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The 9 Best Chef-Approved Slow Cookers

Slow cookers aren’t just for grandma anymore. And let’s be honest, grandma was onto something when she insisted on keeping her Crock-Pot on the kitchen counter at all times. Also known as a slow cooker, this reliable appliance allows cooks of all levels to prepare richly flavorful meals without standing over the stove or firing up the oven. From juicy pulled pork to creamy sharable queso dips, cooks can open up a world of delicious recipes with a new slow cooker in their kitchen stockpile.

You might be wondering what the difference is between a Crock-Pot and a slow cooker. Crock-Pot is a brand-name slow cooker trademarked by Sunbeam in 1970. While a Crock-Pot is a type of slow cooker, not all slow cookers are Crock-Pots. Slow cookers, including those with the Crock-Pot name, use low and slow heat to (you guessed it) cook food slowly, often over several hours. They’re great for hands-off cooking, as you can stir together your ingredients in the morning and come home in the evening to dinner that’s hot and ready. Whether you have a brand-name Crock-Pot or a slow cooker by another name, these devices use the same heating mechanisms and produce similar results.

To help you choose the best slow cooker for your kitchen, tailgating event, potluck dinner, and entertaining needs, we’ve found the best appliances for every recipe, cook, and kitchen.

The Expert: I am a trained chef, recipe developer, and food writer for Insider, Munchery, Simply Recipes, and more. I’m a big fan of the slow cooker for low-maintenance, hands-off cooking that develops deep flavor without having to babysit. In particular, my slow cooker is my go-to for big-batch cooking for parties, especially during the summer when no one wants to turn on the oven. My favorite slow-cooker meal is a fully loaded tomato sauce simmered low and slow for hours to develop a deeply complex flavor.

The 9 Best Slow Cookers

    What to Consider When Shopping for a Slow Cooker

    Size

    As with any new kitchen appliance, choosing the best size depends on your household and the number of people you plan to serve. A middle-ground 6-quart slow cooker is the right size for households of four to six. If you’re short on storage space, opt for something that’s 4 quarts or smaller. And if you regularly feed a hungry crowd, you may want a spacious pot—8 quarts or larger. The slow cookers on our list range from 4 to 8 quarts, plus one that holds three 2.5-quart pots.

    Maintenance

    Most of the slow cookers here have dishwasher-safe inner pots and lids. The majority also have a nonstick coating that makes cleaning easier. If you’re looking for an appliance that you can pop in the dishwasher after use, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning. If the dishwasher is not recommended, you may damage the surface of your cookware.

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    Features

    The basic features on most slow cookers include multiple heat settings (often high, low, and keep warm), and a removable ceramic interior pot. Some have more advanced add-ons that can make cooking even easier, such as programmability. For example, you can fill the pot with everything you need for a delicious roast, set the timer for eight hours and the heat to low, and walk away. When the programmed time ends, the cooker will automatically switch to Keep Warm and your meal will be ready to enjoy when you are.

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How We Evaluated These Slow Cookers

To determine the best slow cookers for every kind of home and cook, I researched the most-loved brands and products on the market. I selected nine products based on customer reviews and ratings, product specs, and personal experience. I have tested the Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach cookers on this list, and rely on the durable and high-performing Cuisinart slow cooker regularly during soup season, which for me is nearly every weekend from October to March. From compact cookers for small kitchens to programmable multi-cookers, there is a slow cooker here for every price point, kitchen size, and culinary skill level.

Best All-Around Slow Cooker

Cuisinart MSC-600 6-Quart Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 12 x 19 x 9.5 in
  • Capacity: 6 qt.
  • Weight: 16 lb.

This gleaming stainless steel slow cooker is a total workhorse that you can rely on for years. It’s quiet but powerful, with three cooking settings: sauté, steam, and slow cook. It also has three temperature settings (high, low, and simmer) for precise cooking. The machine has a 24-hour digital timer that’s easy to read. It will automatically switch to Keep Warm when your cook time ends so food is hot and ready when you are.

  • Dishwasher-safe parts
  • Steaming rack included
  • May be too large for some kitchens

Best Budget Slow Cooker

Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart Digital Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 11.25 x 17.5 x 11.75 in.
  • Capacity: 6 qt.
  • Weight: 12.5 lb.

This inexpensive slow cooker from Hamilton Beach takes hands-off cooking to a new level. It’s fitted with a patented temperature probe that you insert through a small hole in the glass lid directly into your food to monitor your meal without removing the lid and losing all of the heat. Also, you can program at a specific temperature, and the slow cooker will automatically switch to Keep Warm when your food is perfectly cooked.

  • Dishwasher-safe pot and lid
  • Temperature probe included
  • Short power cord
  • Outer pot can get very hot

Best 8-Quart Slow Cooker

Crock-Pot 8-Quart Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 15.4 x 15.3 in.
  • Capacity: 6 qt.
  • Weight: 15 lb.

This 8-quart slow cooker has the capacity to serve a crowd of 10 or more. It’s spacious enough to fit a large 8-pound chicken or turkey. The appliance is programmable with a maximum time of 20 hours, and will automatically switch to Keep Warm when the cook time is up. Plus, it comes with a recipe booklet for meal inspiration.

  • Programmable time and temperature
  • Dishwasher-safe pot and lid
  • Outer housing can get very hot

Best Slow Cooker for Serving

Crock-Pot 8 Quart Manual Slow Cooker with Little Dipper Warmer

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 15.5 x 9.4 x 15.2 in.
  • Capacity: 8 qt.; 16 oz.
  • Weight: 16.4 lb.

This large slow cooker comes with a handy sidekick: a 16-ounce Little Dipper that keeps dips, sauces, and stews warm for serving tableside. The slow cooker itself is spacious enough to feed 10 or more and has a Keep Warm setting when you’re done cooking. The heavy-duty stoneware inner pot is safe for use in the oven (not the broiler), dishwasher, and microwave. The tempered glass lid can also be cleaned in the dishwasher.

  • Dishwasher-safe stoneware pot
  • Stainless steel exterior
  • Includes extra warmer for dips

Best Slow Cooker for Tailgating

West Bend 87905 Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 9.25 x 12.5 x 9.5 in.
  • Capacity: 5 qt.
  • Weight: 6.6 lb.

This slow cooker doubles as a portable griddle for tailgating, camping, or Sunday breakfast at home. The 5-quart slow cooker has a sleek nonstick coating that’s easy to clean (and dishwasher-safe). It’s also oven-, stovetop-, fridge- and freezer-safe. When you’re not slow cooking, the heating base doubles as an electric griddle large enough to accommodate five burgers.

  • Lightweight
  • Carrying case included
  • Handles get hot
  • Multiple pieces to keep track of

Best Multi-Pot Slow Cooker

Elite Platinum EWMST Three-Pot Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 25.6 x 26.5 x 8.75 in.
  • Capacity: 3 2.5-qt. pots
  • Weight: 24.2 lb.

Serve up a full hot buffet at once with this three-pot food warmer and slow cooker appliance. Each of the 2.5-quart pots has three heating settings (high, low, and keep warm) for cooking and serving at any rate you need. The pots are made from dishwasher-safe ceramic and each comes with a tempered glass lid. Each pot also has a utensil slot and a lid rest for mess-free serving.

  • Inexpensive
  • Lid rest included
  • Heavy
  • Smaller individual pots

Best Small Slow Cooker

Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 12.2 x 9.4 x 12.4 in.
  • Capacity: 4 qt.
  • Weight: 2.2 lb.

A four-quart slow cooker is a great size for one- to three-person households. It’s compact enough to store in the pantry or on the countertop in a small kitchen but performs just as well as larger models. This slow cooker has a heavy and sturdy ceramic pot that’s dishwasher-safe and maintains heat well. The appliance has three heat settings and a well-fitting tempered glass lid.

  • 1-year warranty
  • Lightweight and small

Best Programmable Slow Cooker

Calphalon Digital Slow Cooker

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 17.78 x 14.37 x 23.19 in.
  • Capacity: 5.3 qt.
  • Weight: 9.53 lb.

The ceramic internal pot of this slow cooker can be placed on the stove to sear meat or saute veggies over high heat. When you return the pot to the sleek matte stainless electrical housing, you can program specific heating times and temperatures and walk away while dinner cooks itself (and automatically switches to Keep Warm when your timer ends). The digital display is easy to read and use, with three heat settings (low, high, and warm).

  • Oven-safe pot
  • 20-hour cooking timer
  • Not dishwasher-safe
  • Metal utensils may scratch the nonstick pot

Best Dutch Oven–Style Slow Cooker

Instant Pot Electric Precision Dutch Oven

Key Specs

  • Dimensions: 14 x 13 x 10 in.
  • Capacity: 6 qt.
  • Weight: 21 lb.

This electric Dutch oven does more than slow cooking. It offers multiple cooking functions, including braising, searing, and warming. The ceramic cooking pot works outside of the electrical housing for use on the stove or in the oven. It has a tight-fitting, heavy lid that traps in heat and steam well. The removable parts are also dishwasher-safe and have a smooth nonstick coating. Programmable timers and temperatures help assist with hands-off, stress-free cooking.

  • Silicon handle covers and trivet included
  • Warm setting to keep food hot

Elizabeth Briskin, Our Expert, Shares What Not To Put in Your Slow Cooker, the Scoop on Instant Pots…and Yes, You Can Leave These Devices on All Day

Q: What, if anything, can’t you cook in a slow cooker?

A: The best foods to cook in a slow cooker are those that hold up well to long, slow periods of cooking. In particular, tough cuts of meat such as from the shoulders and legs of animals (think brisket, flank, rounds, and butts) become tender and soft in the slow cooker. However, there are a few items that are best cooked elsewhere. Lean meats and seafood, such as chicken breast, pork chops, and shrimp, will become tough and chewy in a slow cooker. Likewise, while hardier veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes and squash cook up nicely over a long period of time, more delicate vegetables like green beans, summer squash, and broccoli should be cooked hot and fast. And while you can add dairy to your slow cooker dishes, it’s best to add things like yogurt and cream at the end, just before serving. Otherwise, you risk the dairy separating into something less than appetizing over several hours of cooking. When it comes to grains, it’s best to add pasta, rice, and other starches toward the end of your slow-cooking process, or to cook them separately. Otherwise, you may end up with gloppy and thick rice pudding.

Q: I’ve heard so much about the Instant Pot…is that a slow cooker, too?

A: The Instant Pot does have a slow cooker function. So you can make many recipes designed for a slow cooker right in your Instant Pot and spare yourself a second appliance. It’s worth noting, however, that there are a few slight differences between a typical slow cooker and an Instant Pot. Most slow cookers conduct heat on all sides of the ceramic insert for even cooking. Instant Pots, on the other hand, have a heating element only on the bottom. Instant Pots also have a thinner stainless steel cooking pot, which is less nonstick and gets hotter faster than ceramic.

Q: Can I really leave it on all day?

A: Yes, the beauty of slow cookers is that they’re designed for set-it-and-forget-it meals. It’s always best to consult the appliance’s user manual, but most slow cookers are totally safe to leave on for up to eight hours on low. Most recipes will be fully cooked in that time.

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