s a whopping nine cooking modes – cook, fast cook, sauté, slow cook, deep fry, steam, bake, stew and multi-cook -plus 10 specialist food settings covering everything from jam to pasta and porridge to fried rice.
Plus, you can tailor the settings to your own preference. Seriously versatile, it also comes with handy accessories and features ranging from countdown timer to keep-warm. One niggle is the steamer basket, which is tricky to remove, and we’ve rarely come across such poor instructions. Good job the machine is so intuitive to use. It’s easy to clean too.
Tefal All-in-One CY505E40 Electric Multi Cooker: £82.21, Amazon
Tefal has made oodles of multi-cookers over the years, some pretty good, others disappointing. This is their latest offering – a pressure cooker with 25 programmes (if you think that’s a lot, their last one had 45), as well as the option to use it manually for your own recipes.
Besides pressure cooking, you can slow cook, steam, brown, simmer, bake and reheat. The six litre bowl means it’s good for entertaining and the programmes, for the most part, work well and surprisingly quickly, although it can dry up food so you may want to add a bit of extra liquid when cooking. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and the parts can be bunged in the dishwasher afterwards. A good option for the time-poor.
Russell Hobbs Multi-cooker: £69.99, Amazon
This cooks bread as well as any dedicated bread-making machine and soups as well as any stand-alone soup-maker. And that’s just the start with this machine that has 11 programmes. Best of all is its slow cooking function, making succulent stews over several hours.
Even a technophobe will master how to use it quickly enough, thanks to the clear LED display, and you can open the lid to check on your food at any time. The timer is longer than on many multi-cookers, offering up to 24 hours. As its quite compact, it’s easy to store away.
Verdict: best multi-cookers
Morphy Richards has come up trumps with its futuristic looking MyPot Pressure Cooker. It works like a dream on the pre-set functions and you can use it manually too. Meanwhile, the Crock-Pot Express Multi Cooker CS051 is a fabulously versatile machine that pressure cooks, slow cooks, sautés and steams, with impressive results.