“Low and slow” is a truism among barbecue pitmasters, but it’s also a useful mantra for parents. A slow cooker is worth its weight in pure piquant gold, and it’s a great way to make a lot of something so you’ll have plenty of leftovers or, if you’re facing a horde of hungry kids, simply enough to go around, even with seconds.
For newbies, a slow cooker is a countertop appliance that simmers and cooks your food very slowly, at very low temps. Meaning, you can throw in some meet and/or veggies, turn it on, head to work, and come home to a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth feast that required minimal effort. Slow cookers run the gamut from cheap dynamos that do one thing, but do it damn well, to elaborate investments that will simmer your soup, sear your pork and serve up fluffy rice.
Before you start shopping, decide how much you want to spend, what functions are important to you, how much space you have and whether aesthetics matter. Keep in mind that some of the more reasonably-priced appliances are more basic in functionality and look, while more expensive versions are often constructed out of stainless steel and can do everything from air fry to slow and pressure cook. That being said, if you’re going to use all the other options once, or not at all, don’t bother investing in them. After all, how many people do you know who actually make their own yogurt for fun?
Here are the best slow cookers on the market, based on research, reviews and our own culinary experiences.
This slow cooker sears, browns, sautés, and slow cooks all in one pot.
Pros: This slow cooker has got a ceramic cooking surface, which is a nice change from nonstick. The cooking pot can be removed to brown and sear food on electric, gas, or induction cooktops before slow cooking it, so it literally is a one-pot experience. And it has an LCD digital to give you control of dinner.
Cons: It won’t fit entire birds, or huge cuts of meat.
Okay, have you ever seen such a gorgeous slow cooker? In addition to matching your KitchenAid mixer, this multi-use gadget can do just about anything. It offers 10 different cooking methods (including sear, sauté, simmer, soup, yogurt, slow cook and keep warm) and can be programmed for up to 12 hours of cooking.
Pros: This multi-cooker is pretty enough to display on your kitchen counter 24/7. You can also purchase a stir tower separately, a gadget that stirs your food while it cooks, which many hail for being a game-changer for cooking items like risotto. This model comes with a dishwasher safe non-stick pot, which reviewers mention is easy-to-clean, a clear glass lid (so you can watch your food cooking every step of the way) and a dual purpose steam basket and roasting rack.
Cons: It is only 4 quarts and round instead of oblong, which might not be roomy enough to properly fit some roasts.
The big draw here is the fact that with three separate containers you can cook three different items at once.
Pros: Independent temperature controls for each container mean you can cook different items at different temperatures. We also like how the lid rests are integrated into the unit so you can keep the lids handy but out of the way when serving guests.
Cons: The temperature settings are basic, just low, high, and warm. And while it has a total of 7.5 quarts of cooking volume, you can’t cook big pieces of meat the same way you could with a single-container cooker.
Have you ever wished you could toss some frozen hot wings into a gadget, push a button and have restaurant-quality, crispy wings minutes? We would like to introduce you to the genius that is the Ninja Foodi, one of the higher-ticket items on our roundup, and rightfully so. It can seriously do anything. Programmable cooking functions include pressure, steam, slow cook, sear/sauté, air crisp, bake/roast and broil.
Pros: A pressure cooker, air fryer, dehydrator and multi-cooker all-in-one. Yes, seriously.
Cons: Because there are so many functions, the Foodi can be a bit intimidating at first, and might be confusing for some.
Nearly every single one of us grew up with a Crock-Pot in the kitchen, with memories of the aroma of mom or dad’s cooking wafting through the house. This model from the legendary brand is one of the best values we've seen, this eight-quart cooker comes with a separate 16-ounce little dipper, the kind of thing you don't know you need until you own it.
Pros: You can’t go wrong with a classic slow cooker at a classic price. It’s also easy to transport, making it a better option for bringing to parties when you make your famous queso.
Cons: It’s not exactly feature-heavy, with a simple knob giving just off, low, high, and warm options.
If you are looking for a simple slow cooker that gets the job done with zero stress — and costs the equivalent of a few pounds of meat — than this is your guy. Perfectly sized for a small roast, 4-pound chicken or other smaller sized one-pot meals, it features a round heating knob that adjusts from high to low and also a keep warm feature.
Pros: Users love the simplicity of this compact and budget-friendly slow cooker. Both the glass lid and the stoneware basin are dishwasher safe.
Cons: There are no bells and whistles, so if you are looking for something that can do anything more than slow cook, you will want to keep searching. Some people also complain that the lid doesn’t fit correctly and the ceramic basin scratches easily.
We were immediately drawn to the chalkboard surface of this 7-quart slow cooker, because… well, it’s just so damn cool. The perfect addition to any party, you can label the dish, draw a picture of it, write out your recipe or note any allergy concerns.
Pros: You had us at chalkboard surface. We also love all of its unique features, like a built-in lid holder to keep your countertops clean and a locking wire system that comes in handy for traveling. An added bonus? It even comes with two pieces of chalk!
Cons: The biggest user complaint is that it gets really hot to the touch while cooking, so beware!
You might already own an Instant Pot, but if you don’t, you know someone who does. We love this tech-savvy, 6-quart model of the cult-classic because it can connect to WiFi and is controllable with an app on your smartphone or tablet. So basically, if you forget to turn it on before leaving the house or just want to see how many minutes of cook time are left, all you need to do is open the app and push a button!
Pros: The Instant Pot is a new American classic for a very good reason, and this model even connects to your smartphone!
Cons: Some people report having trouble figuring out the app and complain that it is very limited in functionality.
We love the look of this multi-function cooker from Breville, that works as both a slow and pressure cooker. It also features an interactive LCD screen that changes color depending on what stage of the cooking process you are in.
Pros: An upscale multi-function slow cooker-chock full of functionality.
Cons: It is on the expensive side, so probably not a great option if your budget is limited.
This reasonably priced 6-quart slow cooker is a fan favorite, mostly due to the fact that it comes with a temperature probe that allows you to cook your meat to a precise temperature. People also love that the cord wraps around and stores at the bottom, making it easily transportable.
Pros: This top-rated favorite comes with a temperature probe, so your meat will always be cooked to perfection.
Cons: Some people complain that this slow cooker shuts off on its own in the middle of cooking.
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