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It might seem crazy that an appliance that cooks your food slowly is actually a time-saver, but busy cooks can fill the slow cooker in the morning and come home to a finished dinner. Or toss the turkey carcass in after Thanksgiving dinner and have stock ready in the morning. Yes, the cooking process takes a while, but it’s hands-off cooking.
01 of 07
Best Overall: Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker
This slow cooker checks all the boxes on your wish list. It’s programmable or you can operate it manually. There’s a temperature probe to check the temperature of your food as you cook it. And at six quarts, it’s the perfect size for most uses.
When the cooking time or temperature is reached, the cooker switches to a warming setting that will keep the food at a safe temperature.
For anyone needing to travel with their slow cooker, this model has sturdy handles, and the lid has a gasket to eliminate spills. The lid also clips on tight so you can take it to a potluck or family dinner. For serving, there’s a spoon that clips on to the unit to keep it from getting lost in transit.
There are three settings: program (which allows you to set a cooking time) probe (which uses the temperature probe to determine doneness), and manual (which lets you set high, low, or warm temperatures without setting a cooking time).
If you live in an area with frequent power glitches, you’ll appreciate that this model will stay on during brief outages and keep cooking, or keep your food warm and safe, until you get home.
02 of 07
Runner Up, Best Overall: KitchenAid Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Glass Lid
This slow cooker is designed for perfect cooking and easy serving, with a glass lid that can be opened on hinges on either side of the handle – perfect for buffet serving while keeping foods warm and covered.
The 6-quart cooking insert is oval shaped, to fit foods like whole chickens or roasts, and it’s removable for serving and for easy cleanup. Unlike cookers that only have high and low temperatures, this has settings for high, medium, and low cooking as well as a keep-warm setting. It can be programmed for up to 24 hours of cooking, in 30 minute increments, for unattended cooking. If you’re not available when cooking time is up, it automatically switches to keep-warm for four hours. The easy-to-read digital display shows how much cooking time is left, as well as the temperature setting.
For storage, the cord stores on the bottom of the cooker. If you don’t need to use your slow cooker on a buffet, there is a similar model with a solid glass lid.
03 of 07
Best High-End: All-Clad Programmable Oval Slow Cooker
A high-end slow cooker that’s built to last, this oval model holds 6 1/2 quarts and has a black ceramic insert, a glass lid, a digital display, and sturdy stainless steel handles.
The timer is programmable for up to 26 hours, and there are settings for warm, low, or high temperatures. It automatically switches to a keep-warm setting when cooking time is up.
The polished stainless steel exterior looks elegant enough to sit on your buffet (after you wipe off the smudges and fingerprints), or you can remove the ceramic insert and use that as a serving dish at your dinner table.
04 of 07
Best Budget: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook & Carry Oval Manual Portable
Slow cookers don’t need to be digital or fancy, and this 6-quart oval unit proves it, with great style. It has high, low, and warm settings, a dishwasher-safe stoneware cooking insert, and a dishwasher-safe lid.
While the operation is as simple as the first slow cookers, this has extra features, like the locking lid and handles that make this slow cooker easy to transport across the room or across town for a potluck. If you prefer, the stoneware crock can be removed from the cooker for serving at the table.
The polished stainless steel exterior and black accents look attractive and are easy to clean when you’re done cooking.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Best for Buffets: Crock-Pot Hook Up Connectable Entertaining System
While most slow cookers can be used on a buffet, this cooker — and the other cookers in this style — are designed for buffet serving, whether it’s for a family taco night or for a holiday event. This unit holds two 1-quart crocks that are great for dips, sauces, and small servings, so you can keep your cheese dip or mushroom gravy warm for hours or keep the soup bubbling. Set them for low, medium or high, for cooking or for serving.
There are two other sizes available in this style, with units that hold a single 2- or 3 1/2-quart crock. The units connect, and up to six units can share a single power outlet so it will be easier to find space for all the hot dishes on the buffet.
These come in a variety of metallic colors to add some sparkle to the table. For storage, the cords store inside the base and the units stack neatly on top of each other. The connecting outlet used to join the cookers is included.
06 of 07
Best Large Capacity: Nesco 18-Quart Professional Roaster Oven
While this is sold as a roaster oven — which makes sense since you can fit a 20-pound turkey — it also functions as a slow cooker for those times when you need to cook for a big crowd.
It’s great for making batches of food for freezing or canning, or for making enough food for parties, church suppers, or that big holiday potluck.
Besides roasting and slow cooking, you can bake (it even holds a 9- x 13-inch baking pan), warm, steam, and use it for serving. The temperature is adjustable from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
The removable insert is porcelain-enameled steel that resists scratching. There’s a steel rack that makes it easy to remove hot foods from the cooker.
The controls are simple, with a dial to set the temperature and a small light that indicates when the temperature has been reached, but there is no timer or automatic setting to keep your food warm.
07 of 07
Best High Tech: Crock-Pot 6-Quart Wifi-Controlled Smart Slow Cooker
Wouldn’t it be great to check the slow cooker without having to stop another task? With this wifi enabled slow cooker, you can monitor and control the cooker from a distance. You can use the app to see how much cooking time is left, or you can adjust the cooking time or temperature, switch to warm, or turn the cooker off. No need to leave couch to speed up or slow down a recipe when you’re involved in a great novel. Then, when you’re in the kitchen, you can ignore the app and adjust the cooker in person.
This has a 6-quart capacity and an oval shape to fit roasts and longer cuts of meat. The glass lid holds in heat and moisture while letting you peek at the food without lifting the lid. The stoneware insert and lid are both dishwasher safe.