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Whether you’re making a batch of soup you can freeze or want to test out a new recipe that won’t take up your entire day, one of the best pieces of kitchen gear you can own is a slow cooker. It makes meal planning easier and will save you a ton of time. Below, we’ve found the best slow cookers for every budget and kitchen, along with what to consider when you’re shopping for one.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Good Slow Cooker
Size: The size of the cooker is important, as this determines what and how much you’re able to cook. Look for around six to eight quarts as a general rule. Too large and you may have a hard time storing it, not to mention lugging it onto the counter every time you want stew.
Programmable: The programmable timer feature allows you to set the exact cooking time your recipe calls for on the appliance, after which it will automatically switch to the “warm” setting. This is ideal especially when you can’t be home at the right time to manually switch the setting and will help make sure you don’t overcook anything.
Additional Functions: Extra functions like the ability to sear directly in the bowl can be a big help, as many recipes call for ingredients and aromatics to be seared on the stove before slow cooking. Pressure cookers also often include a slow cooker function which helps you cut down on the amount of gear you have in your kitchen cabinets.
Heat Quality: The best slow cookers should heat foods evenly. We also look for the time it takes for the slow cooker to heat up, and how well it retains heat on the warm setting.
What Are the Best Slow Cookers?
1. Instant Pot Duo Nova Pressure Cooker
We like the Instant Pot for its versatility and ease of use. While branded primarily as a pressure cooker, it also has a slow cooker function, with a surprisingly intuitive control panel. And because the lid seals shut automatically, the Instant Pot has superior temperature control, even on the warm setting. It’s the best model to spend your money on right now.
2. Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker
If you’re looking for a real top-of-the-line slow cooker, we like this 6-quart Cuisinart model, which has functions to saute and steam food as well. It’s simple to program and easy to operate, and, most importantly, gets consistently excellent reviews when it comes to temperature control and heat retention. We also like that you can put the pot insert in the dishwasher to clean.
3. BLACK+DECKER 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker
We like this slow cooker’s programmable settings and especially its fun design features, including the chalkboard surface you can actually write on, the locking lid which keeps heat — and food — from escaping and a built-in lid holder so you don’t have to hold the lid yourself when stirring.
4. Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
While not quite as high-tech as some of our other top picks, this slow cooker still checks all the boxes on our list of must-haves, including decent heat retention and programmable settings. The feature that sets it apart is the integrated meat thermometer, which is extremely handy whenever you’re slow braising meat, like brisket.