The Best Slow Cookers

Slow cookers create a lot of home-cooked goodness with very little effort. Whether you “set-it and forget-it” every day or only once a month, your slow cooker should be easy to use and it should cook your food well without burning it. We did the research, spoke with experts, and tested a collection of slow cookers to find the ones that will fit best with your lifestyle — and your kitchen.

The Best Slow Cookers

Best for Frequent Use
KitchenAid 6 Quart Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Glass Lid
KitchenAid
The best slow cooker components that money can buy, housed in a sleek, easy-to use design.
Pros
Superior usability
Two pro-grade features
Ingenius lid design
Cons
Expensive

Why we chose it

Superior usability

If your slow cooker is a weekday warrior that lives permanently on the kitchen counter, you should invest a little extra in one that’s sure to cook perfectly every time. Our top pick, the KitchenAid 6 Quart Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Glass Lid, is a thoughtfully designed machine that will cook anything you throw in it to perfection. In our tests, the KitchenAid stood out for having crystal-clear controls that we knew how to program at a glance.

Two pro-grade features

Only two brands, KitchenAid and All-Clad, boast the two essential features of a high-performance, digital slow cooker. One: insulation. America’s Test Kitchen took slow cookers apart to study what makes them tick, and found that an added layer of insulation surrounding its heating element prevents hot spots and therefore overcooked food at the narrow ends of the oval. Slow cookers can be used for anything from chili to baking moist, fluffy cakes — but only if they’re able to cook evenly. Two: internal thermostats. In tests performed by America’s Test Kitchen and Food & Wine Magazine, cookers with internal thermostats constantly tweaked the heat to keep it below boiling. These slow cookers maintained the lowest temperatures, ensuring that food cooked slowly without being overdone.

Ingenius lid design

We loved its hinged, half-opening lid that keeps food warm and saves space on the counter while you serve. The crock also offers large, comfortable handles that make it easy to take out of the base for presentation if you wish to do so. To top it all off, the KitchenAid’s design is simple and sleek, so you won’t mind leaving it on your counter for easy access.

Easy Serve Lid for Slow Cooker

The KitchenAid's "Easy Serve Lid."

Points to consider

Expensive

Priced at more than $150, this slow cooker is more expensive than your average model. But its above-average components and performance are well worth the price tag. It’s also about $20 cheaper than the All-Clad, the only slow cooker that can hold a candle to its design and functionality.

Best for Portability
Hamilton Beach Set and Forget 6 Qt Programmable Slow
Hamilton Beach
A reliable slow cooker, built to cook and go without fuss. And at less than half the price of the KitchenAid, it’s an easier investment.
Pros
Reliable in the kitchen and on the go
Spill-proof latching lid
Hassle-free cord storage
Cons
Better portability features exist

Why we chose it

Reliable in the kitchen and on the go

If you attend a lot of potlucks, chili cook-offs, or sporting events, you’ll most likely want a slow cooker that emphasizes portability features. Hamilton Beach Set and Forget 6 Qt Programmable Slow cooks well and travels well. The Set & Forget maintains a low and steady heat, which means it won’t burn your food: After eight hours on low, the Set & Forget only reached 195°F, meaning you can leave this cooker on all day with confidence. And while no portable options offer an internal thermostat like the KitchenAid, Hamilton Beach comes with a probe thermometer – a nice safeguard against over- and undercooked meats.

Spill-proof latching lid

We looked for portable slow cookers with awesome lid-locking systems that were both effective and easy to use. Some brands use chunky front-side locks that were difficult to open and close. Some simply failed at keeping liquid inside. Out of all the portable models we tested, the sturdy lid latches on Hamilton Beach were the best at sealing liquid inside.They hold everything in without spilling a drop so long as you latch both sides at the same time. We also felt safe carrying it while still hot — the plastic handles stay cool to the touch, and its casing won’t scorch your knuckles.

Lid-Comparison-for-Slow-Cooker

Hassle-free cord storage

We loved slow cookers with a smart way to wrap or stash the cord. It’s awkward (and potentially dangerous) to juggle a dangling cord and a steaming hot cooker at the same time. Hamilton Beach’s cord-wrapping system was the smartest of the bunch.

Points to consider

Better portability features exist

For sheer portability, we actually preferred the features on another model, the Crock Pot Single Hand Cook & Carry. Its large, comfortable handles and rear-wrapping cord were tough to beat, but awesome portability features aren’t worth a lot if the food inside the slow cooker isn’t servable. Crock Pot couldn’t compare with Hamilton Beach’s controlled, even cooking.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Perfect Slow Cooker

Decide on your key features

If a slow cooker means home-cooked goodness that stays in the home, no need to scout for portability features. But if you plan on bringing pulled pork to the barbecue or your award-winning chili to the fair, then your slow cooker has to be built for more than counter use. Once you know what you’re using your slow cooker for, you’ll know which features to prioritize.

Fill them up

Slow cookers work best when they’re about ⅔ to ¾ full. Any less, and food is likely to dry out. However, you don’t need to buy a two- or four-quart cooker in order to make smaller dishes. O’Dea points out that you can place a corningware or other oven-safe dish directly inside the crock to reduce the cooking space for smaller recipes.

Avoid crock-pot cracks

We read lots and lots of user write-ups while making this review, and noticed that broken or cracked crocks are a very common problem. There are a couple ways to avoid “crack-pots” (as they were labeled by one disappointed reviewer).

  • Never subject the stoneware crock to abrupt temperature changes, like putting a cold crock into a preheated base, or a hot crock directly into the refrigerator. Consumer Reports notes that a sudden change in temperature can lead to cracks.
  • If your slow cooker had a lid-latching mechanism you should never cook with it in the locked position, according to Crock-Pot’s website. The lid must be unlocked allowing a little steam to escape, otherwise too much steam may build up and the unit could break.

Slow Cooker FAQ

What about the best crock pot?

You may be wondering what the difference is between a Crock-Pot and a slow cooker. In fact, they’re the same appliance. Crock-Pot is a brand name for the original slow cookers made by Rival in the 1970s. They were so popular that “Crock-Pot” has become more or less synonymous with “slow cooker.” We tested a few Crock-Pots, but due to their higher-than-average heat, none made it into our top picks.

What should you set the thermometer to?

Slow cookers should hold a very low cooking temperature; Cooking Light puts the simmer point as low as 180 - 190°F. If that temperature goes above the 212°F boiling point, food will overcook and dry out.The USDA recommends these temperatures for food safety: Roasts: 145°F to 160°F; Poultry: 165°F; Soups, stews, sauces: 165°F.

Is it safe to leave my slow cooker on while I’m out of the house?

Yes. Cooking all day while you work is what this appliance was designed to do. These machines are all safety certified by the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories UL and ETL, so you don’t have to worry about them exploding or starting a house fire. For extra peace of mind, here are a few safety tips from Business Insider:

  • Place it on a hard, flat surface at least a few inches away from the wall and other objects
  • Keep the top on, but not locked
  • Fill it between ⅔ and ¾ full
  • Keep it on low, especially if you’ll be out of the house all day

Can I use frozen food or reheat food in my slow cooker?

No. The USDA recommends always thawing food, especially meat, before putting it in the slow cooker. Otherwise it can take too long to rise out of the danger zone (between 41°F and 140°F) and may allow unsafe bacteria to grow in the food. For the same reason, the USDA recommends not reheating food in the slow cooker.

Can I get a slow cooker with a delayed start function?

Again, no. According to the USDA, it is unsafe to leave uncooked food sitting at room temperature for an extended period of time. This is why there are no programmable crock pots with a delayed start function. Instead, invest in a programmable slow cooker that begins heating food right away, but switches to warm automatically when cook time is over.

The Best Slow Cookers: Summed Up

KitchenAid 6 Quart Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Glass Lid
Hamilton Beach Set and Forget 6 Qt Programmable Slow
Best for Frequent Use
Best for Portability
Internal thermostat
Includes thermometer
Temperature settings
4
3
Wattage
350
275
Warranty
1 year
1 year

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