A slow cooker is a kitchen essential—and a registry staple. Planning a wedding can be stressful, but finding the perfect slow cooker doesn't have to be. After all, these appliances were made to take some stress out of your life—and give you a little more time to relax (or do one of the dozen things you were supposed to do yesterday). There are a lot of options out there, so it's important to think about your needs. And within the world of slow cookers, there are multi-function machines that feature a range of bells and whistles for all your culinary adventures.
Are you looking to simmer soups, stews, and chili, or pressure cook beans and grains? Do you have a tiny kitchen or have room to spare for a larger machine (hello, leftovers!). Are you planning to transport the cooker regularly to family dinners, picnics, and game nights, or is the perfect date night meal your main goal? If the search for the perfect cooker is beginning to feel daunting, let us help.
Read on for the best slow cookers for every couple and lifestyle.
Best Overall: Cuisinart 3-In-1 Cook Central Multi-Cooker
If you live a fast-paced life, the Cook Central might be just the thing to help you slow things down and take a breath. This 6-quart slow cooker is all about convenience. It’s large enough to make meals for the whole family (plus some company), and it makes cooking and cleanup beyond easy. With three modes (steam, sauté, and slow cook) you won’t have to worry about prepping food on the stovetop before popping it in the slow cooker. You can sear your stew beef in the cooking pot and then add your veggies, broth, and everything else, leaving it all to slow cook to perfection. This means you’ll end up with far fewer dirty dishes.
The removable cooking pot is even nonstick and dishwasher safe, so you won’t have to worry about hand washing anything. The Cook Central’s pot is light, and its large, plastic handles eliminate the need for oven mitts, allowing you to safely and easily carry the insert to the table once you’re ready to serve dinner. Alternatively, you can leave the pot in the unit and make use of the "Keep Warm" feature, which will ensure that everyone’s second helpings will be just as warm and delicious as their first.
Price at time of publish: $160
Best Budget: Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Cooker
Instant Pot’s 7-in-1 multicooker is everything you could possibly want it to be at a great budget price. To begin, this 6-quart unit serves as a pressure cooker, a sauté/sear pot, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a steamer, a yogurt maker, and food warmer. The Duo also has 14 one-touch smart programs that make preparing your favorite foods—like ribs, soups, and poultry—that much easier. Its microprocessor monitors pressure and temperature, keeps time, and adjusts heating intensity and duration to ensure that your meals turn out perfectly every time, and it has ten built-in safety features—like overheat protection and a safety lock—to ensure accident-free pressure cooking.
On top of all this, the Duo cooks up to 70% faster than other slow cookers. Magic, I tell you! Its stainless-steel inner pot is made with a 3-ply bottom for durability and is dishwasher safe, along with the stainless-steel lid. The unit comes with a steam rack, soup spoon, and measuring cup—all dishwasher safe as well. Given all its functions and features, this multi-cooker is as amazing as it is affordable!
Price at time of publish: $100
Best Splurge: Wolf Gourmet Multi Cooker
If you use your slow cooker every chance you get and you’re looking to turn up the heat on your home chef game, consider Wolf’s professional-grade electric cooker. Its simple lines and stainless-steel finish make it ideal for countertop storage, and its 7-quart, stainless-steel tri-ply insert pan doubles as a Dutch oven on any stovetop (including induction) or in the oven. It’s dishwasher safe too! With six cooking modes, this multi-cooker is also quite versatile.
Some of the unit’s more common modes include slow cooker mode, sauté/sear mode, sous-vide mode, and rice cooker mode. Its more impressive modes are the program and meal timer modes. The program mode allows you to program up to two heat settings, along with cook times at each setting, simultaneously. Alternatively, you can insert the precision temperature probe into your dish and set the desired doneness temperature. Meal timer mode gives you the option of starting dinner while you’re at work, running errands, or hitting the gym. Before you leave home, just select the time you’d like your dish to be finished and this machine will take care of the rest.
Price at time of publish: $700
Best for Small Spaces: Elite Gourmet Slow Cooker
This slow cooker is only 1.5 quarts, but, as they say, good things often come in small packages. If your kitchen is cramped and counter and cabinet space are limited, you and the Elite Gourmet are a perfect fit. This slow cooker is ideal for couples and small families who prefer to avoid leftovers. It can also be a great supplemental slow cooker. And it’s perfect for party snacks—like those meatballs everyone is always asking you to make—and it makes a killer fondu pot for date night.
The unit’s settings are simple—low, high, and keep warm—but it does everything that a slow cooker should. Its stainless-steel finish is attractive, and Its cool-touch handles and knobs will protect your fingers. The Elite Gourmet has a sturdy stoneware pot and a tempered glass lid that makes it easy to check on your dish; both are dishwasher safe. And did we mention this beauty costs less than a dinner out on the town? If you’re searching for something compact, affordable, and useful—look no further!
Price at time of publish: $15
Best Multi-Cooker: Instant Pot Max Pressure Cooker 9-in-1
For a multi-cooker with superior pressure-cooking abilities, you can’t do better than Instant Pot’s Max Pressure Cooker. Like other multi-cookers, this 6-quart unit has numerous settings. It serves as a sauté pan, rice cooker, sous vide, slow cooker, canner, and yogurt maker. It also has settings specifically for making soup/broth and keeping contents warm. Still, its pressure cooker setting is what sets it apart. With 15 PSI of pressure, the Max Pressure Cooker can prepare foods many times more quickly than a regular slow cooker. It’s even suitable for home pressure canning if you and your family are looking for a new quarantine hobby!
When the unit is in pressure cook mode, Instant Pot’s NutriBoost technology breaks down food by generating a boiling motion and, thereby, increases the nutritional value and enhances the flavor of your meals. This pressure cooker has 13 safety features including steam release technology, a safety lid lock, overheat protection, and automatic pressure and temperature controls. Its large touch screen makes it easy to program and adjust the time, temperature, and pressure settings, and it offers a delayed start function. The unit’s interior and exterior are brushed stainless steel, and it comes with a dishwasher-safe pot, cooking lid, and steam rack.
Price at time of publish: $150
Best Temperature Control: Breville BPR700BSS Fast Slow Pro Slow Cooker
In life, you can’t always have it all, but in the kitchen, you can. Breville’s Fast Slow Pro excels at high-pressure cooking and long, slow simmering. It automatically adjusts the cooking time, temperature, and pressure based on which of its 11 settings you select, and its dual sensors monitor ingredients for more accurate temperature and pressure control. The hands-free steam release also automatically adjusts to different types of food, enhancing flavor and improving texture.
The Fast Slow Pro’s interactive LCD screen changes color to indicate that the unit is pressurizing, cooking, or releasing steam, and it features a pressure indicator, a steam release indicator, and temperature and countdown timers so that you always know what’s going on inside the pot and how your meal is progressing. In case you prefer not to keep tabs on your dish, the cooker will automatically switch to the "Keep Warm" mode once your meal has been prepared. Breville’s fast and slow cooker has 3 important safety features that will give you peace of mind: a safety locking lid, hands-free auto steam release, and a safety valve. It even comes with some useful accessories: a stainless-steel steamer basket, a stainless-steel steaming rack, and a handy recipe book.
Price at time of publish: $278
Best for Transporting: Crock-Pot Cook and Carry Programmable Slow Cooker
For families that tailgate religiously and have a solid rotation of slow cooker recipes for potlucks and parties, this slow cooker will always be the day’s MVP. The Cook and Carry machine has an easy-locking lid with a rubber gasket for a tight seal, and it has sturdy handles that you can grip securely, both of which ensure that you will always get the unit from point A to point B without any messy accidents.
Its countdown programmable technology allows you to program cook times from 30 minutes to 20 hours on the high or low-temperature settings. Then, after the set cook time, the controller automatically shifts to the warm setting, so your meal is still hot when you’re ready to eat. The Cook and Carry’s 6-quart stoneware insert is microwave-, oven- (up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit), and dishwasher- safe for easy prep and cleaning, and it serves over seven people.
Price at time of publish: $100
Best for a Large Crowd: Hamilton Beach 10 Qt. Slow Cooker
Hamilton Beach’s 10-quart slow cooker is more than equipped to feed a crowd. It’s perfect for large gatherings or for people with big families. The unit is also ideal for those rare individuals who have their lives together enough to spend Sunday prepping their meals for the entire week. Due to its size and ovular shape, the unit is big enough to evenly cook large items that simply won’t fit in most cookers, like a 10-pound turkey or a bone-in roast.
The cooker’s settings (warm, low, and high) are incredibly simple and straightforward, and its minimalist design and charcoal gray finish give it a clean, sleek look. Though it is quite large, the machine's full-grip handles fold to make it a bit more compact and easier to store. Its glass lid and ceramic insert are both dishwasher safe as well. This large-capacity unit is definitely a reliable, easy-to-use staple.
Price at time of publish: $90
What to look for in a slow cooker
Think about your daily routine, your space considerations, and the type of foods you enjoy. If you love slow-cooked meats and entertaining for a crowd, you might want to splurge on a deluxe, classic slow cooker. If you're looking for something that will pull double (or triple!) duty, a multi-cooker is definitely the best option for versatility and range of use.
What kinds of recipes are good for a slow cooker?
Honestly, you can make almost anything in a slow cooker, but they’re best for recipes that call for long, slow cooking at low temperatures like chili, brisket, meatballs, tacos, soups, and stews. They can also be great for making deliciously moist and dense dessert loafs (like banana or zucchini bread) and for making large batches of oatmeal.
Are there healthy recipes for slow cookers?
We tend to associate slow cookers with heavy, calorie-laden dishes but healthier slow cooker recipes abound! Many blogs and cookbooks like Skinnytaste Fast and Slow include great recipes that make it super easy to whip up a wholesome "set it and forget it" meal. Think slow cooker beef stew with sweet potatoes, Banh Mi rice bowls, and Osso Buco.
How do you clean a slow cooker?
Cleaning a slow cooker is easy! First, unplug the slow cooker and remove the stoneware or metal container from the heating element (once you’ve given it time to cool off!). You can wipe down the heating element with a soapy sponge or cloth if you need to, but never submerge it in water. When cleaning the insert pot, you should first fill it with soapy water and give it time to sit. Make sure the pot has cooled before you do this because submerging a hot pot in cold water could cause it to crack.
After the pot has soaked, use a soft sponge or cloth to clean it off. Never use anything abrasive like steel wool or scouring pads or you could badly scratch the surface. You can throw most pots in the dishwasher afterward to ensure they are spotless. If you do have some stubborn spots, you can often use a rubber spatula to remove them. If that doesn’t work, try vinegar or another non-abrasive cleaner.
Finally, if you ever need to deep clean your slow cooker, fill it with a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and water (exact measurements are easy to find with a quick google search) and let it run on low for an hour or so. At that point, any spots or stains should be easy to remove with a sponge.
Why Trust Brides
When it comes to kitchen conveniences, contributing writer Mckenzie Eggers is nothing short of obsessed. She loves a good meal that takes minimal effort. For her, a simple slow cooker works best, and she loves her trusty, single-knob, Crock-Pot slow cooker.