5 Things to Know Before Buying a Slow Cooker

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

The best part of owning a slow cooker is that you don’t really have to think about it much. You do, however, have to think about a few factors before you can buy one. In the market for one? Ask yourself these five questions before you shell out the cash.

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

1. How big do you need it to be?

Slow cookers come in all sorts of sizes. If you live alone or you just want a slow cooker to heat up nacho cheese for taco night, you might like a tiny guy that holds just two-and-a-half quarts. Or maybe you need an eight-quart option to feed your hungry family? We usually recommend a six-quart slow cooker in order to accommodate most recipes, but there’s no wrong answer as long as you really think about how you’ll be using it and what you’ll be making in it.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

2. Do you need one that can brown meat?

Planning on making a lot of stews? You might want to look for a slow cooker that allows you to brown meat. There are some on the market that have browning functions built into the unit and some that have inserts, which can be used on the stovetop. Either of these options will come in handy so that you don’t have to dirty a separate vessel just for browning purposes.

Meat-Based Recipes

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

3. Do you need it to run by itself?

Will you be able to turn the dial on a manual slow cooker? (It’s really not hard — you just need to be home to do it!) If your schedule has you up and out of the house for way too many hours at a time, you probably want a slow cooker with plenty of settings and a built-in timer. Also, pay attention to the amount of time the warming function will stay on for. Some will cook for, say, up to 24 hours and warm for up to eight hours; some will warm for 20 hours. Just something to consider!

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

4. Do you want it to do a bunch of things?

It’s no secret how much we love the Instant Pot around here. It’s a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, warming pot, and an electric pressure cooker in one. Although we wax poetic about it all the time, it’s not the only multi-cooker out there. If you want to be able to slow cook, steam, and roast in the same device, look for a multi-cooker instead of a slow cooker.

More on Multi-Cookers

5. Will you be taking it on the road?

Is this slow cooker strictly for making weeknight dinners? Or will you be bringing vats of your famous chili to potlucks throughout the year? There are plenty of options made for travel (with clip-on lids), but it’s harder to travel with a slow cooker that wasn’t meant for a trip.

3 Options We Love

What other questions did you ask yourself before buying a slow cooker?