Breville Slow Cooker with EasySear review: Easy on the eyes, but lacking in substance

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The Good The Breville Slow Cooker with EasySear is a good looking appliance. You can put the inner pot on your stovetop for efficient searing and sautéing.

The Bad There's no timer or warm mode, so you have to be home to shut it off manually (otherwise, it will just continue to cook). It cooks much faster than most slow cookers -- you will have to adjust your cooking time way down from the recipe suggestion.

The Bottom Line This $129 Breville slow cooker is more high maintenance than we'd like. If you want something that more reliably sticks to the expected cook time and traditional slow cooker features, consider another model.

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5.9 Overall
  • Performance 5
  • Usability 8
  • Design 9
  • Features 4

The attractive $129.99 Breville Slow Cooker with EasySear gives a good first impression, but it falls short on features. It's completely missing a timer and a warm mode -- two crucial slow cooker options. It also cooks hotter and faster than the other models we tested, so following recipe-prescribed cooking times is futile. Skip this Breville slow cooker and get the $199.80 Ninja Cooking System if you want something high-end. And if you're looking for a more traditional slow cooker, the $59.99 Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Digital Slow Cooker and the $59.99 Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker with Spoon/Lid are very good options.

Good on paper, not in practice
The Breville Slow Cooker with EasySear has a stainless steel finish and black accents on the base and handles. Aesthetically, this is my favorite slow cooker. It looks sleek and professional; a rarity within this small appliance category. But there is one thing about its appearance I don't like -- the lid is made of metal rather than clear glass, so you can't peer through it to see your food while it's cooking.

It measures 18.25 inches long by 11.5 inches wide by 9.25 inches tall and has a rectangular (rather than oval) shape. The inner pot is made of non-stick coated cast aluminum and boasts a large 7-quart capacity. In addition to functioning as a slow cooker insert, you can use the inner pot on a stovetop for browning, searing, or sautéing or in an oven for roasting. A wire roasting rack is even included in the packaging.

I lined the inner pot with 15 sausage patties to test out its cooktop functionality. It was pretty tough to cook them evenly using a standard-sized burner. The large rectangular shape isn't well suited for a typical round burner. But, if you're working with small quantities and can stick to the center of the pot, you should be okay. It would work better with larger burners or a bridge that connects two burners, though. I really like the concept, but it didn't translate to the stovetop very well.

A typical burner isn't large enough to cook the sausages patties evenly. Megan Wollerton/CNET

This slow cooker has a low heat setting, a high heat setting, and a dual heat setting (dual starts on high and switches automatically to low after two hours). That's the complete list of its input options. There's no warm mode to default to when your food is finished, but that doesn't matter because there's no timer to keep track of it anyway. The other four slow cookers we tested come with these options and three of them cost less than the $130 Breville. And for more advanced features, the $199.80 Ninja Cooking System offers so much more than Breville's slow cooker. Not only does the Ninja model work as a slow cooker, you can also use its oven mode for steam roasting and steam baking between 250 to 425 degrees.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

While Breville didn't hit the mark on features, it did make a slow cooker that's very easy to use. The design really couldn't be simpler. There's just a single knob and a small red power light that illuminates when the unit is turned on. The durable non-stick aluminum pot is also a cinch to clean.

This slow cooker cooks surprisingly fast
In addition to Breville's slow cooker, we also tested the $59.99 Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Digital Slow Cooker, the $99 Frigidaire Professional 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, the $59.99 Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker with Spoon/Lid, and the $199.80 Ninja Cooking System. We boiled water and cooked whole chickens, macaroni and cheese, Cannellini beans, and pot roast in all five slow cookers.

Overall, Breville's slow cooker didn't perform very well. If a recipe called for four hours on high, the Breville typically got the job done in half the time. Usually, I would say that's a good thing, but it really doesn't bode well for the whole "set and forget" concept that defines slow cookers. Forget about leaving Breville's model on for eight to 10 hours while you're at working or running errands -- you will most likely come home to an overcooked mess.

Water boil
Before venturing into food tests, we wanted to find a starting point for comparison. So, we put water in each slow cooker for eight hours on low and then four hours on high. On low, Breville's slow cooker reached boiling faster than the others and maintained that temperature for longer. The Frigidaire, Crock-Pot, Hamilton Beach, and Ninja slow cookers followed in succession. All except the Ninja reached boiling -- instead, it leveled off at 207 degrees.

On high, all except the Frigidaire slow cooker reached boiling. The Ninja reached boiling first and the Frigidaire leveled off at 191 degrees. This pattern remained consistent throughout testing. The Breville and Ninja slow cookers tended to reach higher temperatures faster and maintain them for longer. The Crock-Pot and Hamilton Beach models stayed somewhere in the middle, and the Frigidaire was very inconsistent. On low it reached boiling faster than many of the others; on high, it never got close.

Colin West McDonald/CNET

Whole chicken
I cooked a 5-pound chicken on high for four hours in the Breville slow cooker. After four hours, the Breville chicken had fallen apart and was registering temperatures as high as 209 degrees. It was extremely dry. The Ninja chicken followed close behind. The Crock-Pot and Hamilton Beach chickens were pretty dry and the Frigidaire chicken was the least dry.

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