Slow cookers are fast becoming essential for every kitchen. Combining convenience with great quality food, this is a brilliant low-effort way to cook for a family or prepare meals for the week ahead, all in one pot.
There are hundreds of slow cookers from dozens of brands on the market, so finding the one that’s right for you can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve selected the cream of the crop, from high-end to affordable cookers suitable for anyone from students to large families.
Well, we’ve done all the hard work so you don’t have to. Check out our slow cooker buyer’s guide below and then follow the links to our full reviews.
Top 5 Bestseller Slow Cookers
Best Slow Cookers
Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6-Quart
This Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Slow Cooker proves you don’t need to compromise on price to get quality. Sure, it’s a bit bulky and perhaps not the most stylish or modern model on the market, but it’s a tried and tested favorite for a reason. We especially loved the clip-tight lid and easy-grip handles which ensure you can take your culinary creations with you on the go without worrying about spills or mishaps. An all-round great choice for only $40.
Black+Decker SCD4007 7-Quart Digital
This is a generously sized slow cooker that covers all the bases, and adds in some quirky features too. We love the chalkboard exterior which, combined with the locking handles for easy transportation, makes this a great choice for labelling meals and transporting dishes to gatherings and potlucks.
A great price for a digital model and boasting a two year warranty, there’s a lot to love about this slow cooker which is perfect for a large family due to its huge seven-quart capacity.
Crock-Pot SCR450-HX 4.5-Quart Round
This is a great mid-size option for the average family who wants to come home to easy home-cooked meals. It’s also ideal for food prepping in advance, although the lack of digital functionality means that you won’t have the option of setting a timer and coming home to a finished meal which has automatically switched to the keep-warm function. For the price though, we think this is a great and stylish choice which is a groovy addition to any counter-top. A no-frills slow cooker which compromises on size but not on style or value.
Calphalon Digital Sauté
A quick glance at online reviews will show you that the Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker has an army of devotees, and we can see why. The stylish and modern design, ideal capacity, digital programming and oven-safe pot means this is a must for any food-lover with a bit of spare cash. Yes, this is one of the priciest slow cookers on the market, but if you have the money to spare we think this should be your first choice.
Crock-Pot SCR300 3-Quart Manual
This is the perfect slow cooker for first-timers who are new to this type of cooking and want to give it a go. It’s one of the most affordable models we’ve seen and this doesn’t come at the expense of multiple cooking modes, a keep-warm mode, glass lid and ceramic, high-quality dishwashable insert.
The size makes it ideal for small families or those who are trying to cut down on portion sizes. It’s also great for smaller spaces such as apartments not much storage space or college dorms. Some users have reported issues with overheating and melting of the plastic handles, so take this into account when purchasing. Fortunately if you do experience this, Crock-Pot covers this unit with a one-year warranty.
Crock-Pot 2.5-Quart Mini Casserole
Optimized for casseroles, one-pot meals, dips and other favorites, this isn’t a does-it-all option but it’s perfect for small households or student dorms. We particularly love its funky geometric design which will look at home in any kitchen. Although it’s slightly on the expensive side for such a small manual slow cooker, we love the extra features.
The cook and carry lid locking option lets you prepare sides and dips for events and transport them hassle-free, and the oven-safe stoneware gives you flexibility in food prep. If you like these extra features but aren’t looking for a large-capacity slow cooker, this is definitely the one for you!
Slow Cookers FAQs
How much does a slow cooker cost?
If you look around the market you'll find plenty of expensive slow cookers that cost upwards of $150, but you don't need to spend that much in order to find a quality device. We found the best slow cookers, priced between $15 and $100 on Amazon and reviewed them.
We’ve listed them here for you to compare, making sure there’s something for everyone at any price point. The more expensive units were usually larger and featured a digital display with extra cooking options like an automatic stay warm, digital timer or delay start, but we found some good digital options for less on our search.
The cheapest slow cooker we found was the Crock-Pot 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker. Typically, you'll pay less for a smaller, manual model. If you're after something a bit bigger, the Crock-Pot 4.5-Quart Round Slow Cooker is only $25 - great for a family on a budget.
What we looked for ?
When reviewing slow cookers we considered a number of factors. Value-for-money was a very influential factor when it came to scoring, and to figure this out we took factors such as size, additional functions, customer reviews and durability of materials into account.
As slow cookers are products which promise convenience to users, we took into account whether or not the stoneware and lids were dishwashable. We also considered the versatility of stoneware pots. An added bonus of a select few models is the multifunctionality of these pots, and whether they can be used on the stovetop or in the oven.
Glass lids are preferable for slow cookers as you can watch your food cook without letting out the heat by opening the lid. Shape is also important, as oval-shaped cookers can fit large or long cuts of meat more easily than round models and provide more cooking flexibility to users.
Some slow cookers come with clip-on lids and easy-grip stay-cool handles, which are great for travelling with dishes without fear of spillage or messy mishaps. We also looked out for quirks such as design and exterior. Fom tactile dials to groovy designs, we’ve seen it all.
What is the difference between manual and digital slow cookers?
The average inexpensive slow cooker comes at the price of digital functions, but is this a trade-off you want to make?
The main advantage of digital slow cookers is the ability to set timers, letting you leave your cooker unsupervised for long periods of time without having to worry about your food overcooking. Many Americans like slow cooking for the ease of being able to throw a bunch of ingredients into the pot before leaving in the morning and coming back to a home-cooked meal. However, manual slow cookers will continue to cook on whatever setting you left them on until you turn them off, so if you’re unable to check on your food regularly it may overcook and become tough or dry. Digital slow cookers step in to resolve this problem, letting you set timers and automatically switching to a ‘keep-warm’ setting when these timers finish, meaning that if you’re kept late at the office or held up in traffic you can come home to a warm and perfectly cooked meal, regardless of how long you’ve been gone.
However, manual slow cookers often come at a cheaper price and with the same ‘High, Low and Keep Warm’ heat options as digital models. Certain staple slow cooker meals don’t need to be precise. For example, it’s well-known in cooking that the longer you leave certain cuts of meat to cook on low heat, the more tender they’ll be. So what difference does it make to your beef stew if you end up leaving it cooking on low for an extra few hours? Pork and chicken will shred more easily and you won’t see a significant difference in mince or sausage meat, making a manual model just as useful for easy, low-effort and imprecise recipes.
The real issue arises if you’re cooking with grains such as rice or lentils which can overcook when left for too long. Nobody likes overcooked, mushy rice or pasta which disintegrates when left for too long, so if you’re cooking a mac and cheese or biriyani, you’ll want to adhere strictly to the recipe. For recipes such as this, a digital slow cooker is more appropriate.
In our tests we found that it is possible to buy digital slow cookers for affordable prices, but if you’re on a tight budget you’ll struggle to find a digital at the low prices of some manual cookers. Our best-value option, the Crock-Pot 4.5-Quart Round Slow Cooker, is a manual model priced at round $20, and the cheapest model we found for a digital slow cooker is our best overall option, the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Slow Cooker which is priced at the $40 mark. Most small-capacity cookers come in manual models, so if size matters to you it might be worth sacrificing the convenience of digital models. After all, we don’t recommend leaving your slow cooker unattended for long periods of time anyway.
What size slow cooker do I need?
When testing, it was important to us to consider slow cookers of all sizes. The smallest we tested is the Crock-Pot Mini Casserole Slow Cooker which has a neat 2.5-quart capacity, and the largest was our pick for parties, the Black+Decker Digital Slow Cooker which comes in at 7-quarts.
The best slow cookers for college students, small families and couples would be between 1 and 3 quarts in size. The 2.5-quart Crock-Pot Mini will happily cater for 1-3 people or serve as a great dish for dips, sides or appetizers at events. The Crock-Pot 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker is a great option for college dorms and small groups, with room for singles to make enough portions to see them through most of the week or cater to larger groups when they have friends over.
For the average-sized family, we would suggest a slow cooker between 3 and 6 quarts. Most slow cooker recipes come designed for a standardized 6-quart capacity, making this size ideal for easy cooking with no maths involved in measurements. The 4.5-quart Crock-Pot Round Slow Cooker is our pick for families on a budget, catering for around five people. It’s also a good pick if you like having leftovers for later in the week. Crock-Pot claims that the standard 6-quart model will cater to 7+ people which makes it perfect for potlucks or catering to a crowd. However, you don’t need to fill your slow cooker every time you make a meal, meaning you can still cater to a family of four or less in a 6-quart model with the option of bulk-cooking for events of midweek convenience if it suits you.
For events and large groups, we suggest a slow cooker at 6+ quarts. The largest slow cooker we reviewed was 7-quarts, which was our ultimate pick for parties. The Black+Decker Digital Slow Cooker will make 8+ servings, perfect for events or potlucks.
I’m on a diet - what slow cooker shall I get?
One of the many advantages of slow cookers is the fact that you don’t need lots of oil or unhealthy seasoning to get great-tasting food. By cooking your food in its natural fat and juices you’ll get flavourful meals without the need of unhealthy additions and you’re guaranteed to keep in all the goodness of your ingredients.
Slow cookers are a great way of preparing vegetables in a different and interesting way, making it a great technique to get the kids eating their greens in casseroles, risottos or soups.
However, one of the issues that can come with the standard 6-quart slow cooker size is the large portions it produces. It can be easy to lose track of how much you’re eating when it’s coming out of such a large pot, and we can often overeat to avoid leaving food waste and leftovers.
For this, we suggest some of the smaller models we reviewed which can help you keep an eye on portion sizes and force you to reduce food waste and leftovers which can become burdensome throughout the week.
What can I cook in my slow cooker?
Slow cookers has been lauded for their ability to cook a wide range of foods. This includes several types of meats, briskets, stews, soups, desserts and even oatmeals. There are hundreds of sites which specialise in slow cooker recipes to help you find the perfect dish for any occasion. We like the Crock-Pot site, which has plenty of options for all courses, ingredients and cuisines. From a vegan slow-cooker mac and cheese to a delicious duck ragu, we think this is a great place to find recipes for all dietary needs and preferences.
The Food Network site also has over 1000 recipes designed for slow cookers. A cursory glance showed a berry cobbler, thai red curry chicken and even peppermint hot chocolate.
Although not all slow cookers come with recipes included, there are hundreds of sites that will give you a myriad of options with just a simple google search. The real question is, is there anything you can’t cook in a slow cooker!
Can you place raw meat in a slow cooker?
While it is possible to cook thin cuts of raw meat in a slow cooker, you should avoid cooking large, raw slabs in one. As you probably know, raw meat can be dangerous to eat, especially if left at lukewarm temperatures for long periods. When slow cooking with raw meat, you need to make sure your device reaches at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit in under two hours. Otherwise, you risk food poisoning. Because of how they are designed, slow cookers aren’t great at retaining heat and often take several hours to reach a safe cooking temperature.
You might want to consider investing in a meat thermometer to make sure the meats you cook reach safe temperatures. To be safe, brown meat a little before placing it in the pot. If it’s a thick, hearty meat, it’s better to use a pressure cooker, oven or other cooking method, since it will cook the meat faster and more thoroughly.
What is the safest way to use a slow cooker?
When we asked about the safety of Crock-Pot's slow cookers, Friedman from Newell told us, "Crock-Pot slow cookers exceed all internal testing protocols and all applicable industry safety standards and regulations as verified by independent third-party testing labs.”
Friedman went on to explain that the company's slow cookers are all low current, low wattage and are made of flame resistant materials so they cannot catch fire. You can feel safe leaving these products unattended; just be aware that they can be very hot to the touch.
Here are some extra precautions you should take to keep your household safe and to ensure the long life of your appliance:
Refer to the instruction manual to make sure you are using your appliance correctly.
Only use a slow cooker on a flat and secure surface.
Keep these devices out of the reach of children and pets. Never allow anything to touch the exterior of your slow cooker while it is cooking, as the hot temperatures might cause things to melt or burn.
Be wary of having the cord hang off the side of the counter-top as it can accidentally be snagged by someone passing by, which can cause the slow cooker to be yanked off of the counter and its hot contents to spill.
Avoid mixing extreme temperatures like placing frozen meat in a heated stoneware bowl. This can cause the bowl to crack or break.