There are likely nights when the last thing you may have the time (best slow cookers) for is slaving over a hot stove to cook dinner. Luckily for you, we know just how to make your evenings less stressful and more delicious—by using a slow cooker, of course! Whether you’re entirely new to the low-and-slow scene or you’re wondering when you should replace your slow cooker, we have all the info you need to master this mealtime ritual.
For dinner inspiration, check out our favorite slow-cooker recipes, and don’t miss our top picks for the best air fryers.
How we picked these products – best slow cookers
If you’re dying to know what’s the best slow cooker on the market, we’re ready to drop some knowledge. We turned to our friends at the Good Housekeeping Institute to determine the top-rated slow cookers. Their team of on-staff experts—which includes all types: engineers! data analysts! registered dietitians!—rigorously put everyday products to the test (and then more and more tests) in their New York City-based labs to determine which ones you can trust. They tested a wide variety of slow cookers and multi-cookers over the course of 432 hours (!!!) to determine which ones were worth the investment. After analyzing their data on each model’s performance, temperature control, consistency, ease of use, safety features, and other capabilities, we’ve narrowed down the cream of the crocks.
Once you know the convenience of sticking your ingredients in the versatile All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker and arriving home after a long workday to a perfectly cooked meal that’s ready for plating, you won’t want to go back. But, if you do decide to go back, you absolutely can, because this small appliance comes with a removable nonstick aluminum insert that can be used on a cooktop and even as a serving dish.
During testing, the Good Housekeeping Institute found that the All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker “made a rich and tender beef stew,” but “it did boil the broth for chicken soup, which overcooked the meat and vegetables.” With the ability to brown, steam, and cook rice, you can utilize the three temperature settings, timed cooking feature, and five-hour automatic warm setting to make some seriously delicious dishes, like slow-cooker creamy gnocchi soup and hearty slow-cooker beef bourguignon.
Plus, the signal light and digital control panel are delightfully user-friendly, just like the ergonomic riveted handles of the slow cooker itself and the insert.
If you’re new to slow-cooking, there’s no better way to get your feet wet than with the Black + Decker 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker. Perfect for potluck recipes, tailgates, or office parties, this budget-friendly pick features a locking lid, large side handles, and even a chalkboard surface to label your dish. And the convenience doesn’t stop there—among the easy-to-use controls, this countertop cooker boasts a timed cooking feature and sous vide and automatic keep warm settings.
During the Good Housekeeping Institute’s tests, their lab panel noted that the Black + Decker Digital Slow Cooker “came up to cooking temperature quickly in both a roast beef and a whole chicken, but then boiled our chicken broth, producing overcooked meat”.
You can prevent overcooking by utilizing the built-in temperature probe and keeping an eye out for the indicator light to let you know when your food is ready. Bear in mind, however, that the nonstick aluminum cooking insert is dishwasher safe, but not oven- or cooktop-safe.
For those on the prowl for a slow cooker that can do it all and do it well—and who don’t mind dropping some serious dough—we think the Wolf Gourmet Programmable 6-in-1 Multi-Cooker is sure to impress. This fully loaded model comes with every possible feature you could want and more, including a convenient temperature probe, removable 7-quart tri-ply stainless steel insert, intuitive LCD panel, removable sous vide rack, and multiple programmable settings for a totally customizable culinary experience.
Available in a sleek stainless steel design, you can choose from six cooking modes, including slow cooking, searing and sautéing, and even cooking rice. In addition to cooking “the most tender roast in our test,” the Good Housekeeping Institute’s testers were blown away by the oven-safe roasting vessel, which they noted “can also be used on your gas, electric or induction cooktop,” in addition to the Wolf Gourmet Multi-Cooker itself. Plus, like the glass lid and stainless steel sous vide rack, it’s even dishwasher-safe for easy clean-up.
We know, you’re probably clutching your pearls at the thought of the beloved Instant Pot being snubbed à la Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars, but hear us out: The Instant Pot can serve as a slow cooker, but it’s not a truly adequate replacement. Nicole Papantoniou, director of Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances & Culinary Innovation Lab explains here that “using the slow-cooker function on an Instant Pot cooked food in the same amount of time as a Crock-Pot—but the results were a little drier.”
Meanwhile, the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker can do it all: slow cooking, pressure cooking, steaming, browning, and even sautéing. This is a great option if you’re like us and sometimes forget to take your ingredients out of the freezer to thaw while you’re out, but the stress-free experience doesn’t stop there!
The 6-quart multi-cooker is here to work with your schedule using its “delay start” and “keep warm” features—and then you can just pop the nonstick cooking pot directly into the dishwasher for easy clean-up. As is the case with most multi-cookers, the Crock-Pot Express has a larger footprint, but if you want a slow cooker that can do it all, we think it’s worth the sacrifice if you have the space.
For those who want to give easy, home-cooked meals another chance, the Crock-Pot 3-Quart Slow Cooker makes great meals for one or two people and even travels well if you want to transport it with your favorite buffalo chicken dip to your next group hang.
This stainless steel model has easy-to-grip handles, a keep-warm setting, and dishwasher-safe cooking pot, but aside from those (admittedly convenient) qualities, the Good Housekeeping Institute noted that it has “minimal features”—hence the compact size that makes it ideal for small kitchens.
Remember that Thanksgiving when you stressed over keeping the mashed potatoes from getting cold and gummy while you waited for your semi-thawed turkey to roast, only to burn the stuffing? History can repeat itself, but it’s far less likely with the Cuisinart Programmable Slow Cooker, which is the secret to any family function or party with its 8-hour automatic “keep warm” setting and 24-hour programmable timer.
Yes, you read that right: That means once you’re done utilizing any of its three temperature modes and four cooking settings, you can let that stainless steel beauty shine on your kitchen island or buffet table.
The Good Housekeeping Institute’s test panel was especially impressed with the Cuisinart’s simmer setting, which they said was “great for hearty cuts of meats like brisket that need to cook all day.” Only the glass lid is dishwasher-safe, but that’s fine—after all the delicious (and shockingly simple) meals you’re about to make, the least your family can do is take care of the dishes.
Boasting a large enough capacity to slow cook a 6 lb. pot roast or 8 lb. whole chicken, we’re not saying the Hamilton Beach 8-Quart Slow Cooker is the secret to a happy family…but we’re also not saying it’s not. As easy to use as it is to clean-up, this model’s appeal can be attributed to its straightforward design, which includes a removable stoneware crock and glass lid. (Both of which are dishwasher-safe—score!)
Affordability is also another elemental category in which this gadget shines, but that means it doesn’t offer as many features as other souped-up options. The Good Housekeeping Institute testers liked the “keep warm” feature, but warned that the Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker “does not include a probe, so you’ll have to use a thermometer to know the temperature of your food.”
Who says slow cooking can only be slow? Sure, the Breville Fast Slow Pro Multi Function Cooker may have a sleek stainless steel design and user-friendly knobs and LCD screen, but our favorite features by far are its precision and flexibility. This 6-quart model boasts high to low settings for slow cooking, 11 pressure cook options, and 13 pre-programmed cooking settings for everything from risottos to desserts.
What’s more, the Fast Slow Pro boasts adjustable temperature and pressure levels, which the Good Housekeeping Institute notes ranged “from 1.5 to 12 Psi, one of the biggest ranges we’ve seen.” While its included cooking insert is dishwasher-safe, Breville recommends hand-washing to maintain its ceramic coating.
If you want a slow cooker that offers the versatility of making everything from hearty beef and barley stew to healthy quinoa risotto, the Zojirushi Multi-Cooker is sure to please. On top of boasting eight bonus cooking settings, this sleek stainless steel gadget can slow cook using four temperature options ranging from 140° F to 200° F—so it should come as no surprise that the Good Housekeeping Institute’s test panel called it “one of the most versatile slow cookers out there.”
It may take a bit of a learning curve and some elbow grease to clean, but once you get the hang of this handy kitchen tool, you’ll be utilizing its wide 6-quart pot to cook whatever you can fit inside.
In a word: Yes! All Crock-Pots are slow cookers, but not all slow cookers are Crock-Pots. Crock-Pots are a brand of slow cookers that debuted in the 1970s, and they’ve been changing lives ever since. Similar to a Dutch oven, these gadgets cook food at a low and steady temperature and need at least a little bit of liquid to prevent your dinner from going up in smoke—literally. This makes them a perfect tool for preparing comforting fall soups and even dips.
Slow cookers and Crock-Pots may cook the same, but if you’re worried these small appliances might use a lot of electricity, we have some good news and bad news. The good news: They don’t! The bad news: We gotta go back to math class to explain why. According to a study conducted by Iḷisaġvik College, a slow cooker “consumes around 250 watts of power while an [electric] oven can draw up to 4000 watts—depending on how you’re cooking… Using a conventional electric oven for one hour can cost around 20 cents, while operating a [slow cooker] for 7 hours costs only 10 cents, [resulting in] an energy savings of 50%.” In short, you’ll be saving time, energy, and money, so it should come as no surprise that this retro kitchen staple remains on top.
Sure, slow cookers have been the go-to countertop appliances for decades, but thanks to innovative tools like the infamous Instant Pot and air fryers, multi-cookers are becoming increasingly popular—so how can you know which one’s right for you?
The main draw to multi-cookers is that they essentially serve as a bunch of appliances and gadgets in one, saving you valuable kitchen real estate. These added features mean multi-cookers also tend to be bulkier—a key factor to consider if you have a small space.
While multi-cookers can do a lot, there are some functions that slow cookers can do, well, better, such as tenderizing large cuts of meat and offering more control when it comes to dishes like beef stew. During their testing, the Good Housekeeping Institute found that “traditional slow cookers performed well and were consistent,” while multi-cookers “did well also, but with slightly lower results.” That being said, if you want a slow cooker that can do more than just slow-cooking, you’ve got options.
Is it worth buying a slow cooker?
Whether you want to cook healthier meals or don’t have the time to plan a full-on feast, these appliance require minimal prep in exchange for cooking sublime slow-cooker recipes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a crowd, because the best part about these adaptable devices is that there’s something out there for every person and lifestyle. Here are some factors to keep in mind while shopping:
Capacity: We’re not just talking about the quantity of food your slow cooker can make at a time. First, you’ll want to take into account how much space you have in your kitchen and on your counters for usage and storage. It’s no use dropping cash on a small appliance only to never use it because it doesn’t fit underneath your cabinets or is too wide to securely place on your counter.
Curious as to what size slow cooker is best for a single person? During testing, the Good Housekeeping Institute found that smaller models—so, 4 quarts or less—“produced a superior beef stew to slow cookers that had a capacity of 6 quarts or more.” Pair that with being less bulky and easier to lift and you’re sure to be a happy camper, whether it’s just you or two of you.
That being said, if you tend to cook bigger batches because you have a larger family or just love some good leftovers (and who doesn’t?), there are models available that are as large as eight quarts to meet your needs.
Temperature settings: At the very least, slow cookers have two temperature settings: High, which usually reaches about 212° , and low, which clocks in just above 200° . If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can find models with settings like browning meat, making rice, even sous vide.
The most handy feature to look for, especially when you’re using your slow cooker while you’re out and about for the day: a “keep warm” setting, which usually hovers about 20° above the recommended temperature for food safety at around 165°.
Features: In addition to the aforementioned browning, rice-making, and sous vide settings that some models offer, you can find a slow cooker that can do just about anything, from air frying to monitoring your food’s internal temperature with a built-in probe thermometer. Some appliances even offer additional conveniences to fit your lifestyle, like “delay start” settings and ovular shaped if you often plan on slow-cooking roast beef.
They can even come with nonstick inserts (which are more ideal than ceramic options because they’re typically lighter and easier to hand-wash) or lockable lids and rubber gaskets to effortlessly transport your food.