One of the things I get asked is what slow cooker should I buy. While other sites may show you the ‘best rated’ slow cooker, I have my favorites – which I’m happy to recommend. However, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to determine what’s best for you. You could read all of the best slow cooker reviews out there, but if you don’t have the answers to these questions at hand, you may find yourself disappointed with your purchase. I’ve outlined these important questions below.
How many people are you cooking for?
- 4 quart will feed 2 and have leftovers for lunch the next day – or feed 4
- 3 1/2 quart is pretty close to a 4 quart but works better for a 2 to 3 person household
- 5 quart is good for a family of 4 to 6
- Unless you have a huge family or cook meals ahead and freeze them, you would not want anything over a 6 quart
Round or Oval?
Want to slow cook breads in a loaf pan? An oval one is the way for you to go to fit pans inside the slow cooker and to get them back out easily. Round ones can be cheaper, but tend to have more hot spots in my experience, so I don’t like them for baking, though they are perfect for slow cooker soups or stews.
Manual or Programmable?
Manual slow cookers are less expensive, so that’s one reason to pick it. Programmable refers to the ability to automatically switch to warm after the time you specify. It does not allow you to program the time it starts. (Lots of people would get food poisoning if they did – especially meat eaters!)
If you come home late or have an unpredictable schedule, spend the extra money on a programmable slow cooker. It will pay for itself by not ruining your dinner.
Multicooker or Slow Cooker Only?
This is a new one for me, but I finally got an Instapot and I’m rethinking this. I really love it’s stainless-steel insert and the fact that it can replace my yogurt maker and rice cooker. I will never own just one slow cooker because I need to test recipes in many different ones. However, if you live in a tiny house or apartment this is well worth the small footprint in your kitchen. See more about those at the bottom of this post.
Each brand seems to have their own now, and not all of them do everything my Instapot does. You can see the latest line-up here on Amazon.
Why am I obsessed with 1 1/2 to 2-quart slow cookers?
Ok, this is an easy one. These run around 10 to 20 dollars and you can make breakfast, dips, fondues, and cook just a cup of beans at a time. I really use mine every day for oatmeal and then again during the day to cook a can’s worth of beans to use in my dinner.
Some people have found one at Target on sale for $3.00, so check in your area. I have one that’s a Chefmate brand that I bought at Target. I also use the Crockpot brand 2-quart and it cooks really well.
There are also some new connectable slow cookers in different sizes and I can’t wait to try out the Crockpot 2-quart slow cooker that is in this line.
Here are a few others you should check out that are 1 1/2 quarts:
There are also some new 2.5 and 3-quart slow cookers popping up.
This 3-quart Hamilton Beach slow cooker is on my counter all the time and there are other styles if you want something different. They are all very pretty.
New Slow Cooker FAQS
- It will run hotter than the one you are replacing that’s 10 years old. Add more liquid or cook for a shorter amount of time.
- Fill it up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. If your instructions say 3/4 believe them or you may come home to burnt stew. (Another reason to not buy one that’s too big.)
- The new low is almost as high as the old high. This was changed for safety issues.
- Make sure you are at home the first time you use a new (or used) slow cooker. Just like any appliance you need to make sure it’s working properly.
- The outside may also get hotter so clear the area around the slow cooker.
My latest favorites:
These change for me…I realize I own over 10 slow cookers of various sizes and brands. These are the ones that are on my counter this week.
It’s become a tie between my 3 1/2-quart Cuisinart slow cooker and my 4-quart Calphalon. Both are a little pricier than the manual slow cookers, but they are programmable and mine cook to temp really well and do not run hot.
The Cuisinart slow cooker has a simmer setting which is lower than low making it worth the money. They also have a 4-quart mulitcooker with a slow cooker setting and a 6-quart slow cooker. I got the 3 1/2 because it was on sale and fits my needs of a 2 person household.
Calphalon also makes a 7-quart slow cooker if you have a large family or prefer to cook in batches and freeze for later.
My next fav is any of the Hamilton-Beach 3 in 1 (I got mine on Overstock on sale). The Hamilton Beach slow cooker has a 2, 4, and 6-quart interchangeable bowls with one base. It’s perfect if you don’t have much storage space. I like it because it lets you easily pick the size you need at the moment and they nest together for storage.
You should be able to make the oatmeal in the 2 quart of the 3-in-1, but you may have to add extra liquid since it’s evaporating surface is larger than a smaller 1 1/2 quart. I haven’t tested it yet, but I will update this when I do.
Also, both Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart state that they do not have lead in their crock glaze. That doesn’t necessarily mean that all the others have lead, but it makes me feel better to have it stated. Updated: Crockpot and Calphalon have also stated that they do not use lead either.
If you are looking for larger slow cookers that will fit in with your other stainless steel kitchen appliances, here are a few for you to think about:
There is a new slow cooker combo that’s on my radar right now and I love it so far. It’s called an Instapot and you can use it as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker or yogurt maker and you can saute right in it for a one pan clean up. Even better is that it has a stainless-steel insert which none of the rice cookers seem to have as an option. They come in 5 or 6 quart.
I hope this helps you become more comfortable in choosing the best slow cooker for you. Let me know if you have more specific questions. Please note that these links are affiliate links which means I get a tiny percentage if you buy when you click through my link. It is at no additional cost to you and it helps me pay for the expenses of hosting this blog. Thank you so much for your support!