There are tons of great things about a slow cooker. For one, it is a very affordable appliance, which will let you whip up some of the best home-cooked meals for your family. Slow cookers – also known as crock pots, allow you to make use of cheap ingredients and turn them into the most sumptuous meals without breaking a sweat or slaving away in the kitchen.
They are very easy to use and become increasingly popular again in recent years. More and more people are including a slow cooker to their wishlists and trying to find spots in their kitchens to accommodate a nice unit.
However, like other kitchen appliances, not all slow cookers are made equal. You’ll want to be careful in choosing the right one for your home so you can get the best value for your money and actually make the most out of what these devices have to offer.
To help you do that, here’s a quick guide to choosing the perfect unit for your home.
Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best Slow Cooker
The first thing that you need to know about slow cookers is that they come in a wide range of prices and functionalities. As price is not a marker for quality, you can’t just splurge on a unit and call it a day.
To find the best slow cooker that will match your needs and requirements, here are a few things that you should look into:
Crock and Lid Construction
The outer material of a slow cooker is usually stainless steel. The inner pot, the crock can be made of different materials. Some crocks are made from metal, while others are made from ceramic and porcelain.
The ones that use ceramic and porcelain are usually oven safe and can be used for other methods of cooking, making them excellent picks if you don’t want to use other pans in searing and sauteing before loading the unit with other ingredients.
All of these crock materials are great, but what you should always look for is a removable crock. This way, they’ll be a lot easier to clean and maintain.
As for lids, some are made with glass, others with plastic. Most experts recommend going for a glass lid as they tend to be more durable even when exposed to high amounts of heat. As they’re also clear, you won’t have to lift the lid to check on your dish.
Most units have the heating element for their crockpot sitting at the bottom of the unit, but others extend to the sides, ensuring a more evenly distributed heat. Experts prefer these as they won’t require stirring and mixing.
Most slow cookers are either round or oval-shaped. Choosing between the two is entirely up to you and the dishes you want to make, as some ingredients, like a whole chicken, ribs, and brisket will better fit oval-shaped ones.
Round ones are great picks for those who like to make stews and have limited kitchen counter and cabinet space, though, as they’re easier to fit anywhere.
The capacity of your crockpot should also be a major consideration when shopping for one. Deciding on this matter will depend on the size of your household, as larger homes will require more food, thus a bigger crock pot, while a 2-person household can make do with a small unit.
Most slow cookers only have three settings: high, low, and warm. However, they have different input mechanisms. Some are digital, while others are manual.
It’s all up to you which one to go for, although digital units tend to offer additional features and can be pricier as well.
Lots of digital crock pots also offer additional functions that make them more convenient options to manual units. Some of the most sought-after extras include a timer and sear mode, both of which will come in handy if you want to leave the unit cooking while you go to work or run errands. The latest models like the Black and Decker Wifi Slow Cooker or the Crock-Pot Wemo Smart Wifi-Enabled Slow Cooker can even be controlled via an app installed on your smartphone.
5 of the Best Slow Cookers Today
Now that you know what to look for in a slow cooker, you’re all ready to look for the right one for your home. To help you get started, here are five great products that you should know about.
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Ever wanted to bring a juicy pot roast or stew to a potluck with friends but never really got around to it because you don’t want to lose its warmth by transferring containers and you’re worried about spilling the contents all over your car?
With the Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S, these shouldn’t be a problem anymore. The biggest draw of this slow cooker is its locking lid, so you can easily take the whole unit and transport it to your friends’ without worrying about the dish getting cold or creating a mess on the way.
Its large 6-quarts size is also a great plus. It can cook food for up to 7 people, making it even more suitable for those who love to whip up home-cooked dishes for friends and family.
If you also love make-ahead meals, this size can already help you prepare meals that you can eat for a couple of days.
When it comes to functionality, the Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S also has everything you need in a crock pot. It’s definitely designed with your convenience in mind with its programmable settings.
Its digital display will let you set a countdown timer for how long you want your dish to simmer. It can cook in as quickly as 30 minutes to as slow as 20 hours and will automatically switch to “warm” mode after the timer is up.
The actual use of the unit is also very easy. All you need to do is prep your ingredients according to the recipe, load it up in the crock pot, place the lid on top, select the right heat setting, set up the timer, and you’re good to go.
There are no complications with this unit and you’ll be set to enjoy a delicious meal after a few hours.
Cleanups are a breeze, too. The crock is a removable oval stoneware, and both this and the lid are dishwasher safe so you can definitely clean it up without breaking a sweat.
- Programmable settings
- Locking lid
- Digital display
- Removable stoneware crock
- Glass lid
- Countdown timer
- 6-quarts capacity
- Large capacity can feed up to 7 people
- Locking lid offers spill-free travels
- Perfect for potlucks and picnics
- Highly versatile
- Very easy to use and clean
- Might have a slight “new appliance smell” that will go away after washing and a few uses
Easy to use, easy to clean, portable, and with a nice capacity – what is there not to love about the Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S? They may be a bit pricey, but they’re definitely worth the investment.
Hamilton Beach 33476 Slow Cooker
If you’re not ready to spend a large amount of money on a slow cooker, the Hamilton Beach 33476 is an option you should consider. The brand is known for its quality and affordably priced kitchen appliances, Hamilton Beach is found in many kitchens.
What sets this Hamilton Beach 33476 apart is its design. A bit pricier than the cheapest slow cookers available, it offers easy use with fantastic results.
This unit has a wraparound heating element which is a great plus for even and thorough heating. Slow cookers with heating elements at the bottom tend to require a bit of stirring and turning to achieve even cooking, but this one also produces heat on the sides, so it’s capable of distributing heat even better.
Combined with a stoneware crock and a tight-fitting glass lid, you really won’t have a problem whipping up delicious meals with this slow cooker. Thanks to the lid-lock, you can take meals in it out of the house, without having to deal with spills.
The crock is even microwave and oven friendly, so you won’t have to switch containers for dishes that require different cooking methods in one go. Both the crock and lid are dishwasher safe too, so you won’t have a problem when it comes to cleanups.
Making it more convenient is its programmable countdown timer. You can set it up in increments of two hours, to cook from 2 to 18 hours.
- Programmable settings
- Wraparound heating element
- Up to 18 hours cooking time
- 7-quart capacity
- Removable stoneware crock
- Glass lid
- Very affordable
- Perfect as housewarming gifts to friends and family
- Dishwasher and oven safe stoneware crock
- Easy to program and use
- Large capacity
- not for small quantity dishes
Despite its low price, the Hamilton Beach 33476 still offers a lot of convenient features that you can only find in pricier units, so why not give it a shot?
Besides, the brand is already known for its good quality, so you shouldn’t worry about getting what you pay for, as in this case, you’ll definitely get good value for your money.
One of the things that surprise new slow cooker owners is that you can’t just dump in all the ingredients a dish needs in this appliance and then wait for it to turn into a sumptuous meal.
Most of the time, a good deal of preparation is required. You often have to saute and sear meats before actually placing them in the crockpot for hours of simmering.
The prep can feel tedious for some as regular slow cooker crocks aren’t designed to be stovetop friendly. This means you’ll need to transfer ingredients and wash an additional pan during this process.
So, to make things simpler, products like the Cuisinart MSC-600 added useful extra features like Brown/Saute and Steam modes to their capacities.
This means you can already do everything you need in just one appliance, making it even more convenient and reliable.
Hailed by some users as the best slow cooker in the market today, the Cuisinart MSC-600 is definitely one of the handiest. It’s very easy to use with its dedicated buttons for different functions so you won’t have to rely on the manual every time you need to tweak the settings.
The large LCD display also makes setup easier, as you have full control of how long the cooking time is and how hot the temperatures should be. You can set it up to cook for up to 24 hours without a hitch, offering you the most sumptuous home-cooked meals.
- Dedicated function buttons
- Large LCD display for timer and temperature settings
- Removable 6-quart non-stick coated aluminum crock
- Cool-handle glass lid
- An additional steaming rack included
- Multifunctional cooker
- Dishwasher safe crock, rack, and lid
- Comes with an extra steaming rack
- Easy to set up
- Quite pricey
- Crock can’t be used on other cooking surfaces
Dubbed as a multi-cooker, the Cuisinart MSC-600 is the perfect choice for those who want the ultimate convenience in cooking with a crock pot.
Sure, it might cost a bit more, but the additional price is easily justified by the ease of use and a simplified cooking process. If it’s worth it in your opinion, this product can be a great investment for your family.
When it comes to kitchen appliances, most people tend to prefer specific brands because well-established players in the industry can guarantee quality products despite their higher price tags.
This makes them more reliable and trustworthy for some people. This is also one of the reasons why a good number of people love the KitchenAid KSC6223SS slow cooker.
Made by one of the leading brands in the kitchen appliance industry today, the KitchenAid KSC6223SS guarantees great results and fantastic quality. What sets it apart from the competition is its quality construction.
It actually uses a ceramic pot instead of stoneware or aluminum, offering durability and even versatility. You can also use the pot for serving without worrying about its appearance.
It also offers great functionality. You can set up its timer to cook for up to 24 hours in 30-minute increments, giving you great control over your cooking duration.
It also guarantees that you can follow the recipe’s instructions to the T with its very precise settings.
Unlike other slow cookers, it also has four heat settings: Low, Medium, High, and Keep Warm. This offers more versatility to your cooking, letting you be more in control of the process.
- Removable ceramic crock
- 24-hour timer
- Digital display
- Also available in Easy Serve Lid with dual-sided hinged lid
- Four temperature settings (Low, Med, High, Keep Warm)
- Dishwasher safe crock and lid
- Cool-touch handles
- Heats fast
- Easy to set up and control
With simple controls and precise settings, this slow cooker is definitely for those who want to be in full command of their cooking.
The KitchenAid KSC6223SS may be pricier than its competitors, but for avid KitchenAid fans, the quality instantly offsets the extra cost.
The first thing that you’ll notice about the BLACK+DECKER SCD4007 is its striking appearance. Unlike other slow cookers on the market today, this one isn’t made to look squeaky clean in sparkly white or shiny stainless steel.
Its body is actually matte black, making it look more modern and appealing.
But it doesn’t really stop at just the appearance. This unit is finished with a chalkboard material, which is why it’s also known as the Chalkboard slow cooker.
You can actually write, draw, and make different sorts of marks on the outer surface of this unit, letting you be as creative as you can get while waiting for your dish to be cooked.
It comes with two chalk sticks and will also work with other chalk brands, except for pens so you can always conveniently leave notes on it for your other household members to see so they won’t mess with what you’re cooking.
Aside from its looks, you can also be pleased with how this slow cooker works. It has fully programmable controls with three heat settings (Low, High, and Warm) and a timer that you can set for up to 9 hours.
These will ensure that you can make just about every slow-cooked dish available with great ease.
It also has lots of convenient features. Equipped with lid locks, you can take this crock pot anywhere, making it perfect for potluck dinners and tailgating parties.
Lots of users also appreciate the lid holder as you won’t have to look for a safe and clean place to put the lid down during the meal.
- Chalkboard finish
- 7-quart capacity
- Wire lid locks
- Built-in lid holder
- Digital controls
- Removable stoneware crock
- Glass Lid
- Creative design
- Large capacity
- Also available in other striking designs
- 2-year warranty
- Affordably priced
- Dishwasher safe lid and crock
- Easy digital controls
- The exterior can get hot
- Lid fit issues in some batches
If you want to add another hip and useful appliance in your equally trendy kitchen, the BLACK+DECKER SCD4007 might just be the perfect pick for you. This product won’t just get the job done effectively, but will also look great while at it.
Cooking with a Slow Cooker
If you wish to whip up some of the best home-cooked meals your family can enjoy, the best slow cooker definitely deserves a spot in your kitchen.
With the help of this guide, hopefully, you’ll find the perfect fit for your needs and requirements so you can already take advantage of the convenience these appliances can offer.