Good Housekeeping, Wirecutter, and Cooks Illustrated have all carved out a niche for themselves. All three are known for their great product reviews and ability to suggest, supposedly without a doubt, the best small appliance or kitchen gadget. And yet, in the case of slow cookers, they've all suggested different ones.
We tried out the best-reviewed slow cookers from each publication, making the same stew and playing around with all the functions. Here are the pros and cons of each machine.
Good Housekeeping rated this model "best overall" because it was able to make rich, tender beef stew.
- It's quite possibly one of the best-looking slow cookers out there.
- Does indeed make perfect stew.
- Has a setting for browning meat before slow cooking that works beautifully. We even used it to cook lamb chops.
- Has modes for steaming and cooking rice and comes with a steam basket. Rice came out fluffy and broccoli came out bright green and al dente.
- The price! It's really only worth it if you're going to use it often. Like, super often.
- It's large and very heavy, so it's difficult to lift in and out of a cabinet.
- While it goes into the "keep warm" setting automatically at the end of cooking, you can't set it to keep warm. When we turned off the cooker while we served our stew, we couldn't use the warm setting to hold supper for late-arriving guests.
- The insert can't go in the dishwasher.
Bottom line: While we agree with Good Housekeeping that this is an excellent cooker, because of its exorbitant price and heavy weight, we only recommend it if you're a die-hard slow cooking fan. If you use a slow cooker several times a week, have room in your kitchen to keep it sitting out permanently, and can afford it, you won't be disappointed.
Finding it "intuitive" to program and loving its special features, Wirecutter called it "the best deal for your money."
- You get a lot for a low price.
- It comes with a probe that you can use to cook a roast beef or chicken to a specific internal temperature.
- It has clips to keep the lid secure and the sauce in the pot when you're bringing pork ribs to a potluck.
- We found it less intuitive to use than the others we tested. To figure out how to program it, we needed to pull out the manual.
- It cooked at a higher temperature than the others so our stew ended up less saucy.
- Your friends won't say, Wow! Where'd you get that amazing-looking slow cooker?
Bottom line: We don't agree with Wirecutter that it was easy to figure out how to use the controls. However, you do get the flexibility to cook by time or temperature, and the locking lid is a great feature for carrying food to parties. Wirecutter's right on this one — you do get a lot for the money.
Cook's Illustrated crowned this its winner for being easy to use and gentle at cooking.
- It is exceptionally easy to program; no need to consult the use and care book here.
- The lid knob stayed cool enough to lift without a pot holder.
- Under the warranty, for a year after purchase the manufacturer will send you a new one and arrange for return of the old one, should something happen.
- We found cooking was too gentle. Our beef and potatoes weren't quite tender enough after eight hours at the low setting.
- After the stew was kept at the "stay warm" mode for an hour, it wasn't as hot as we would have liked.
Bottom line: Like Cook's Illustrated, we loved how intuitive this model was to program, but the cooking results were disappointing. If you're willing to play around with recipes to figure out cooking times and heat settings, it might be worth considering — especially if you hate overcooked food.
Which of these three would you buy? Or do you already have one of them? If it's the latter, tell us what you like or don't like about it in the comments below!