Slow Cooker Reviews

Editor's note:
Our top picks remain unchanged for this slow cooker update, but we add the travel-friendly Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Portable Slow Cooker to our list of recommended models. At 6 quarts, the Stay or Go is roomy enough to feed a crowd when our other portable pick, the 1.5-quart Proctor Silex Portable Oval Slow Cooker, doesn't quite fill the bill (or enough bellies).
 
Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
Specs that Matter
Capacity – 6 quartsProgrammable timer – YesLocking lid – Yes
Best Reviewed
Best basic slow cooker
Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker

Experts and owners agree: the Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget packs in a lot of features at a very reasonable price. You'll get extras that you won't find on other basic slow cookers, including a programmable timer, a serving spoon, and a temperature probe. The roomy 6-quart capacity means you can feed a big crew, and even large cuts of meat fit. The Set ‘n Forget also manages to perform admirably in expert cooking tests.

Proctor Silex Portable Oval Slow Cooker
Specs that Matter
Capacity – 1.5 quartsProgrammable timer – NoLocking lid – Yes (strap)
Best Reviewed
Best portable slow cooker
Proctor Silex Portable Oval Slow Cooker

The Proctor Silex Portable Oval Slow Cooker holds just 1.5 quarts, making it the perfect travel companion for cooks who want to take party-friendly favorites like dips or appetizers to a get-together. The lid has a tight rubber seal and a strap that keeps it in place during transport, reducing the chance of messy spills. Reviewers also love its simple controls and easy-to-clean insert, and small households say it works well for everyday cooking, too.

image
Proctor Silex 33116Y Portable Oval Slow Cooker, 1.5-Quart
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $14.99 $12.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker
Specs that Matter
Capacity – 6.5 quartsProgrammable timer – Yes Locking lid – No
Best Reviewed
Best programmable slow cooker
Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker

Owners and experts say the Crock-Pot Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker offers the best blend of features, value and performance in its category. Digital controls and a 20-hour timer make the model easy to use, and a stainless-steel exterior means it's easy on the eyes, too. The stoneware insert is more versatile than most, cleared for use in the dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave or oven. This Crock-Pot is also a solid performer in expert cooking tests.

Cuisinart MSC-600 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker
Specs that Matter
Capacity – 6 quarts (4 and 7 quarts also available)Programmable timer – YesLocking lid – No
Best Reviewed
Best multi-cooker
Cuisinart MSC-600 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker

Thousands of happy owners can't be wrong: they rave about the Cuisinart MSC-600's versatility as a slow cooker or steamer, as well as for browning and sautéing.  Experts agree, giving the Cuisinart multi-cooker top marks in professional testing. The MSC-600 is the 6-quart size; the MSC-400 (Est. $100) is slightly smaller at 4 quarts, and the MSC-800 (Est. $192) has a 7-quart capacity and includes a roasting function that also gets great reviews.

Types of Slow Cookers
Basic

Just like their pricier counterparts, basic slow cookers can turn out tasty meals after allowing food to simmer at a low temperature all day long. The main difference is that you'll have fewer features. For instance, buyers often won't get a timer or any cooking modes beyond the basics: low, high, and keep warm. You may also be limited to a smaller capacity, and it can be harder to find the sleekest stainless-steel designs in this category. But many owners prefer the simplicity of these models, and they certainly prefer the cheaper price.

Portable

Some slow cookers, whether basic or programmable, offer additional features that make them more portable. Locking lids and rubber gaskets help keep food from spilling during transport. Others will have rubberized handles that are easy to grip on the go, or sleeves they can be set into with handles.

Programmable

Programmable slow cookers boast a few more bells and whistles than basic models. For a little more money, you'll get up to a 24-hour timer that will automatically keep your food warm once it's done cooking. You'll also typically have a digital display. If money is no object, you may also get additional slow-cooking modes or even a model that can sauté, brown or steam your food, too.

Finding The Best Slow Cookers
Our Sources1. Good Housekeeping
Slow Cookers2. Cook's Illustrated
Slow Cookers3. TheSweethome.com
The Best Slow CookerSee All

There's no shortage of expert and owner reviews of slow cookers, including tests by TheSweethome.com and Techlicious.com. Good Housekeeping and Cook's Illustrated are also good sources for hands-on tests, as are roundups from magazines including Real Simple and food blogs such as TheKitchn.com. Finally, user reviews at Amazon.com and BestBuy.com provided crucial information on how slow cookers stood up to day-to-day wear and tear. In all of these reviews, we focused on ease of use, durability, features, and performance to choose the top slow cookers for your kitchen.

The best basic slow cookers

Basic slow cookers will satisfy the majority of casual cooks. If you're concerned that a less expensive model won't turn out food as delicious as pricier programmable slow cookers, don't be: ConsumerReports.org has found that features, not cooking performance, account for the price difference between models. For that reason, the website no longer rates slow cookers, as they explain in this free buying guide.

The Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker (Est. $50) is the runaway winner among basic slow cookers. Though a bit pricier than other models in this category, reviewers say you get your money's worth with additional features. For instance, the 6-quart capacity means enough room for a sizeable family meal. The included temperature probe, a feature unique to the Set ‘n Forget, lets you monitor the food's temperature so you can be sure it's perfectly done. A top handle provides a handy spot to rest the included serving spoon. Finally, a locking lid makes the slow cooker easy to move around or even to take to a party, though some may find the handles a bit skimpy for gripping.

Reviewers say the Set ‘n Forget is easy to use, allowing cooks to use pre-programmed or manual settings. TheSweethome.com's Christine Cyr Clisset and Camille Chatterjee say the unit cooked food reliably during testing "at or just below a modest simmer," though she did wish the power cord and probe were a bit longer. CNET's Megan Wollerton also found that the Set ‘n Forget performed reliably compared to pricier units. While the controls "aren't overly complex," she notes that they sometimes require more button-pushing than should be necessary, and owners will likely need to take a couple of spins through the manual before knowing their way around the display.

Owners of the Set ‘n Forget are similarly enthusiastic, giving it high ratings in hundreds of reviews. They like the included features for the money, with most saying it's easy to program and doesn't burn food. A few complain that the unit simply wouldn't work after a few uses or say there was a foul odor during cooking, but these are a tiny minority.

If you're looking for a basic slow cooker without any bells and whistles, the Crock-Pot 4-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker (Est. $26) is a good pick at a great price. The unit is big enough for a small family and can handle a chicken or roast. However, as Real Simple's Lindsay Hunt and Brigitt Hauck note, it's still relatively compact, making it a contender for those with limited counter space.

At this price, you'll sacrifice a timer or any other sort of programmable controls. Of course, the upside of that is simplicity -- turn the dial to "low," "high" or "warm," and you're set. The removable stoneware insert and glass lid are dishwasher-safe. If you're looking for something portable, beware that this Crock-Pot lacks a locking lid with a rubber seal.  

Most owners are more than satisfied with the Crock-Pot's performance, giving it high ratings in hundreds of reviews. They appreciate the value, too, saying it cooks the perfect amount of food just as well as pricier slow cookers. Some reviewers say the outside gets too hot and food is overcooked on the low setting, however. Others say the stoneware insert cracked under normal use.

Portable slow cookers let you take homemade meals on the go

Most slow cookers are portable to some degree, but some models are a much better bet when you need to take a meal to your work, church or neighborhood potluck. The king of portable slow cookers, the Proctor Silex Portable Oval Slow Cooker (Est. $15) comes at a very budget-friendly price. That's largely because of its capacity -- only 1½ quarts. It certainly won't hog counter space at about 9½ by 9½ by 8 inches, and the size makes it ideal for party-friendly foods such as appetizers, dips, and fondue. Real Simple's Hunt and Hauck say it's also the perfect size for increasingly trendy overnight oats recipes.

The Proctor Silex has simple manual controls: Turn the dial to "low," "high" or "warm" and you're done. Of course, this means you may have to watch your food a bit more closely, and you won't have a timer to rely on to tell you when your food is ready. The removable stoneware insert can be popped in the dishwasher for easy cleanup or into the refrigerator for food storage. The glass lid has a rubber seal with a lid latch strap to make sure your food stays in the slow cooker when you're on the go.

Reviewers love the Proctor Silex, giving it high ratings in hundreds of reviews. Though they say it's great for entertaining, many owners find it equally useful as a day-to-day slow cooker for small households, including college students and empty nesters. Others like using it on their RVs or boats. While most say they have no issues with performance, some reviewers complain the unit takes too long to heat up and fully cook food. Many negative reviews say it's simply too small for their needs, which is certainly not the fault of the slow cooker.

If you need a portable crockpot for bigger meals, the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Portable Slow Cooker (Est. $25) is a great value with a 6-quart insert that is roomy enough to feed a crowd. Of course, the greater capacity means it will take up more counter space than smaller units, whether that's at home or a party.

As editors with Good Housekeeping note, the Stay or Go is fairly basic when it comes to cooking: It has three basic settings (low, high and keep warm) and a simple dial control. It is not programmable. However, it does have extras that make it a good pick for travel: a clip-tight lid, spill-resistant seal, and large handles that can fold down for easier storage. A hinged lid can stay open for serving but detaches for cleaning. It's available in either silver or a green football-themed design that will fit right in during game-day parties.

Owners of the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go give it strong marks in hundreds of reviews. Several say they take it frequently to potlucks or other get-togethers and it has stayed true to its spill-free claims. They also like the hinged lid, which eliminates the problem of finding space for a hot, potentially drippy lid at parties where space is limited. A small group of reviewers say the glass lid on their slow cooker shattered during cooking, however.

image
Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe, 6-Quart (33967A)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $49.99 $49.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Crock-Pot SCV400B 4-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker, Black
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $19.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Proctor Silex 33116Y Portable Oval Slow Cooker, 1.5-Quart
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $14.99 $12.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Hamilton Beach 33461 Stay or Go 6-Quart Portable Slow Cooker
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $62.99 $29.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
Elsewhere in This Report