- Slow cookers are available in a large variety of sizes and price points, all depending on your needs.
- We like the 6-Quart Programmable Cook-and-Carry Crock-Pot, as it is easy to operate, and has a low price point.
- If you’re interested in a multicooker like an InstantPot, we have a guide dedicated to them here.
Many people like comfort foods, especially during the winter months. Unfortunately, most are time-consuming to prepare and cook. As a result, it’s easy to turn to greasy takeout instead.
But if you’d prefer homemade comfort foods, a slow cooker is the answer for a busy household. This simple kitchen appliance allows you to combine the ingredients in the morning before work, set the cooking time and temperature, and return hours later to a great-tasting, complete meal.
Slow cookers are available in different sizes, with the capacity measured in quarts, usually ranging from one to 10 quarts. Although, sizes of four to six quarts are the most common.
Most slow cookers allow you to cook at low, medium, or high-temperature settings for several hours, and many automatically switch to a warm setting after the cooking time has expired so food won’t overcook. Some advanced slow cookers will even allow you to set an exact cooking temperature and start-time, while others double as pressure cookers. Here are our top picks to fit all your slow cooking needs.
Here are the best slow cookers in 2021
- Best overall: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook-and-Carry
- Best high-end slow cooker: All-Clad 4-Quart Slow Cooker with Ceramic Insert
- Best programmable slow cooker: Breville 6-Quart Fast Slow Pro
- Best mini slow cooker: Proctor Silex 1.5-Quart Slow Cooker
The 6-Quart Programmable Cook-and-Carry Crock-Pot is big enough for a crowd with a lockable lid for easy transport and has programmable cooking times.
Pros: Locking lid with gasket, programmable timer, large capacity, stainless steel finish, and modern appearance
Cons: Might cook too hot on low setting
Sometimes, a product is so synonymous with a product category that its brand name becomes a preferred term used in everyday language.
It’s understandable, as Crock-Pot slow cookers were first on the market and have dominated for a long time. The company continues to offer excellent quality slow cookers, including the Crock-Pot Programmable Cook-and-Carry.
You can set cooking times from 30 minutes to 20 hours and leave your worries behind. Just set the timer for your desired cooking time before you head out. The Crock-Pot will cook your dinner, and then automatically switch itself over to the “Warm” setting once the time is up.
The 6-quart capacity is great for larger families and will fit a six-pound roast inside, several pieces of meat along with vegetables, or a whole chicken — and you’ll still have room for carrots and potatoes.
We also like its long timer, modern appearance, handles, and locking lid. That locking lid with a sealing gasket is another fine feature, which prevents spills when traveling with the cooker to a picnic, potluck, or tailgate party.
The Crock-Pot does have the tendency to run too hot on the “Low” setting. Note that both the “Low” and “High” settings of a Crock-Pot reach the same maximum temperature of roughly 210 degrees. It just takes longer to reach the maximum temperature on low. — Michelle Ullman and Kyle Schurman
The best high-end slow cooker
The 4-Quart All-Clad Slow Cooker with Ceramic Insert looks beautiful on your countertop and cooks everything to perfection without making you do anything.
Pros: Gorgeous, 4-quarts is a good size, decent price, ceramic insert is sturdy, easy to use
Cons: Pricier than some slow cookers
The 4-Quart All-Clad Slow Cooker with Ceramic Insert is the perfect size for cooking meals for a small family or a pork butt for pulled pork. All-Clad is famous for its beautiful high-end stainless steel appliances and cooking utensils, and this slow cooker lives up to the brand’s lofty reputation.
Not only does it look gorgeous on any countertop, but it also works extremely well. The slow cooker is very easy to operate with just a few buttons and no complicated settings. It has a 26-hour programmable timer and warm, low, and high-temperature settings so your food is cooked to perfection.
The removable black ceramic insert and glass lid are easy to hand wash or pop right in the dishwasher. The lid’s handle is made from silicone, so it never gets hot to the touch. You may also leave this slow cooker cooking all day without fear of burning the house down, and will come back to a delicious meal.
I use this slow cooker regularly to make beans, stews, and pulled pork for the meat-eaters in my life. I toss the ingredients in, set the temperature, and let it do its thing while I’m at work or out on the weekends. It makes meals super easy to prepare with minimal effort.
The ceramic insert can break if you handle it too roughly, but if you treat it the way you treat other ceramics like coffee mugs and plates, it won’t — just be careful and don’t smash it against anything.
All-Clad guarantees the slow cooker for two years, so contact the company if you run into problems. — Malarie Gokey
The best programmable slow cooker
It’s expensive, but The Fast Slow Pro 6-Quart from Breville successfully slow cooks and pressure-cooks food in one easy-to-use appliance.
Pros: Offers strong pressure cooker and slow cooker functions, eight different slow cooker pre-set modes, excellent build quality, six quarts of capacity works well for many people, large LCD screen is easy to read
Cons: Extremely high price versus other slow cookers, may be too complex for some people
The Fast Slow Pro 6-Quart slow cooker from Breville carries a high price compared to other slow cookers, which means it won’t work for some people. But it justifies the big price tag by offering a multitude of features to cook big meals however you need.
The Breville cooker works as both a pressure cooker and a traditional slow cooker, so you can make just about anything with it. And, by performing the work of multiple appliances, it saves on storage space in the kitchen cabinet.
The Fast Slow Pro makes slow cooking easy with eight different pre-set programmable cooking modes. There’s also a custom time and temperature setting and using the various settings is easy because of the large, clear LCD screen on the side of the unit.
This is a good option for those looking for a multi-use appliance, as it will likely prove too complex for basic cooking needs.
The best mini slow cooker
If you need a slow cooker that’s better suited for preparing meals for just one or two people, you’ll love the size of the Proctor Silex 1.5-Quart Slow Cooker.
Pros: Small slow cooker is perfect for cooking appetizers for a party, small unit works great in kitchens where storage space is limited, has padded lid and latch strap for transportation, nice size for meals for one or two people
Cons: Will be too small for some families, doesn’t always cook food evenly
Slow cookers often seem like they’re all about cooking big meals for a busy family. But slow cookers don’t discriminate against people cooking for just one or two. The Proctor Silex 1.5-Quart Slow Cooker is a mini slow cooker that’s great for preparing small meals.
This very simple slow cooker includes three temperature settings that are controlled by a knob. The smaller capacity also means a smaller size, which takes up less space in your kitchen than a more traditional slow cooker. This particular cooker is also ideal for an RV, on a large boat, or in other settings with limited storage space.
In addition to meals for one or two, it’s also great for cooking appetizers, dips, sauces, or snacks, and is small enough to carry to a friend’s house. The rubber seal on the lid and the latch strap also helps to prevent spills.
However, it’s worth noting that the Proctor Silex 1.5-Quart slow cooker doesn’t cook as evenly as some larger slow cookers.
Safety considerations for slow cookers
Some people are understandably nervous about using a slow cooker, as this appliance is designed to run while no one is home. Others may have a sentimental attachment to the slow cooker grandma used but feel unsure if it’s safe enough by today’s standards.
Before using any slow cooker, read through this list of guidelines and safety measures from NBC News to ensure your unit is safe to use.
- Clean the base: Keep the portion of the slow cooker with the heating element clean. If a previous recipe has spilled onto the heating element, you need to wipe off the old food and clean it to keep it from burning when cooking the next meal.
- Electrical cord: Inspect the slow cooker’s power cord carefully. Make sure it hasn’t been melted or frayed. Old slow cookers may have fabric insulation around the electrical cord, which is no longer considered safe.
- Overcooking: Even on the high setting, slow cookers only reach temperatures of about 250 degrees, so you don’t really have the same concerns about overcooking and burning the food as you might when leaving food unattended in an oven, where temperatures of 350 degrees to 450 degrees are more common.
- Test the temperature: An older slow cooker may no longer be able to reach a high enough temperature to safely cook raw foods. Test it by filling the slow cooker with room temperature water at least two-thirds of the way. “Cook” the water on the low setting for eight hours and then use a thermometer to ensure the water has reached at least a 185-degree temperature.
Check out our guides to the best Crock-Pots, Instant Pots, and pressure cookers