Slow Cookers

Slow Cookers Buyers Guide

A Slow Cooker, or more commonly known as a, “Crock Pot,” is an essential part of any kitchen, allowing the owner to just load it up and step away before coming back to a delicious meal. At least, that’s the theory. In reality there’s a world of difference between a bottom-of-the-barrel slow cooker and one which will end up holding an honored place on your counter.

Finding the best slow cooker doesn’t need to be complicated. Read on and we’ll explore what you’ll need to ensure that you’re able to make the best choice to bring home to your kitchen.

Why a Slow Cooker?

Slow cookers were originally designed to take some of the time out of a person’s daily tasks. Since they have relatively tight temperature controls and are meant to run all day long they’re a convenient way to make dishes like stews without having to stand over a boiling pot.

More than that, they’re a key component of modern variations of recipes like pulled pork. The slower cooking time makes for a remarkably tender dish and the longer cook time is useful for making sure that marinades and spices actually set into the meat.

After all, the food is basically stewing for hours at a time.

Most people who make regular use of a crock pot will find themselves starting it before work and leaving it on through the day.

Is there anything better than coming home to an already hot and finished meal as soon as you’re in the door? On top of that, the only cleaning that needs to be done when a slow cooker has been used is to clean the crockpot itself. They’re not suitable for every dish but they’re the best way to make cooking at home more convenient than ever.

Convenient and easy-to-use, slow cookers can make a huge difference in how much effort has to be put into cooking, especially since they don’t need to be attended to throughout the process. It’s just a matter of when the owner is willing to use it.

What Do I Look for in a Slow Cooker?

While the core idea of a slow cooker is quite simple, there are a ton of them on the market these days. They range from those that closely mimic the original to modern cookers with a ton of programming options and high-end materials.

The prospective buyer should carefully consider all of the following before making an investment.

Size

Are you cooking for yourself? A couple of people? Regularly hosting dinner parties which feature a delicious roast in potatoes and carrots?

The size of a slow cooker is one thing that shouldn’t ever be overlooked. Even if it meets your expectations across the board being too large for a single meal or too small for a planned event renders it pretty much useless.

Most slow cookers are measured in quarts. One to three quarts is perfect for a single person or couple, for larger families something in the range of five to six quarts is desirable.

Larger pots are available for those who really want to be able to go to town as well, so if dinner parties are your thing then it’s worth keeping an eye out for something a single person would consider massively over-sized.

One thing to keep in mind: the majority of slow cooker recipes are geared towards a six quart cooker. Check carefully if you’re trying out someone else’s recipe and make adjustments as necessary for the size of your pot.

Programming and Timers

One of the few risks when running a slow cooker is overcooking the food contained within. This can render an otherwise delectable dish a nearly inedible mush, so one should carefully consider whether or not they need a timer.

Many crock pot recipes can take upwards of four to six hours to cook, but if your work day is eight hours and you’re planning on dinner being ready when you get home you’ll want a programmable cooker.

On the other hand, if you just want to take some of the effort out of weekend cooking and you’ll be around to turn the pot off at the correct time you can skip the extra expense and go with a manual slow cooker which requires you to turn it off.

Most will switch to a “warm” setting when the timer has run out, keeping the dish nice and hot for those who are planning on enjoying it even though they’re no longer cooking.

Time controls range pretty far, with some cookers only working in certain intervals. For the most part no interval is shorter than 30 minutes however, and slow cooking rarely requires extremely tight time controls.

Extra Functions

Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, there are a lot of options out there with slow cookers. Some combine a ton of functions, while remaining primarily a slow cooker these are often quite handy to have around for someone with limited counter space.

One of the primary functions to look for is a searing feature. For those who enjoy hearty stews they’re essential and save the owner the hassle of having to dirty up a frying pan or skillet in order to pre-cook the meat.

Some work well as steamers, rice cookers, or even a pressure cooker.

Extra functions make a slow cooker more handy, but they’re also a driving point behind higher costs. Keep that in mind if you’re on a tight budget and planning on a truly extravagant pot.

Pot Shape

The shape of the pot matters more than it would seem at first glance. Round models are available, forming a ceramic circle inside the pot, but they’re not the ideal solution for most people.

Instead, look for an oval shaped pot. This makes it easier to get a roast or other large piece of meat wrangled into the pot without having to cut it down and change the cooking time.

Take a close look at the bottom corners as well. Some of the cheaper models have a very sharp angle that will make the slow cooker more difficult to clean, a gently rounded corner will easily wipe smooth with a sponge on the other hand.

If the pot isn’t able to be easily lifted clear of the base for cleaning you’ll want to give it a miss as well.

Metallic inserts are sometimes available and work fine but can impart flavors to the food and won’t stay hot as long once the heating element has been disengaged. Most cooks prefer ceramic or porcelain since they’re easier to clean and have better heat retention.

Transparent Lids

Ideally, a slow cooker won’t have its lid removed during the cooking process. It lets out heat and can change cooking time for those who aren’t careful.

That means a transparent lid with a steam vent is ideal. Most high end slow cookers have lids which are made of tempered glass, a small steam vent keeps things relatively transparent so that the cook can look upon their work without taking the lid off.

Opaque lids mean you just have to trust the timer for many recipes. If the cooker doesn’t hold true to its thermostat that can mean a lot of tinkering with cook times and probably a couple of messed up meals before the owner can dial it in.

The Big Questions

To make sure that you’ve got the right slow cooker for your needs, you should be able to answer three questions:

  • How many people am I cooking for at each meal?
  • Do I need a programmable crock pot?
  • Do I want a multi-use cooker?
  • What’s my budget?

Those will give you a good indication of what you need and everything else will be in the details.

Slow Cooker FAQ

Q: Is it safe to run a slow cooker all day?
A: Manufacturers vary, but almost all are rated to run for at least 12 hours. While they get hot enough to cook a crock pot is well contained and unlikely to burn anything in the home as long as normal precautions are followed.

Q: What’s the difference between a pressure cooker and a slow cooker?
A: Pressure cookers are essentially sped up slow cookers. They allow for the same types of recipes and styles of cooking within a fraction of the amount of time a slow cooker takes. They’re also harder to use, more expensive, and generally a hassle compared the relatively simple “throw ingredients in a pot, turn it on, leave” routine that most people use slow cookers for.

Q: Do slow cookers make healthy meals?
A: Any type of cooking will denature the ingredients being heated. Slow cookers seem to be softer on nutrients than many out there but there’s a caveat: many vegetables will readily lose some of their nutrients in the water they’re cooked in. For a stew, that’s fine, but the broccoli you threw in with a roast may have marginally less nutrients than if you’d just steamed it. It’s not any more harmful than any other variety of cooking however.

Q: How much electricity do slow cookers use?
A: Most models use around 600W of electricity during normal usage. By contrast, a normal hotplate will usually use around 1200W of power and an electric stove runs from 1000W to 3000W depending on the model. They do run for longer in most cases but in the end using a slow cooker isn’t going to result in an electricity bill hike.

Q: Do I need to brown meat before putting it in a slow cooker?
A: Not necessarily, most meats will cook readily despite not having a seared exterior. The caramelization process that occurs on the skin during the browning process will change the character of the dish in a direction most people agree is for the better however.

Our full list of Slow Cookers for 2019

Sort: Editor’s Choice

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Our full list of Slow Cookers for 2019

#1 Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S-A 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker

Overview

Pros

  • Its 6-quart capacity is perfect for a 6-pound roast or a party of 7+ people 
  • Digital controls can program cook times from 30 minutes up to 20 hours
  • No-mess and no-hassle cleanup 

Cons

  • Temperatures aren't always accurate and may not cook food at times
  • May get hairline cracks all over, leading to burn marks

bottomlinelogoBottom Line

The Crock-Pot Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker gives us a beautiful solution to our portable slow-cooking needs by giving us a tool that is both powerful and compact. However, this product is far from perfect and may even turn into a fire hazard, but with its imperfections aside, we believe that this slow cooker is the closest we'll get to the ultimate slow cooker. 

 

It ticks pretty much everything we could ask for and only has a few issues to fix before the next iteration comes. From its massive 6-quart capacity to its handy digital panel, the Crock-Pot Programmable Cook & Carry Slow Cooker is a product dedicated to making your Friday afternoon roasts memorable. As the original slow cooker brand, Crock-Pot always aims to deliver the best results, and this slow cooker is no exception. 

#2 COSORI 6 Qt 11-in-1 Programmable Multi-Cooker Pot

Overview

Pros

  • Comes with low, medium, and high settings for customized slow cooking 
  • Functions as a rice cooker, stove, oven, yogurt maker, and more! 
  • Corrosion resistant so it will always look brand new

Cons

  • The non-stick coating may chip off from the bottom of the pot over time  
  • May have design flaws that make it hard to use

bottomlinelogoBottom Line

The Cosori 6-Qt 11-in-1 Programmable Multi-Cooker Pot has a lot of features and functions to offer, effectively eliminating more than half of the appliances you need in your home. With this slow cooker, you get more value for your money without the need to buy everything separately to take up all the space in your kitchen. And even with its flaws, it is still an excellent product overall, offering us more uses than a swiss army knife. 

 

In the end, we can't deny just how great a product the Cosori 6-Qt 11-in-1 Programmable Multi-Cooker Pot is. And while some may say it's pricey, others will agree that it delivers real value for money. For $136, this product covers a lot of your usual cooking appliances and saves you space in the kitchen. So what else could you need? This great slow cooker has got you covered. 

#3 Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker

Overview

Pros

  • Has 14 useful functions to deliver all your cravings 
  • Its 7-in-1 multipurpose features can replace many appliances in the kitchen
  • Easy to use and easy to clean

Cons

  • May have a shorter lifespan than we expect

bottomlinelogoBottom Line

The Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker delivers unbelievable value in the form of a device that you can only assume to be a rice cooker. But it gives us so much more than that. Replacing regular old appliances that take up all the space in our kitchen and making our food much faster and more efficiently, this slow cooker is practically everything we need wrapped up in one bundle of joy that costs half the price of the competition. 

 

Overall, it is impossible not to fall in love with The Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, because not only does it deliver delicious food every time, it saves us space, time, and effort from all the different pots and pans we'd be juggling without it. While it's not as fancy looking as others, you shouldn't let its simple design throw you off, because it has so much more to offer. If you don't believe me, try it for yourself and be amazed at what this slow cooker can do.

#4 Crock-Pot Cook & Carry 6-Quart Oval Portable Manual Slow Cooker

Overview

Pros

  • Carries enough food to serve 7+ people 
  • Choose from high/low/warm manual settings 
  • Stoneware settings and dishwasher-safe materials 

Cons

  • May cook too hot, leading to burns 
  • Leaving it on for extended periods may lead to a shattered glass cover

bottomlinelogoBottom Line

The Crock-Pot Cook & Carry 6-Quart Oval Portable Manual Slow Cooker is an excellent solution to our slow cooking needs on a budget. For under $30 you can get a high-quality slow cooker that is not only portable and can be brought outside, but it can also serve food for a party of 8 people. Even with its particular flaws, this slow cooker gives us an excellent performance that you won't get from most other products from the same price range. 

 

Overall, the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry 6-Quart Oval Portable Manual Slow Cooker still gives us the value for money that we always look for. And with it's easy to use and easy to clean features, this slow cooker has been designed to make your kitchen work more manageable and to help you juggle work-life balance. In the end, the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry 6-Quart Oval Portable Manual Slow Cooker can make a great addition to any kitchen or can make a perfect gift for all food lovers. 

#5 Crock-Pot SCR300-SS 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker, Silver

Overview

Pros

  • Serves up to a total of 4 people 
  • Comes with low, high, and warm settings 
  • Dishwasher-safe lid and stoneware  

Cons

  • Can get hot enough to burn or to be a fire hazard 
  • Handles may be of poor quality and can melt off

bottomlinelogoBottom Line

The Crock-Pot SCR300-SS 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker would have been an excellent contender to top the list of the greatest slow-cookers available in the market now, but because of its flaws and mediocre features, it sadly missed the cut. But for its low price of $20.49 I can't think of a cheaper and more affordable slow-cooker that can produce food as delicious as this one does. 

 

In the end, Crock-Pot SCR300-SS 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker delivers on its promise of providing us with yummy slow-cooked meals and the convenience of getting our meals on time as we get home from work. It's an excellent addition to any kitchen, (should you get one without the painful melting problems) whether you're moving to a new dorm in college or with a small family of four. For its price, you certainly couldn't find a product that can top up what the Crock-Pot SCR300-SS 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker does.