When it comes to choosing a slow cooker, you have many brands to pick from. But one manufacturer, Hamilton Beach, stands out when it comes to producing what pros and consumers alike say are the best slow cookers available. Three Hamilton Beach slow cookers make the list of Best Reviewed products in our latest report update. What we found most surprising was that a previous Best Reviewed pick, the All-Clad 99009, has fallen sharply out of favor with some consumers.
In our 2009 report on slow cookers, we named the All-Clad 99009 (*Est. $170) the best programmable slow cooker, due in part to positive recommendations by sources such as Cook's Illustrated, Real Simple, Woman's Day and About.com. In a comparison review published earlier this year in Cook's Illustrated, the All-Clad was compared to six other slow cookers, and while not the top choice, it nevertheless earned a recommendation from editors, who praise its consistent temperatures (though they also say they got equally good results from less expensive slow cookers).
Last year, the All-Clad also earned positive reviews from users posting at retail sites like Cooking.com and Amazon.com. But in the past 12 months or so, user reviews at Amazon.com have become markedly negative. As we note in our full report, users say that the ceramic crock insert develops cracks with normal use, and several add that All-Clad customer service was unresponsive to their complaints. Many users who love the unit's cooking quality and ease of use nevertheless pan it because of this one major flaw. Overall, the All-Clad 99009 received more negative reviews than positive ones at Amazon.com (although user reviews at Cooking.com remain overwhelmingly positive.) This, combined with the unit's high cost, leads us to withdraw our recommendation.
Instead, we recommend the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget 33967 (*Est. $45). It earns a coveted recommendation from Consumer Reports, as well as positive reviews from sources like About.com's busy cooks guide (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation). Just as important, it earns very high marks from users at Amazon.com, and it's far cheaper than the All-Clad. It also has a unique feature that the All-Clad lacks: a built-in temperature probe, which lets you cook meat to the ideal internal temperature. That's not to say the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget is perfect. In its review of 13 slow cookers, Good Housekeeping editors say the Hamilton Beach takes too long to reach a safe cooking temperature when set on low, and they do not recommend it. However, other sources do not mention this issue.
If you're planning on buying a slow cooker, there are several helpful online resources that we list in the Useful Links section of our full report. In addition to those links, Consumer Reports posts a brief video that offers tips on slow cooker features. Unlike most Consumer Reports content, this post is available for free.