Slow cookers have been a kitchen staple for decades. You can use them for everything from fondue to holiday feasts and buffet-style meals. They come in more shapes and sizes and do more than ever before. But, that can make it complicated to choose the best slow cooker for you.
You can find slow cookers that steam, brown, or pressure cook to replace other common kitchen appliances. Keep reading to learn about some of the best slow cookers on the market, including small, large, and multi-cooker models, and the features that make them so great.
- BEST OVERALL: Instant Pot Duo Nova Pressure Cooker 7 in 1
- BEST UPGRADE: Breville BPR700BSS Fast Slow Pro Slow Cooker
- BEST PROGRAMMABLE: All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Slow Cooker
- BEST MULTI-USE: Ninja Foodi 9-in-1 Pressure, Broil, Slow Cooker
- BEST MINI: Elite Gourmet Lid & Ceramic Pot Slow Cooker
- BEST SMALL: Cuisinart PSC-350 3-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker
- BEST PORTABLE: Crock-Pot 3.5 Quart Casserole Manual Slow Cooker
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Slow Cooker
How you plan to use the slow cooker, your available countertop and storage space, and the slow cooker’s features are among your most important considerations. Every home and situation is different, so here are the features and considerations most likely to affect your satisfaction and cooking success.
The pot (sometimes called a vessel) size isn’t the same thing as the slow cooker’s footprint. Sometimes a model with a relatively large footprint can have a small pot. Slow cooker pot sizes are measured in quarts. The smallest models have 1 to 1.5-quart pots. The largest have 10-quart pots.
When choosing your size, keep in mind:
- Mini slow cookers that hold 1 to 3 quarts are best for fondue and dipping sauces.
- Models in the 4- to 6-quart range are large enough for side dishes and entrées, depending on how many people you’re serving.
- The 6- to 10-quart cookers typically hold enough food to feed five people or more.
The two options for pot shape are round or oval. Round slow cookers are usually smaller and hold less. They are best for sauces and appetizers. The bigger oval models accommodate large cuts of meat or all-in-one recipes that include meat and vegetables. These are handy for big family meals.
Whether they’re in use on the countertop or waiting in storage, a slow cooker’s footprint affects your kitchen’s usability. In general, the smaller the capacity, the smaller the slow cooker’s footprint. That means that round models take up less space than their larger oval counterparts.
However, some slow cookers have multiple small to mid-sized pots. Their capacity may not be large, but their footprint is. It can pay off to take the time to measure the place you’d like to use and store the slow cooker to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Programmable features seem to have increased exponentially in the last decade. Today’s slow cookers have built-in timers, delayed timers, heat settings, and warmers. Multi-cookers can do even more. In addition to slow and pressure cook programs, these appliances make yogurt and cook rice among nearly a dozen other features.
The more programmable features the slow cooker has, the more expensive it will be. Only pay for settings you’ll use. Built-in and delayed start timers are two of the most popular programmable features. It’s usually worth paying a little more for them because they drastically expand the slow cooker’s usefulness and convenience. Other programmable features may or may not add value for you.
Taking a soup or casserole to a party is much easier with a portable slow cooker. The most portable models have locking lids and large carrying handles. While some of these lids don’t seal completely, they definitely stay in place better than the ones that just sit on top of the pot. Some slow cookers are designed to double as portable lunch boxes. With these, you can take your meal with you and keep it warm till you’re ready to eat.
Our Top Picks
These top picks cover a wide range of slow cooker options, from multi-cookers to mini-models for your favorite apps and dipping sauces. Function, size, and consistent performance earned these slow cookers top marks.
There’s not a lot you can’t cook with the Instant Pot Duo Nova. It takes a regular slow cooker to the next level of hands-off cooking. The Duo Nova has seven functions that include presets for beans, soup, meat, and rice. You can speed up your favorite slow cooker recipes with a pressure setting or stick to standard slow cooking on high or low.
This Instant Pot has a timer and delayed start function, and it automatically switches to a warm setting once the timer goes off. It comes in four sizes from 3 to 10 quarts. The only downside is the storage space it eats up. Taller than the average slow cooker, it may not fit in some cupboards.
Any appliance that can reduce the number of other appliances cluttering up the kitchen gets top honors. The Breville does that and so much more. With eleven functions, it can take the place of a pressure cooker, rice cooker, stockpot, and a long list of other devices.
You can scroll through its many functions with the easy-to-read bright digital display. The display keeps you apprised of everything going on inside the cooker from its internal temperature to the pressure level. The display also changes color as the Breville moves through pre-warm, cook, and warm, so you can check the status of your dish from across the room.
You can use the preprogrammed functions or customize your own settings. The included steam basket and rack expand your meal options. And it’s extra safe with a locking lid, a hands-free automatic steam release, and a safety valve.
The display takes center stage on the All-Clad. It’s brightly lit with easy-press buttons to toggle through the three cook settings and set the timer. You can set delayed start times of up to 20 hours, allowing for meal prep to start nearly a full day in advance.
The warming function keeps food ready to eat for up to six hours; a handy feature if you’re running late or if plans change at the last minute.
This slow cooker comes in beautiful stainless steel with a removable black ceramic bowl. The All-Clad holds 6.5 quarts—plenty for big families or large gatherings.
The Foodi’s reputation isn’t exaggerated. It has many functions and performs them well. As a slow cooker, it gives you some extras that other models don’t. For example, you can brown or sear foods with it before starting the slow cooker setting.
When you’re not slow cooking, it functions as a pressure cooker, air fryer, and steamer (to name only a few). With this model, you also get a 4-quart frying basket, reversible rack, and a recipe book. It’s available in 5- to 8-quart capacities.
The Elite Gourmet’s slow cooker has three heat settings, a 1.5-quart pot, and a clear lid to help you make delicious sides, sauces, game-day dips or meals for one. There’s not a lot to this mini cooker, and that’s what makes it so great. What you see is what you get: A knob to set the cooker to low, high, or warm, and a red line to warn you that the pot is still hot. Simplicity takes out all the guesswork. The stoneware pot and glass lid are both dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
The Cuisinart offers programmable settings with a 24-hour timer, so you can prep your food and go about your day without worrying. Once the food is cooked, this appliance automatically switches to warming mode to keep your meal warm until you’re ready to eat.
The removable pot and lid are dishwasher safe to cut clean-up time. The heat-resistant handles and slip-resistant feet provide additional safety and security.
You can cook and serve with this 3.5-quart slow cooker casserole. Its three heat settings, including a warm setting, take care of all the cooking. If you want to brown or crisp your entree before everyone digs in, the removable rectangular dish goes right in the oven. For potluck suppers, the Crock-Pot Casserole travels well. Lock up the lid and grab the side handles, and you’re ready to go.
FAQs About Slow Cookers
As with any new appliance, you may need some time to learn your way around it. We’ve answered some of the most common questions to get you started.
Q. How does a slow cooker work?
Slow cookers allow you to leave food cooking at low temperatures, unattended, for long periods of time. You can put in your ingredients in the morning and find dinner waiting for you that evening. The heating element that holds the pot is in the base of the slow cooker. A lid fits on top of the pot.
Q. How do you use a slow cooker?
Slow cookers are simple to use. You place the food inside the cooker then set the temperature. On many models, your only choices are low and high. You’ll either time the meal yourself or set a built-in timer. Meals may cook anywhere from two to ten or more hours, depending on the volume of food and the temperature at which you cook it. Most of the time you don’t need to check it—the definition of a set-it-and-forget-it meal.
Q. What temperature is low on a slow cooker?
Most slow cookers have a low setting of 190-degrees Fahrenheit.
Q. Can you put raw meat in a slow cooker?
Slow cookers can handle raw meat, though some recipes call for browning or searing the meat before putting it in the slow cooker.
Q. How much liquid do you put in a slow cooker?
Recipes designed for slow cookers will make any liquid adjustments for you. If you’re using a recipe that’s not designed for a slow cooker, you usually need to reduce the liquid a little. The general rule of thumb is that the liquid should barely cover the meat and vegetables. The slow cooker should not be more than 3/4 full including the food and any added liquid. As the ingredients expand or release juices, the slow cooker could overflow if you fill it too full.
Q. Can a slow cooker catch fire?
Fires aren’t impossible, but they’re extremely rare. If you follow good cooking practices and the owner’s manual, you shouldn’t have any problems. Slow cookers have feet that raise the heating element off of the countertop, so there’s no direct contact. And, as long as both the slow cooker’s and your home’s electrical systems are in good working order, you shouldn’t have a problem. However, all-electric appliances come with some fire risk.