The Russell Hobbs multi-cooker, joins the ever-growing list of multi-cookers currently on the market. At the lower price end of the market, the Russell Hobbs offers many of the functions of most of the higher end models, with the exception of the pressure cooker function.
The build and design of the Russell Hobbs multi-cooker is based on the multi-function Japanese rice cookers that have been the main stay of the Asian market for a while now. The 5L non-stick coated aluminium pots sits inside a thick plastic body that has a clamp-shut lid.
Similar to most multi-cookers on the market, the Russell Hobbs is able to cook rice, steam, fry, stir-fry, braise, slow-cook, grill and fast stew; it is also able to bake bread and cake and make yoghurt. It comes with a set of 11 programmes, most of which are adjustable in terms of cooking time, allowing you to extend the time to suit the amount that you need to cook.
Above: Clear, easy to follow control panel, just have to get use to it.
The controls on the front panel are embedded within the panel and have a soft touch response. Although it takes a bit of getting used to and some time to work it out, once you understand how the default setting works, it is straightforward enough to change to different settings prior and during cooking.
Using the Multi-cooker as a replacement for the standard saucepan or pan on the hob was not too difficult, the minor things to get over were mainly that the lid was permanently there and because of the height of the unit and the depth of the inner bowl itself, the overall height is higher than a standard saucepan.
Above: Anti-condensation lid cover, stops water dripping back into the food and becoming soggy
a) saute function
The ability to saute onions and garlic, shallow fry and brown meat in a deep pot makes it very simple to cook sometimes seemingly complicated dishes in a relatively straight-forward and easy manner.
One of the greatest advantages of the multi-cooker is the timer facility, in which you can reduce or extend cooking time, by adding minutes to the current cook function from the from panel.
For dishes that require a little more slow-boiling, or are best left to cook for a certain amount of time, the timer function allows the time to be set and then you can walk away, knowing for certain that once that time is reached, the multi-cooker, turns off and reverts to a keep-warm mode.
c) easy stew and soups
With the two points above combined, the multi-cooker makes light work of stew and soups. It really comes in to it’s own when needed to boil vigorously and then more slowly for a fixed amount of time.
It is easy to compare this function to that of the slow cooker, in which the dish can be left cooking for a finite amount of time. The greatest difference between the output of the multi-cooker and that of the slow cooker is predominantly that the meat was cooked to perfection – sufficiently cooked to tenderness without the dryness that accompanies being over-cooked.
d) bread, cake, yoghurt
The ability to bake bread, cakes and culture yoghurt in a relatively small space, thereby reducing energy consumption is an advantage of the multi-cooker over having to heat up the entire oven. Although it will still be necessary to separately mix the cake or bread mixture separately, the ability to pop it in to a small pot on the counter top to ‘cook’ or bake is very appealing.
Above: Sleek black and stainless steel housing with easy carry handle and easy access control panel with digital display
While the Russell-Hobbs multi-cooker offers a lot of value for money, there are some minor niggles which need to be pointed out.
a) does not pressure cook
A number of the pricier multi-cookers come with the pressure cooker function that enables cooking time to be reduced. While the Russell-Hobbs does not have this feature, it is able to cope with alternative functions even if it requires more planning and time. So while the inability to pressure cook is a minus, with a little planning it can certainly be overcome.
b) no heat settings
This is possibly a disadvantage of all multi-cookers and not just the Russell-Hobbs. While some settings, STEAM, for example will heat the bowl at a higher temperature than others, it is not possible to control the heat in greater detail than the setting selected. This meant that although the heat was evenly distributed, it took slightly longer than usual to sauté onions and brown meat.
While being able to cook one-pot meals is very useful, in the ‘chuck it all in’ way of cooking, the downside to it, is that if you were to cook a staple of, say just rice, then it would take up the pot. You would still have to resort to cooking ‘dishes’ separately.
d) manual and cook book – very poor
A major oversight of the manufacturer’s, is in the cooker’s manual and recipe book. Although it contains useful information and recipes, it appears to have been very hurriedly done and very poorly organised, in terms of lay out and formatting.
Above: Main housing, non-stick saucepan, steaming rack, ladle, measuring cup, instruction manual
The recipes are also rather sparse in terms of what they offer and perhaps they were just meant to be used as a quick guide to the multi-cookers functions. It does feel however that it is a missed opportunity to really help the user get the most out of their multi-cooker; in fact there have been some reviews in which the item has been returned because of the poor quality of the manual. That said, it is not difficult to learn the functions and settings of the multi-cooker.
Above: Main housing with lid open with big capacity 5-liter non-stick sauce pan
While some have proposed a slow-cooking cook book as a replacement for the multi-cooker’s recipes, what we have found is that a quick Google search for recipe guides from other multi-cooker makers make an exceptional free alternative (the Philips Chef website and the KitchenAid multi-cooker book are highly recommended).
Alternatively, if you prefer something you can hold, there are some multi-cooker cook books available:
Overall, the Russell-Hobbs multi cooker is a gadget that offers great value for money in terms of what it can do and what it offers – delicious, home-made food, cooked very easily. The overall benefits do out weight the inconveniences that occur and generally once you’ve used it a few times, it is straightforward and easy to adapt to different types of recipes.