How to Figure Out What Size Slow Cooker You Should Get

updated Nov 24, 2020
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

All the bells and whistles aside, the trickiest part of buying a new slow cooker is figuring out which size to buy. Who cares about keep warm buttons and wifi capabilities if you can’t fit enough food in the machine? And slow cookers do drastically range in size — from tiny two-quart models to huge eight-quart ones, with plenty of options in between. Because slow cookers work best when they’re two-thirds to three-quarters of the way full, size really does matter.

There isn’t one universal-sized slow cooker that makes sense for everyone. That would be far too easy! But I do think you can figure it out based on how you plan to use your slow cooker and, more importantly, how many people you’re cooking for. There may be some exceptions, but I find these rules to generally hold true for most cases.

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

If You’re Cooking for One or Two People: Buy a 3-Quart Slow Cooker

If you’re cooking for one to two people and you’re not a fan of leftovers, or simply don’t have the space to stash them in the fridge or freezer, a 3-quart (or 3 1/2-quart, as they’re sold by some brands) slow cooker is just right for you.

It’s not spacious enough to fit a big roast, but this size slow cooker will work with just about any and all other recipes, after a small modification. While many slow cooker recipes are written for larger cookers, most can be scaled down or cut in half to be made in a 3-quart slow cooker.

Kitchn’s pick: Cuisinart 3.5-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, $47.99

If You Have a Larger Family or Love Leftovers: Buy a 5-Quart Slow Cooker

Whether your household includes three or four people, or you’re a couple who actually loves leftovers, a 5-quart slow cooker is an ideal size for you. The moderate size accommodates everything from soups and stews to and chilis and casseroles.

Kitchn’s pick: Hamilton Beach 5-Quart Slow Cooker, $37.99 at HSN

If You Frequently Cook for a Crowd: Buy a 6-Quart Slow Cooker (or Something Even Larger)

If your slow cooker plans are all about big-batch cooking or feeding a large potluck crew (maybe once we’re all given the green light to gather again), you’re going to want a 6-quart slow cooker or something even larger. This large model does it all, and can accommodate those double batches of soup, sauce, and shredded chicken when you want to stock up on freezer meals. You can even make smaller recipes in your big slow cooker by using an additional oven-safe baking dish.

Kitchn’s Pick: All-Clad 7-Quart Gourmet Slow Cooker, $249.99 at Williams Sonoma