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Looking for the best slow cooker? Our culinary experts researched the top models on the market today, selecting 10 of the best to purchase for side-by-side testing. To bring you a comprehensive review of this classic kitchen appliance, we tested the competition in real kitchens with all kinds of meals. From stews and soups to BBQ brisket and chicken wings, we cooked extensively — albeit slowly — in each of these so that you can decide which is the best model for your kitchen. Our team also developed objective tests to deliver conclusive advice and help better inform your purchase decisions.
We've also reviewed a long list of kitchen appliances and products over the years to help your cooking and baking endeavors. So, whether you're a professional chef crafting a meal or an inspired amateur baker (hello, The Great British Baking Show), we have the details you need to find the best products for your needs. From toaster ovens to stand mixers, cookware and more; the options are endless. And, since cleaning is also part of the cuisine experience, check out what we have to say about some top-rated cleaning supplies, including trash bags and dishwasher pods — common staples in most kitchens.
Editor's Note: We updated this review on January 31, 2022, with additional information to help you find the best slow cooker for your home kitchen.
Slow cooker, pressure cooker, saute, and steamer, all-in-one
Loads of safety mechanisms
REASONS TO AVOID
More complicated to learn
The Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 exceeds your classic crock's limits by incorporating the programmable pressure cooker's function and capability as well as the ability to sauté and steam, all in one pot. Although the Lux additionally impressed us with its specialized pressure cooker functions — ranging from hard-boiled eggs to NY-style cheesecake — it is this unit's capacity as a slow cooker that, of course, caught our attention for this review. Thanks to this product's many safety features, we were able to cook delicious, super-tender meat for dinner while away from home without fear.
While you could conceivably cook every part of your meal with this single appliance, it might take you all afternoon — and much of that time may be taken up by reading the owner's manual (it even includes a quick-reference guide, just in case.) In terms of cooking features, the Lux easily outstrips all other products in this review but takes considerably more time to get up to speed with the ins and outs of its hyper functionality. It eventually becomes straightforward, but we wouldn't exactly say Lux's interface is intuitive. Nevertheless, we love the power and efficiency of what we will call a slow cooker-plus. If you want to expand your cooking horizons and do it all, we highly recommend using this device.
The Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Programmable offers high performance in a simple package and incredible value compared to other models with similar capacity and capabilities. The interface is as uncomplicated and intuitive as possible and makes it easy to start cooking up new dishes within minutes of unpackaging. This basic unit held its own against much more expensive competitors regarding cooking performance. We were able to cook a hearty minestrone with ease — a dish that can be notoriously difficult due to the different temperature requirements of the many ingredients.
We have to be up-front about just how "programmable" this unit is: while you can set a timer, and one that will automatically transition the unit to a warming pot after your set cook-time ends, that is also where the programming potential of this appliance ends. Additionally, this model only offers timer settings in 2-hour increments up to 10 hours, so it is not nearly as fine-tuned as other computerized options. But even with its limited timer capability, you will be hard-pressed to find another contender with the same price-point and abilities.
The Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry is designed with that quintessential purpose in mind: cook up a large batch of your favorite recipe at home, and bring it with you to heat up and serve at a community-style meal. This model has an impressively long cook time of up to 20 hours, making it an excellent option for slow-cooking stews overnight. It did a great job cooking down vegetables in a braising liquid during testing: onions and tomatoes perfectly stewed, carrots and celery still with a bit of crunch, and no mushy mess when it came to potatoes.
The Cook & Carry sports a super intuitive timer with an auto-warming function. However, it doesn't feature an auto-shutoff, making us less comfortable using this product while we're not at home. Also, although this is offered up as a "cook & carry" model, it's pretty heavy when filled, and the stainless steel sidewalls can get very hot. But should you decide to take it out to your next tailgate, it has oversized handles and a well-designed locking lid to keep your favorite dish safely secured in the pot.
Included meat probe, with capacity to set desired cooking temperature
REASONS TO AVOID
Really loud alarm
While our top choice may have won marks in part thanks to its multi-functional value, we're sure that some folks are looking to buy a more classic crock. Enter the Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart with Probe — a model that is a highly performing slow cooker and nothing more at its core. The low-and-slow crowd will appreciate that this unit has one of the lowest cooking temperatures of all of the models we reviewed, ideal for those braised and barbequed recipes that call for all-day cooking. Thanks to an incorporated meat thermometer and a probe setting that allows you to set the ideal internal temperature to an accuracy of five degrees, this is also our choice for cooking meat to perfection.
Initially, the interface is not quite as intuitive as other models, but a skim of the owner's manual makes quick sense of the few buttons available. Even though this is presented as a portable model with a gasket lid secured with clips, the bulk and weight of the unit alone doesn't scream "carry me" — especially once you throw a four-pound roast in the mix. We believe that this unit is best when living on the kitchen countertop, helping you slow-cook your favorite pulled meats to absolute perfection.
Since its invention, the classic cooker has been a staple at potlucks and picnics, and the Crock-Pot 2.5-Quart Mini Casserole proudly carries that flag into the future. This simple, 3-setting version sports the retro aesthetic that you might see on your grandmother's countertop, but with a few modern upgrades. The rim of the locking lid has a gasket to ensure that all of the food stays where it is supposed to, even in transit. We particularly like the design of the locking mechanism, which thoughtfully includes garages to keep the hooks out of the way when cooking or serving.
As its name suggests, the Mini Casserole is much smaller than most competitors in this review. Though it may have a similarly sized footprint, the dish is significantly shallower than the other contenders. While it is not big enough to cook a roast, we could easily nest four sizable spare ribs comfortably in a braising stock. The flip side to the smaller cooking capacity is that this model is much more portable — this cute, lightweight crock is perfect for cooking and carrying along for your next 'Friendsgiving.'
Best for One-Pot Meals
Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-in-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker
For a multi-function version, we love the Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-in-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker. The interface is intuitive and user-friendly, thanks to dual screens that allow you to set time and temperature simultaneously without having to cycle options. Unlike the additional pressure cooker capability of the Lux 6-in-1, the other two functions of this model — Brown/Sauté and Steam — directly support the process required by many slow-cooked recipes, without any extra fluff. We could sear meat directly in this pot and then easily transition to adding the rest of our ingredients for slow cooking instead of browning a roast in a cast iron skillet first.
Although we appreciate the simplicity of cooking start-to-finish in one pot, that convenience still makes the cost of the Cook Central Multi-Cooker hard to justify. Additionally, after only a few uses, we experienced an issue during testing where the unit refused to turn on — while the problem corrected itself by the next day, it made us question the durability of this pricey model. Despite this incident, this model still may have taken the top spot if it weren't for the fact it costs nearly twice as much as the next most expensive unit.
We've tested very few programmable slow cookers that allow you to push the limits of a 24-hour clock, but the KitchenAid 6-Quart is one of them. For those low-and-slow recipes — like BBQ beef ribs, which benefit from extra-long cook times — this simple, programmable model allows you to cook on one of three heat settings for up to a full 24-hours. We set up a pot roast to cook all day, allowing the flavors to fully develop before this pot switched over to an automatic warming cycle after the designated cook time. The surface area of this 6-quart cooker is a little too large for us to keep it out on our countertops all the time, so we greatly appreciate that KitchenAid includes a cord wrap on the bottom to improve storage.
While the KitchenAid pot may define an easy-to-use interface, it is much more expensive than other, relatively similar models. It does a great job cooking everything from rice and beans to meats and veggies, but not in a way that justifies a price tag that is nearly double its most direct competitors. For this extra expense, you do get a bit more versatility — this is one of the few options we tested that includes high, medium, low, and warm settings — but it simply does not prove itself to be any more worthy than other, less expensive options included in this review.
Don't be thrown off by the diminutive size of the Elite Gourmet 1.5-Quart Slow Cooker — its value far exceeds some of the other models included in this review. The pint-sized package of this crock is exactly what made us fall in love with it. Perfect for side dishes and other small portions, this is one of the few units capable of cooking perfectly fluffy rice in quantities other than pounds. This option is the ideal-sized crock to set up and slow cook meals overnight for those who enjoy waking up to a savory congee or porridge.
Don't expect any bells and whistles on this super basic contender. However, it does include an on/off light — surprisingly, this is a considerable advantage over some of the other popular manual options included in this review. While it is possible to cook slightly more than a single serving, don't expect to dish out a dinner-for-two from this crock — you'll both probably leave hungry. The Elite is small enough to incorporate into a kitchen of any size, and we see a particular value for those dorm-dwelling, oatmeal-eating college students who want an alternative to rousing themselves from bed in time for dining hall breakfast.
Capacity: 7.5 quarts (2.5 quart each) | Programmable?: No
REASONS TO BUY
Three, individual crock pots
Optional lid holders
REASONS TO AVOID
Not practical for everyday use
The Tru Triple Crock Buffet is something of a novelty: three individually operated 2.5-quart crocks allow you to cook an entire meal in a convenient unit. We loved it for this purpose — we were able to simultaneously glaze chicken wings, steam rice, and simmer broccoli. The low cooking temperature of this unit makes it particularly suited for cooking sides of vegetables — we were able to cook down root vegetables in just butter, no liquid, on a low setting without any burning. For this reason, we especially enjoyed the ability to cook multiple side dishes, freeing up the stove to focus on the main course.
However, the large footprint of the Triple Crock doesn't exactly make it practical for day-to-day use — we believe it is best to save this one to impress your guests at your next potluck. Despite its overall bulk — which makes it quite the pain to store — the 2.5 quart pots are hardly big enough to fit even a small roast. That said, while this manually-operated crock is basic in function, it is perfect for keeping appetizers warm and delicious at a party that goes late into the evening.
An oversized version of your very basic crockpot, the Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual is a no-frills, stainless steel slow cooker. Without the added benefit of a timer, it is best to make sure that you will be at home to check in on this manually operated appliance from time to time. From our testing, it's pretty evident that this crock's enormous capacity is intended for serving large groups of people. It offers over a cubic foot of cooking space, which is certainly big enough to slow cook a small turkey.
Beware that the heating element's higher output tends to overcook smaller portions, which comes into play when cooking smaller dishes. Due to its size, this stoneware crock also takes a noticeably longer amount of time to come up to temperature; this is not ideal for quickly steaming a side of vegetables before dinner. This model is most useful for braising large cross-cuts — like an Osso Buco — where the bone-in shank requires the extra depth afforded by this overly-sized model. While this is not our ideal slow-cooker based on just how much counter space it takes up when it comes to real-estate price, the Crock-Pot 7-Quart Manual is undoubtedly tough to beat if you're looking to feed a household.
Why You Should Trust Us
Have you ever been asked the question, "If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" For our home-cooking expert, Aaron Rice, his answer is BBQ — and that answer alone should qualify him as an authority on slow cookers. Aaron has devoted much of his life to sharing delicious food with anyone and everyone. After working in and around professional kitchens for the better part of a decade, he currently co-manages an on-site culinary garden with his wife for a fine-dining restaurant in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Beyond cooking and growing food in the garden, he spends most of his time in the mountains — working as a gear tester for GearLab and full-time ski patroller in the winter.
Before we start each review at GearLab, we perform our due diligence, spending hours researching the market before purchasing the best slow cookers available. Our culinary experts have tested over 10 slow cookers. For this review, we devoted more than a week to test all of these models side-by-side — cooking various meals. To evaluate all aspects of a slow cooker's performance, we developed a set of testing metrics: user-friendliness, cooking performance, cooking features, and ease of cleaning. Ultimately, we subject each slow cooker to over 18 tests. A cooker's score in each testing metric makes up a portion of their overall performance score.
Our testing of slow cookers is divided across six four metrics:
User-Friendliness (35% of overall score weighting)
Cooking Performance (30% weighting)
Cooking Features (25% weighting)
Ease of Cleaning (10% weighting)
Among the testing metrics, user-friendliness holds the most weight on a product's overall score. We believe a slow cooker is the epitome of easy-to-use, low-maintenance cooking, and a model's design and interface should support this. To flush out the details of this test metric, we took note of multiple factors, such as the various temperature settings, timer (i.e., will the model automatically turn to warm after cook time?), ease of programming, and cook and carry capability. Following close behind user-friendliness is cooking performance, holding 30% of a product's overall score. For this test metric, we cooked meat, grains, beans, veggies, plus took notes regarding the slow cooker's size and cooking temperature.
Analysis and Test Results
Preparing ingredients in the morning and then returning home to the fragrance of a warm, home-cooked meal wafting through the house is convenient and a thing of beauty. To help make this dream a reality for you, we identified four testing metrics that define a great slow cooker, including user-friendliness, cooking performance, cooking features, ease of cleaning. It is important to note that all of the slow cookers ranked relative to one another — we believe that even the lowest-scoring units are still a worthy investment for any kitchen.
What is a slow cooker, if not convenient? If it is not easy to get one of these appliances up and running, you may as well spend that time cooking that same meal over the stovetop. Many of these models offer relatively similar exhibitions of cooking performance — therefore, it is user-friendliness that provides the first impression and the quality that initially sets them apart.
The aspects contributing to how user-friendly a slow cooker is will vary depending on the type of product it is. For example, with programmable models, how intuitive is the interface? Can you pull the appliance from the shelf and effortlessly set the temperature and time, or do you have to go back and refer to the owner's manual to get going? These questions don't apply to manually operated models; for those, you want to know how well the appliance will incorporate itself into your kitchen. Does it have a considerable footprint — and must be stored in the basement — or can it live on the countertop for easy access? Does this version offer a locking lid, so you can bring your favorite dish with you to a potluck without making a mess of your car?
Regardless of its computing power, the Hamilton Beach Portable with Probe offers an easy answer to all of these questions. Not only is this multi-functional model easy and intuitive to operate — albeit after a quick read of the owner's manual — its locking lid makes it easy to bring your crowd-pleasing pulled pork to the next backyard barbeque. We sincerely appreciated the simple button layout and locking top of the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry for many similar reasons. While their size and footprint don't make them very practical for daily use in most kitchens, the Crock-Pot 7-Quart and Tru Triple Crock have their time and place — particularly when it comes to serving party-sized portions.
When it comes to choosing one of these appliances, the qualities of cooking performance are undoubtedly relative to the style of cooking you prefer and the types of recipes that this style favors. The time frame required for this type of cooking calls for efficiency through consistency — namely, the ability to maintain a set temperature for an extended period — and low-and-slow is the name of the game. Although somewhat debatable, many professional sources agree that the ideal slow cooking temperature falls between 190 - 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not surprisingly, the models closest to hitting this mark also score the highest in overall cooking performance. The low setting of the Lux 6-in-1 came the nearest to this ideal temperature — indeed, this unit is capable of cooking meats that are fall-off-the-bone tender. But anecdotal evidence also illuminated exceptions to this rule: while the KitchenAid 6-Quart is a close competitor, the roasts cooked with this model were much drier in comparison.
We noted that there are important differences between sizes and that size often determines if a slow cooker is particularly suited to cooking certain types of meals. Directly comparing models of the same quart-capacity, we could appropriately space out spare ribs in the wide body of the Crock-Pot Mini Casserole, whereas the same dish would be cramped in one of the 2.5-quart crocks of the Tru Triple.
Not all slow cookers are created equal, and the cooking features may be the best defining differential quality outside of user-friendliness. We considered specific features — notably the design quality of the lid, safety features, and cooking indicators, to appropriately judge this metric. But the best way to differentiate between your options is to divide them into two distinct categories: programmable and non-programmable.
A non-programmable model is a basic version and what you likely remember from your grandmother's kitchen. It has three heat settings: Low, High, and Warm. Beyond that, most of these simple crocks offer no additional cooking features. The difference then is in design features that influence cooking. For instance, the Elite Gourmet 1.5-Quart is the only turn-dial model we tested that includes an on/off light. We particularly appreciate the Cuisinart Cook Central, Hamilton Beach Portable with Probeand the Lux 6-in-1 designed with alarms.
Of course, the multi-function options blew the competition out of the water. For the price, it is nearly impossible to top the programmable functions, lid design, safety mechanisms, and display of the Lux 6-in-1 — not to mention that this model also offers the ability to pressure cook, sauté, and steam! Second-in-line for distinctive cooking features is the Cuisinart Cook Central, also offering sauté and steaming capabilities. However, the Hamilton Beach Portable has a considerable advantage over many other models when it comes to slow-cooking red meat. Its included meat thermometer and program allow you to set internal temperature.
Ease of Cleaning
Not only are these appliances easy to cook with, but they also tend to be incredibly easy to clean! Most of the models we tested are designed with the classic stoneware crock — except for the Lux 6-in-1, a stainless steel option, and the Cook Central, a nonstick aluminum contender. These enamel pots are very easy to scrub clean with a sponge, and all models — including the metal ones — are dishwasher safe.
Otherwise, ease of cleaning is determined by the size and shape of the pot itself. A 4-quart model, like the Hamilton Beach Programmable, easily fits into a standard dishwasher without taking up too much space. In contrast, the Crock-Pot 7-Quart's oversized pot requires pretty much the entire lower rack. While many will appreciate the nonstick coating of the Cook Central, our lead tester is skeptical of the long-term durability of this material for a pot and opts for the stainless steel or stoneware models for his kitchen.
It doesn't have to be a slow process to find the best slow cooker to add to your home kitchen. Fortunately, you can reap the benefits from our hard work (indeed, we devoted a ton of time using these appliances) to narrow down the selection of slow cookers to find the right one for your needs. There's no doubt that this countertop kitchen appliance is worth the investment and free smells — just prep your ingredients and let the slow cooker do the rest. As Julia Child often said, "Bon appetite!"
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.