Finding the Best Slow Cooker
Most home cooks have a slow cooker. It’s the perfect set-it-and-forget-it appliance—add your ingredients, set the time and you have a phenomenal home-cooked meal by the time you get home from work. And when the weather cools down and all you want are comforting meals, that slow cooker becomes your BFF.
However, we bet you never thought twice about your trusty slow cooker. As it turns out, there are plenty of differences between the brands (beyond just size and color). Some offer expanded cook options outside the basic low and high, while others advertise themselves as being travel-friendly with special clips to keep that lid on tight—who among us hasn’t tipped over a slow-cooked dish to pass on the way to a potluck? Considering all these features and how much we rely on this appliance, our Test Kitchen had to find the best slow cooker out there.
To find our Best Loved Brand (what’s that?), our culinary team used several slow cooker options to prepare your recipes. Over several months, our cooks and food stylists got a feel for each brand. Then we created a series of tests where we could see how each performed side by side. To find out which brand was best, our staff recorded how each gadget handled these essential tasks:
- Slow cooking chicken: We cooked chicken breasts on the highest setting in a sauce of stock, cream and butter. How long did it take for the chicken to reach temperature (165ºF)? Did the cream curdle?
- Slow cooking a beef pot roast: We cooked beef on the slow cooker’s lowest setting. How tender did the meat become?
- Controls, settings and features: Were the controls and settings easy to understand and use? Were the extra features useful?
- Price: Is the product affordable? Is it well priced for how well it performed?
The Best Slow Cooker: Chefman Slow Cooker with Stoneware Crock
If you can believe it, the best slow cooker, according to our Test Kitchen, wasn’t the biggest name in the business (though we did test it!). Instead, it was a smaller brand with a totally new style of crock. Here’s why we’re trading in our old Test Kitchen slow cookers for a Chefman Stoneware Crock model ($44).
Features We Loved
- Stoneware crock: The unique stoneware crock was our Test Kitchen’s favorite feature. In addition to working with the slow cooker base, it could be used in the oven or heated on the stovetop. That means when it comes to prepping some slow cooker meals, like pot roast, you can brown the meat and then slow cook it all in one pan. No need to get your cast iron pan dirty browning that chuck roast.
- Dishwasher-safe crock: When you’re done with your slow cooker meal, you can pop the stoneware crock right into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. This stoneware insert is the slow cooker gift that keeps on giving.
- Beautiful aesthetics: We know that the look of a product has nothing to do with its performance, but we appreciate a good-looking gadget when we see one. We love how Chefman’s slow cooker looks sitting on the countertop.
- Price: Chefman’s standard 5-quart slow cooker costs less than $45. If you want to upgrade to the six-quart or super-sized seven-quart option, you’ll still spend only $50.
How It Performed
Chefman’s stoneware slow cooker passed all our tests with flying colors, garnering a perfect score from our Test Kitchen.
When it came to cooking chicken in cream sauce, this brand produced perfectly cooked chicken in two hours. As for the cream sauce—it simmered nicely but never curdled.
But what really impressed our culinary team was how well the pot roast turned out. After cooking low and slow for a few hours, the pot roast came out fork tender and ready for a cozy, cold-weather dinner. What put it over the top, though, was that the roast could be browned in the crock right on the stovetop—no need to dirty another pan. This extra step isn’t necessary, but it adds some depth of flavor to your roast.
This stellar performance, along with the affordable price, had our food stylists and cooks singing Chefman’s praises. This slow cooker exceeded our expectations, and we’re happy to recommend it.
We Also Recommend…
While the Chefman blew us away with its slow cooking skills, these two brands are also worth your consideration.
- KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker ($130, left): We loved the slow-and-steady way this KitchenAid cooked—we didn’t notice any temperature spikes during the cook time, something that was common in other models. We were both intrigued and perplexed by the medium setting because we’ve never seen a recipe that requires it.
- Cuisinart 6½-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker ($100, right): Given its big base, this slow cooker from Cuisinart takes up more counter space than many other models. That said, we liked the easy-to-use control panel, which includes a 24-hour timer and an automatic warming function for your finished dish.
What to Make in Your Slow Cooker
We know you’re a slow cooker pro at this point, but who doesn’t love a few new recipes? These recipes take advantage of our favorite slow cooker’s A+ low-and-slow cooking and all-in-one crock. They’re the perfect dishes to prepare and let heat on a long, lazy weekend. Our favorite new recipe? A slow-cooked cinnamon roll—it’s a great way to make breakfast for the holiday without taking up valuable oven space.
How to Take Care of Your Slow Cooker
You may love your slow cooker (who doesn’t?), but are you taking care of it the right way? A little dish soap works wonders, and guess what: With our cleaning method, you won’t even have to remove the insert if you don’t want to!
About Best Loved Brands
If you’re like us, you want all your favorite recipes to turn out fabulous every single time you make them. That means opting for the best tasting ingredients and the best tools. While picking your favorite brand of chocolate chips or bacon is a task, it’s a delicious one to be relished. Choosing the best gadgets and gear for your kitchen, though, is another story. Unless you buy several stand mixers or food processors and put them through their paces, how can you ever know which will make your recipes turn out their best? That’s where our Test Kitchen comes in. Our culinary experts tried dozens of products our Test Kitchen—testing your recipes—to find out which brands came out on top.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Taste of Home editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Contact us, here.