Are you anti-slow cooker? It's okay — you can admit it! If we're being honest, the editors of this site are split on slow cookers, too, with some of us loving them and others feeling a bit more meh. The 'set it and forget it' idea is very appealing at first, but disillusionment quickly sets in when you realize it's not always as simple as that. Wait, I still need to brown meat separately beforehand? I have to keep an eye on the clock, too? I thought this was supposed to make my life easier!
But it comes down to this: if you're not a fan of slow cookers, it may be the fault of your particular slow cooker and not the failings of the practice itself. Here are three models that could change your mind:
Earlier this week Emma shared the five favorite features of her slow cooker, and a few features she wished it had. From those recommendations, experiences from our readers, and a few outside expert reviews, we've come up with this list of three slow cookers at the top of their game, all 6 quarts or larger. (If you're going to buy a slow cooker, bigger is better. You want to be able to fit a 6-8 pork shoulder or a whole chicken.)
1 6-Quart Cuisinart MSC-600 Cook Central 3-in-1, $159 from Amazon: This fully-programmable slow cooker has a 24-timer and a warming setting that automatically switches on after cooking is done. It also have a stovetop feature, which Emma put high on her list of desirables. With this feature you can brown or sauté meat or vegetables right in the unit itself, then just flip to the slow cook setting when you're ready to start cooking. That's one less pan to clean!
Kitchn reader ek76 also raved about the MSC-600: "The browning feature is so great. I used to avoid recipes that called for browning because I did not want to dirty an extra pan, but now I happily make everything."
2 Crock-Pot SCVT650-PS 6-1/2-Quart Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker, $70 from Amazon: A Cook's Illustrated's top pick for the best slow cooker, this is a solid contender. It has a one-touch, easy-to-use control panel, programmable timer, and a countdown timer that switches to the auto-warm function after cooking (and then starts counting up to let you know how long it's been on the warming setting!).
3 Hamilton Beach 33967 Set 'n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, $50 from Amazon: This slow cooker — a top pick of housewares products reviewer The Sweethome — packs a lot of great features for its low cost. It has an LED programmable display, an auto-warm feature, a clip-tight gasket lid (great for transporting), and a temperature probe mode, which cooks the dish until it reaches a certain temperature (ideal for meat).
Kitchn reader Kathryn J loves the Set 'n Forget's probe setting, and also notes here: "It's easy to transport and comes with a serving spoon, you can fit a LOT of food in this crockpot, [and it's] easy to clean - you take the middle bowl out and clean it. It can also go in the dishwasher.
Do you love your slow cooker? Tell us what make and model you have and your favorite features!