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Best Portable Slow Cookers

By: Angela Stringfellow on September 27, 2017

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. With secure locking lids and handles designed for grab-and-go situations, these slow cookers are easier to transport than a typical slow cooker.

Editors at TheSweethome.com say the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry Digital Slow Cooker (Est. $50) is an excellent choice for those who need a portable slow cooker, noting that it's "sleeker and more compact" than the top-rated Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget. It has a modern push-button display and large, easy-to-grip handles. Its lid-locking mechanism -- the most important feature in a portable slow cooker -- snaps easily into place and holds the lid securely in place for transport. It also has a lid gasket that provides an additional seal to prevent leaks and spills in the car. With a 6-quart capacity, the Cook & Carry can accommodate roasts up to six pounds and can serve seven or more people.

Unlike the Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget, the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry doesn't have a temperature probe or an on-off alarm, but its cooking performance is on par, running an average of two degrees hotter than the top-rated Set 'n Forget in TheSweethome.com's tests. Its digital countdown control can be programmed to cook 30-minute increments on high or low settings and shifts automatically to the warm setting after the cooking time completes, from 30 minutes to up to 20 hours. (While owners seem to appreciate this option, it's worth noting that most people will never need anything approaching a 20-hour cooking time, and using a slow cooker for that long could also pose food-safety issues.) The stoneware insert is removable for easy cleanup, dishwasher-safe and stylish enough for the table -- so you can also use it as a serving dish.

The Crock-Pot Cook & Carry earns high ratings from thousands of reviewers who say that it performs just as well or better than slow cookers that cost twice as much or more. Owners praise the easy-to-use programming features and large capacity, although some say that it cooks too hot, a common complaint among slow cookers in general.

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 our top pick is sold out but you're looking for a larger-capacity portable slow cooker, the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Portable Slow Cooker (Est. $45) is similar in design to the Cook & Carry, and it's a great value with a 6-quart insert that is roomy enough to feed a crowd. Of course, its large capacity means it will take up more counter space than smaller units, whether that's at home or a party.

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.

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