Our Slow Cooker Buying Guide

Not all slow cookers are the same! Make shopping easier with this slow cooker buying guide.

A slow cooker is every busy cook’s secret weapon, and rightfully so. It’s so helpful for cooking hearty soups and year-round comfort food. Plus, there’s almost no cleanup! Not sure how to choose the right one? This slow cooker buying guide will help you weigh size, functionality and price to pick the perfect gadget.

What to Consider When Buying a Slow Cooker

Capacity

The first decision to make is how big your slow cooker needs to be. Do you plan and prep dinners a week ahead of schedule? Or perhaps you want to stock up on freezer-friendly soups and stews. Either way, a large 6- to 10-quart slow cooker should be your best bet.

For someone who wants to cook a delicious dinner that will be ready when you walk in the door, a 4- or 5-quart machine might do the trick. The smallest slow cookers hold 1 to 2.5 quarts and work well for heating up lunch leftovers and keeping dips warm during a party.

Our Pick for a Large Slow Cooker: Hamilton Beach 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, $39
Our Pick for a Standard Slow Cooker: Chefman 5-Quart Slow Cooker with Stoneware Crock, $41
Our Pick for a Small Slow Cooker: Crock-Pot 20-Ounce Food Warmer, $25

Psst…Here’s how to make lasagna, cheesecake and other surprising dishes in your slow cooker.

Features & Functionality

For some people, having a “HIGH” and “LOW” setting is enough. But extra features can make life easier. Look for things like:

  • clip-tight lids to make traveling easier
  • gasket lids to prevent messy spills
  • programmable features to allow you to cook for for a set number of hours
  • temperature probes to let you know when your food’s done
  • Wi-Fi capability so you can control the slow cooker from an app on your phone
  • digital displays to help you keep an eye on temperature and cook time
  • sear or sauté settings so you don’t have to dirty another dish

If you regularly entertain, be sure to check out a buffet cooker like this one with two or three removable crocks. And don’t forget the slow cooker add-ons!

Price Point

Like any new appliance, price is often the most influential criteria for purchase. Slow cookers range in price from $20 to more than $300. Think about how often you’ll use your machine, and what kinds of meals you intend to cook. If you have a big family and/or a lot of busy days, it might be worth investing in a high-quality machine to help streamline the meal prep process. If you live alone and want a daily dinner helper, a smaller, more affordable option might be the best bet.

Whatever slow cooker you choose, it will make your life easier, more efficient and more delicious. Put that new gadget to work ASAP with our best slow cooker recipes!

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Laura Denby
Laura is a New York-based freelance food writer with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and a degree in Journalism from Penn State. Her work has appeared in Taste of Home, Chowhound, the Culture Trip and Patch.