When low and slow is the way to go.
For home cooks, slow cookers are a kitchen essential. They allow you to cook food unattended over long periods of time. Simply throw all your ingredients in and allow the slow and low heating process to bring out all the flavors of your dish. But the world of slow cookers has expanded in recent years with the introduction of time-saving multi-cookers like the viral Instant Pot®. Today’s slow cookers can steam, sauté, brown, and so much more. Whether you're in the market for a multi-cooker that does it all, or a basic slow cooker that won't break the bank — we tested the best slow cookers on the market today.
How does a slow cooker work?
A basic slow cooker is made up of three elements: the base, the cooking vessel, and the lid. The base contains the thin metal liner that conducts heat, which is then transferred to the cooking vessel. Slow cookers create heat towards the base, which then moves up the sides to evenly heat your food.
Slow cookers help tenderize meat, especially when it's not the most expensive cut. They also help bring out the flavor in your ingredients, and depending on the size, they can allow you to cook large portions of food all in one pot. But the best part about slow cookers is that they allow you to come home to a delicious meal that’s all cooked by the time you get home.
How We Tested Each Slow Cooker
Allrecipes expert product tester, Rachel Johnson, put the best slow cookers on the market to the test. Read on for our picks of the best slow cookers for the next time you want to cook low and slow. See one you like? Click the link below each description to get your very own.
To start, we rounded up the top-rated slow cookers on the market from brands like Cuisinart, Crock Pot, and Hamilton Beach. From basic manual slow cookers to programmable multi-cookers, Rachel tested them all.
For this test, Rachel prepared Chef John's Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast, to put the searing, meat tenderizing, and overall slow cooking abilities of each slow cooker to work. For each test, she considered the following metrics:
- Overall feel (What is the slow cooker made of? What parts does it include? How functional is the design?)
- Durability (Is the slow cooker made to last? Will it show wear over time?)
- Cleanup/storage (How is the slow cooker meant to be stored and maintained?)
- Efficiency (How quickly does it heat up? Does it cook food uniformly? How well do its functions perform?)
- Overall value (Is it worth the investment?)
Many pounds of pot roast later, and our testing is complete. Read on for the results of the best slow cookers to buy in 2019.
Best Slow Cookers at a Glance
- Best Slow Cooker: Cuisinart 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $115; Amazon
- Runner Up: Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, $42; Amazon
- Best Budget Slow Cooker: Elite Gourmet 2-Quart Electric Slow Cooker, $26; Amazon
- Best Portable Slow Cooker: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker with Digital Timer, $50; Amazon
- Best Multi-Use Cooker: Instant Pot® DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, $75; Amazon
- Honorable Mention: Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker, $60; Amazon
Best Slow Cooker: Cuisinart 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker
Cuisinart takes best in show with their multi cooker that allows for slow cooking, browning, and steaming all in one. The cooking base on this multi cooker is shallow and wide, which gives you a more even distribution of heat. This also allows for heat to reach a larger surface area for browning or sautéing. It is also the only other slow cooker tested besides the Instant Pot® that features a steaming function.
Rachel says, "While some slow cookers slowly bring heat up over the first half hour or so, this slow cooker kicks the cooking process along with a good amount of heat." Although this is the highest priced slow cooker of all those we tested, it's at the top of the list for its browning and steaming abilities, plus its unique flat and wide design.
Buy It: Cuisinart 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker, $115; Amazon
Runner Up: Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Programmable Slow Cooker
Hamilton Beach is known for providing reliable kitchen equipment at affordable prices, and this slow cooker is no exception. One of the biggest selling points for this top-rated slow cooker is its secure lid, which has a rubberized gasket lining the edges of the lid, preventing heat from escaping. It also features clips to hold the lid in place, for simple portability.
This slow cooker also boasts a temperature probe that can be inserted into the lid while in use, to test the internal temperature of meat. The digital screen allows you to cycle through preferred heat settings and your desired cooking time, before automatically switching to warm when it's done. Rachel found the digital control panel to be somewhat confusing, but easy enough to understand after one use. Overall, this slow cooker is great for the tech-savvy cook who is looking for extra features and portability without going over budget.
Buy It: Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, $42; Amazon
Best Budget Slow Cooker: Elite Gourmet 2-Quart Electric Slow Cooker
Ideal for small apartments or anyone with limited storage, this no-frills slow cooker will give you the perfect portions every time. "While this slow cooker may appear too small for any real benefit, the high-sided stoneware pot and powerful heating element make this slow cooker ideal for small kitchens and portion control. This slow cooker makes plenty of food to serve three to four people," says Rachel.
Because of its size, this slow cooker is a breeze to store and clean (the lid and ceramic insert pot easily fit in any dishwasher). Its high sided ceramic pot allows food to be fully submerged in liquid, for moist, flavorful dishes. To be expected at such a low price point, this slow cooker must be manually shut off and does not feature a timer. Rachel also found that the body of the machine became too hot to touch while in use. For the price, this is a reliable slow cooker that makes just the right amount of food for individuals or small families.
Buy It: Elite Gourmet 2-Quart Electric Slow Cooker, $26; Amazon
Best Portable Slow Cooker: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker with Digital Timer
Perfect for tailgates or potlucks, this slow cooker from Crock-Pot has a locking lid and wide handles for easy transport. The power cord also wraps around a hook on the back of the unit to keep it secure while not in use. Not only does the locking lid allow for safe and easy transport, but it also locks in heat and steam during cooking.
Use the digital timer on this slow cooker to set your cooking time down to the minute. When the time is up, this slow cooker automatically shifts to the warm setting. Rachel says, "This slow cooker is easy to clean and easy to transport, perfect for taking large portions of meals to the office, a neighbor’s house, or any other community food gathering." At a reasonable price, this slow cooker earns high marks for both functionality and portability.
Buy It: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker with Digital Timer, $50; Amazon
Best Multi-Use Cooker: Instant Pot® DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker
Although the Instant Pot® possesses far more than just slow cooking abilities (like pressure cooking, rice cooking, steaming, and even yogurt making), it came out at the top when tested purely for slow cooking and browning ability. One of the standout features is the lid that locks into place, preventing virtually any heat or steam from escaping during the cooking process.
The multi-cooker also includes an inner pot, steam rack, serving spoon, soup spoon, and measuring cup (all of which are dishwasher safe). The pot roast did require an additional 30 minutes of cooking time in the Instant Pot®, suggesting that it may require a bit of timing adjustment when using the slow cooker function. Rachel says, "In the nature of a true 'multi-cooker', the Instant Pot allows for the entire cooking process to be completed inside of the unit. From searing to slow cooking, the Instant Pot adapts relatively well to any situation. This adds more value to the already reasonable price point."
Buy It: Instant Pot® DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, $75; Amazon
Honorable Mention: Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker
Although this slow cooker boasts its ability to sear, brown, sauté, and slow cook all in one, it should be noted that the pot must be placed on the stove to sear food. However, this slow cooker does have a sleek design with a user-friendly control pad that will countdown cooking time to the second. Its tall sides are great for stews, soups, or any foods that are submerged in liquid. The lid has a rubberized lip to effectively seal in moisture and heat. At a reasonable price point, this slow cooker is definitely a top contender when it comes to design and functionality.
Buy It: Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker, $60; Amazon