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The Absolute Best Slow Cookers You Can Buy Right Now

published Oct 1, 2021
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My mom had the same slow cooker the entire time I was growing up. It got the job done, sure, but it was a super no-frills machine and she didn’t really use it all that much. I always wondered why she didn’t upgrade to a better one that she’d use more often. (Clearly, I was born to be a professional gear tester!) I still wonder that, actually. And so I set out to find the best slow cooker. One my mom would love. One that I’d love. One that all home cooks would love!

So, I rounded up a bunch of the most popular slow cookers on the market and got cooking, making beans and barbecued pulled chicken. Before delving deeper into my findings, here’s a quick rundown of my favorites. (Fun fact: This month marks Crock-Pot’s 50-year anniversary!)

Note: When I say slow cooker I do not mean multi-cooker. While I love an Instant Pot, there’s something to be said for a machine that does just one thing well. And, in my experience, a lot multi-cookers shine mostly at pressure-cooking, but fall short at slow-cooking. So, if you’re looking for a slow cooker, this is your list!

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

The Best Slow Cookers

The Tests

Why You Should Trust Us 

I’m the Tools Editor at The Kitchn and a professional kitchen equipment tester. I previously worked at America’s Test Kitchen and my reviews on topics like stand mixers, induction burners, toaster ovens, and multicookers have been published in Cook’s IllustratedCook’s Country, and on the America’s Test Kitchen website. My work has also been featured on America’s Test Kitchen’s and Cook’s Country’s television programs. 

Credit: Riddley Gemperelin-Schirm
Barbecue chicken thighs in the slow cooker!

What to Consider When Buying a Slow Cooker

How Well Does It Cook?

To determine how well the slow cookers work on both their low and high settings, I chose two cooking tasks with vastly different sources of protein. And the best slow cookers easily transformed dried beans into creamy ones and made chicken thighs tender and shreddable.

A few of the slow cookers I tested had clear hot spots, producing some particularly over-cooked chicken thighs. But the best slow cookers reached their target temperatures more slowly, kept food at a simmer rather than a boil (with slow cookers, boiling leads to overcooking), and were just more consistent with their cooking results.

While you can’t really know how well a slow cooker cooks without testing it (or simply reading this post!), you can learn a little bit about how it cooks. For the most part, slow cookers have a similar construction — namely, a ceramic or porcelain cooking pot that sits inside a base. The base has concealed heating elements that wrap around the perimeter of the appliance. The heat goes from the base, up the sides of the pot, and then to the food within. Which is why, unless the model is well-insulated, hot spots can be an issue.

Some models, instead, have aluminum cooking pots that sit on top of a heating unit. These slow cookers cook hotter and faster than ceramic crocks, but are more likely to scorch food.

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Slow cookers without lid locking mechanisms (left) were easier to use than ones with them (right).

How Easy Is It to Use?

Ceramic cooking pots are a lot heavier, and therefore harder to lift, than aluminum ones (about 8 pounds compared to 3.5-pound nonstick insert). But, besides weight, there are some other factors that make some slow cookers better to use than others. Models with sizable handles on their cooking pots and lids are ideal and easier to lift and move. I also like slow cookers that don’t have locking mechanisms on their lids, which makes it easier to check on food (when necessary!). And while I see the merit of these locks if you are traveling with a slow cooker to, say, a potluck, they just make things more difficult when cooking at home.

One final usability point: Digital interfaces are much easier to use than analog knobs. They also have timers and keep-warm settings, both of which are incredibly helpful. And of the digital slow cookers, I’d say that ones with large, bright displays are preferable.

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm
Larger, brighter displays (right) are easier to read and operate than smaller ones (left).

How Easy Is It to Clean?

The good news: None of the slow cookers I tested were hard to clean. However, I’ve found that ceramic cooking pots with stubby handles are particularly tough to grasp when wet. I nearly dropped a few in my sink, which would’ve been both sad news for the cooking pots and my sink.

What Size Slow Cooker Do You Need?

Almost all slow cooker recipes you make (anywhere from 6 to 10 servings) will work well in a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker. It’s like I always say with cookware and appliances: You can always cook less in a bigger option, but not more in a smaller one. I’d suggest sticking around 6 or 7 quarts — nothing smaller.

What We Look for in a Slow Cooker

I judged all of the slow cookers on the following criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the worst and 5 being the best): 

  • Performance: How well did the food come out? Did it cook within recipe timelines?
  • Ease of use: How easy was it to operate the slow cooker and lift the cooker base?
  • Cleanup: How easy was it to clean?

Best Overall: KitchenAid 6-Qt. Slow Cooker with Standard Lid

This slow cooker was the most consistent of all the models I tried and it has an incredibly intuitive digital interface, three cook settings (low, medium, high), and an automatic keep-warm mode that works for up to four hours. While it cooks more slowly than other models, it pays off: producing perfectly cooked beans and chicken thighs. Its ceramic cooking pot has nice handles that are easy to hold onto and its lid has a large, grippy knob. It’s easy to clean, too, and its removable parts are dishwasher-safe. For those who find this ceramic cooking pot to be too heavy (at almost 8 pounds), the Best Lightweight option below is a good choice.


  • Cooking pot material: Stoneware ceramic
  • Cooking pot weight: 7.95 lbs
  • Care instructions: Both lid and cooking pot are dishwasher-safe

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 5
  • Ease of use: 4.5
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone in need of a good slow cooker and wants a ceramic pot.
Good to know: This product comes with a 1-year warranty.

Best Budget: Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart Digital Programmable Slow Cooker With Temp Tracking Temperature Probe

This slow cooker makes great, evenly cooked food, has an intuitive interface with a dial control, and comes with an accurate temperature probe to help monitor things as they cook. It lacks sizable handles on its cooking pot and has latches on its lid that are frustrating to open, but could be helpful if you’re transporting a slow cooker to a potluck or family dinner. It’s also easy to clean and has dishwasher-safe removable parts.

Note: The Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Programmable Slow Cooker is another great, budget-friendly slow cooker. However, it does have a smaller control panel that’s a bit harder to see and use.


  • Cooking pot material: Stoneware ceramic
  • Cooking pot weight: 7.06 lbs
  • Care instructions: Both lid and cooking pot are dishwasher-safe

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of use: 4
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone looking for a budget-friendly or transport-ready slow cooker.
Good to know: This model comes with a 1-year warranty.

Best Lightweight: Cuisinart 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Slow Cooker

This slow cooker ran hotter and cooked faster than other models, but still produced delicious, well-cooked results (just monitor for scorching and be aware it may cook faster than a recipe states). It has a lightweight, nonstick cooking pot (that makes cleanup a breeze) and sizable handles on both its pot and lid (that are cinch to hold onto). It also has a bright, easy-to-use control panel. Unlike most slow cookers, this model also has a built-in browning function, which doesn’t work as well as a skillet on the stovetop, but is a great option if you don’t want to dirty another pan. Sear your meat and make a stew in the same vessel!


  • Cooking pot material: Nonstick aluminum
  • Cooking pot weight: 3.45 lbs
  • Care instructions: Both lid and cooking pot are dishwasher-safe

Rating Criteria

  • Performance: 4
  • Ease of use: 5
  • Cleanup: 5

Who it’s best for: Anyone who wants a lightweight, nonstick slow cooker that’s easy to lift, handle, and use.
Good to know: It has a 3-year warranty and also comes in a 7-quart size.

The Kitchn’s Best List Promise

We will do our homework, going wildly in depth with our testing. But we condense the info into easy, breezy summaries so that you can see what we picked and why, then move on with your life. Because we know you’re busy!

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Do you have a question about slow cookers? Leave it in the comments below!