Everyone should have a slow cooker in their home. Toss some ingredients in before you leave for work and you’ll have a fully cooked meal ready eat when you return. Oh, and did I mention the smell. Your whole home will smell like your mother has been slaving away all day cooking food. It’s just fantastic.
But which slow cookers are great and which just plain suck? Want to do an hour of research? No? Good. Because I have done the work for you.
Only a handful of quality brands produce these things: Crock-Pot(by Sunbeam), Hamilton Beach, Kitchen Aid, GE, etc. By the way, Crock-pot is a trademark. The generic term is slow cooker.
|Crock Pot Programmable Cook'n Carry||Check Price|
|Hamilton Beach Programmable With Temperature Probe||Check Price|
|All-Clad Programmable||Check Price|
|Crock-Pot Programmable with Touchscreen||Check Price|
|Crock-Pot Cook’ N Carry||Check Price|
- Timer: Make sure it has a timer controlling it! Seriously, even if the cooker only lets you select between two times, e.g. 8hrs and 4hrs. Quality ones will let you program the cook time and then once it’s done will heat just enough to keep it warm.
- Size: 6QT is the most common but there are 3QT and 4QT sizes as well. When in doubt go with 6QT. You never know when you’ll need it for a party.
- Handles: Yes! Handles. Want to move the cooker at all? What about when it’s hot? Ensure there are at least two handles on the side. Even better, make sure there is also a lid latch otherwise the GLASS top will tend to slide off when moving it.
- Quality: This you can’t judge by the specs typically. Reviews and articles like this one are the best way to soft through the options.
#1 – Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Slow Cooker [label type=”success”]Best Overall Choice[/label]
This is the slow cooker to buy if you’re just not sure what you need. The 6 quart capacity is the size most people buy and it can hold a 6lb roast, if that’s a concern. Manufacturers have begun to realize that people might actually want to move their slow cooker for various reasons, e.g. bringing food to party, so they’ve begun to put lid locks on the cookers. Remember that lids are typically glass which makes these lid locks a life saver.
The cooker also comes with a digital programmable timer. You can set the time in 30min increments all the way up to 20hrs. After the cooking period it automatically switches to a “keep warm” mode. It has everything that you could expect from a slow cooker in an easy to understand and use form.
- Digital Timer that is programmable: 30min – 20hrs
- Auto keep warm mode
- Quality handles + Lid Locks!
#2 – Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe [label type=”success”]Runner Up[/label]
This slow cooker is interesting in that has a temperature probe. Now why would you want that? Usually for meats you want the internal temperature to reach a certain point. Once it reaches that point it’s considered cooked. Does that mean you have to constantly check the temperature while using this thing. Nope. That’s the beauty of it. The device uses readings from the thermometer to determine how long to keep cooking so that your meats are cooked perfectly.
Notice also that this slow cooker has a lid latch system to prevent broken lids from accidental slide-offs and the cooker itself has sturdy handles.
The downside are that the latch system hogs some of the handle room and to add the ability to switch between timer mode and thermometer driven cooking mode they had to add some complexity to the control system. (See left image)
- Lid latches
- Programmable digital timer + thermometer driven cooking
- Auto warm after cooking is complete
#3 – All-Clad Programmable Oval-Shaped Slow Cooker [label type=”success”]Money is no Object[/label]
First a disclaimer, I’m an All-Clad fan. I first fell in love with their pans years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. That said, man is it expensive stuff.
This slow cooker is a work of art. Most slow cookers come with a brushed steel or even a painted steel finish. This cooker comes with a silver finish. Next, this slow cooker clocks in a little larger at 6.5 quarts. The timer can be set anywhere between 4 and 20hrs.
The one draw back is that there are no lid locks. However, style comes first here and it isn’t clear how anyone could design a lid lock system for this without spoiling the overall aesthetics of the current design. So if you buy it, do so knowing full well it’s not there and don’t complain. Your kitchen will look fantastic.
- If you’re a subzero and wolf appliance fan or if you’re into high quality cookware this slow cooker will appeal to you.
- Quality handles
- Digital programmable timer
- NO lid lock system
#4 – Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker [label type=”success”]Quality + Looks[/label]
If you scoff’d at the price of the All-Clad cooker but still want some the same design characteristics + silver finish there is an offering from Crock-pot that fills basically the same sweet spot but without the same expense.
The first thing you’ll probably notice, if you’re an All-Clad fan, is that the handles are either metal wrapped in a silicone grip (side) or pure plastic (top). See the picture on the left.
That said, this is a quality slow cooker. The 6.5 quart size matches that of the All-Clad and the digital programmable timer lets you cook from anywhere from 30min to 20hrs. Like the All-Clad there is no lid lock (as that would spoil the looks) but, again, if you buy it do so knowing that it’s missing.
- Silver finish
- NO Lid Lock
- Digital Programmable Timer – 30min to 20hrs
- Auto warm system
#5 – Crock-Pot Cook’ N Carry Slow Cooker [label type=”success”]Best Budget Model[/label]
This is the old budget standby that is quality and just works.
This baby is bare bones. Your controls consist of “off”, “low”, “high” and “warm”.
No timer, digital or otherwise but with a slow cooker timer’s are not all that critical. You just have to remember, yourself, to switch it from a cook mode to “warm”.
Beyond the controls Crock-pot did a fantastic job of including a lid lock system so that you can still transport this thing around and use it for parties. Have a wild party to go to where something may happen to the crockpot. This is for you. Have a kid away at college and don’t necessarily want to spend a fortune. This is for you. Prefer to control things manually. This is for you.
- Lid Lock Sytem
- Manual Controls
- Keep Warm Setting (Manual)
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