6 Best Slow Cookers, Tested by Food Network Kitchen
After more than 150 hours of cooking, we found the best slow cookers you can buy.
Our Top Slow Cooker Picks
- Best Overall: All-Clad Gourmet Plus Slow Cooker with All-in-One Browning, 7-Quart
- Another Favorite: Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
- Best Budget: Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker
- Best for Cooking from Frozen: Hamilton Beach Defrost 6-Quart Slow Cooker
- Best Large-Capacity Cooker: Crock Pot 8-Quart Slow Cooker, Programmable
- Best Portable: Crock Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Slow Cooker, Programmable
Tested by Stevie Stewart and Leah Brickley for Food Network Kitchen
Slow cookers have come a long way since their heyday in the early '70s. No longer just for cooking stews and tough cuts of meat, slow cookers are used to make everything from breakfast to dessert, and there are dedicated slow-cooker cookbooks for all kinds of cuisines and diets.
Slow cookers have also stepped it up when it comes to special features. In the past, your only cooking options were High, Low and Warm. Now, you can steam meat and vegetables, make rice, saute — some even stir the food for you! One of our picks can even cook your dish from frozen (something previously deemed impossible in a slow cooker!). With all of the options out there, we're sure we found a slow cooker that suits your needs.
This article has been reviewed since its original publish date for accuracy, pricing and availability.
What to Know About Slow Cookers
The idea is to "set it and forget it," but there are some basic guidelines that will ensure you get the best results.
Don't under- or over-fill a slow cooker. Most machines advise to fill at least halfway to make sure the food isn't over- or under-cooked. When crocks are filled below the halfway point, food can be done as much as one to two hours earlier than the recipe states.
Add dairy at the end. If your recipe calls for dairy products, add them toward the end of the cooking time; they can curdle if cooked for too long.
Remember, liquid doesn't evaporate. If you're converting a recipe like stew, soup or chili to a slow-cooker method, you will not need the same amount of liquid as the stovetop version. Slow cookers do not allow for the liquid to evaporate, as the crock is closed throughout the cooking process. If the end result is too thick, you can always add more liquid at the end.
Veggies are meat’s best friend. When cooking fatty cuts of meat, make a bed of root vegetables or onions on the bottom of the crock so the meat does not cook in the fat that will be released. Keep in mind, using this method will put the vegetables super close to the heat source, located at the bottom of the machine, so you'll want to choose something hearty (or firm) that can withstand the heat over a longer period of time.
Looking for a new slow cooker? Sarah Holden, culinary producer for Food Network Kitchen, breaks down three of our top picks, above.
How We Tested
We tested 13 popular, well-reviewed slow cookers. One of the most-important aspects of a slow cooker is the temperature. You need it to heat high enough that the food will cook safely but not too high to scorch or overcook over a long stretch of time.
We made stew and checked both the exterior temperature (with an infrared thermometer) and the interior temp of the food at one-hour intervals throughout the cooking time. We then checked to see how quickly the slow cookers dropped the heat once switched to Warm — a good indicator of the likelihood of overcooked food.
We also checked how easy they were to clean and how user-friendly their controls (interfaces) were. We eliminated four models based on poor cooking results, chemical smells, poorly sealing lids and basic programming.
This is so much more than a slow cooker. The All-Clad Gourmet Slow Cooker can saute, brown meat, simmer stews and cook rice! But having all these bells and whistles doesn't take away from the quality of the slow-cooking feature. This model never got overly hot on the exterior, produced the most-tender meat overall, came up to simmer in the least amount of time and maintained a steady temp throughout the cook process.
It was also the most beautiful of all the slow cookers we tested and would be a welcome addition to the kitchen countertop. There is a steep price tag, but considering its versatility, you’re virtually getting multiple pieces of cookware in one!
One of the biggest risks associated with slow cooking is overcooked food. The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget slow cooker has a thermometer probe that can be programmed to switch your cooker to warm once the meat has reached your desired temperature, solving this age-old problem. Just insert the probe into the meat and the temperature reading will show on the outside of the slow cooker. An added bonus is the clip-top lid, which can help prevent spills if you're taking your cooker on the road.
In a saturated digital world sometimes a humble, manual appliance is a breath of fresh air. There’s no bells and whistles on this stainless steel slow cooker-- just a simple dial with the options to cook on low, high or to keep food warm. Does your go-to slow cooker chili recipe really need anything else? The insert is large, the design is simple and clean and the price is a bargain-hunter’s dream come true. Plus, it made super tender beef paprikash in our test. There’s no automatic shut-off, so it’s an ideal model for someone who’s homebound and slow cooking on a budget.
This Hamilton Beach slow cooker solves ones of the biggest painpoints when it comes to slow cooking: you can't cook from frozen. With this Hamilton Beach slow cooker, the "set it and forget it" ease is maximized, as you can cook your protein directly from the freezer; no need to plan in advance or wait overnight for things to defrost. The Hamilton Beach defrost model follows USDA food safety guidelines to defrost your meat at a food-safe temperature before switching to slow cook mode to finish the job. This model also comes with a probe thermometer, so you can be sure your meats are cooked to the correct temperature. It has all other features you can expect with a slow cooker as well: low and high settings, warm setting, as well as manual time and temperature options.
When using this machine, it's important to carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions, especially when using the defrost function. We do not recommend cooking from frozen in any other slow cooker model on the market due to food safety risks.
Many slow cookers can feed a group, but this model can make enough for crowds of more than 10 people. So, whether you're throwing a birthday party or taking chili to the annual tailgate, this slow cooker can meet your needs.
The digital timer makes it easy to program and it automatically switches to the warm setting when the cooking time is up. Need to cook a recipe for less than 10 people? Don’t worry, this slow cooker did a fantastic job cooking the same recipe as the smaller cookers at 6- to 7-quart capacities.
Holidays and celebrations are nothing without great food. If you're helping family or friends throw a party and need to travel to share your favorite meal, this is a great option. The locking lid has a gasket and an extra seal to provide extra insurance that your car interior will be safe from spills.
The convenient lid is just the starting point. This was our runner-up overall when it came to the tenderness of the meat and safety — the outside never got above 87 degrees (some of our other nominees reached an outer temp of over 125 degrees!), making it an ideal crock to take along with you.