Choosing the right slow cooker means the difference between perfectly cooked, tender roasts and a dinner destined to disappoint. Slow cookers can be a good investment but to prevent them from gathering dust in your kitchen cupboard, you need to consider three important factors; size, shape, and functionality.
Size and shape
The slow cooker should be able to accommodate a variety of recipes (a 6-7 quart capacity is best), and an oval shape is the most versatile, allowing for bigger roasts, large cuts of fish, and even loaves of bread.
An ideal cooker should produce equal heat throughout and maintain a consistent temperature to cook food evenly and prevent boiling. For true set-it-and-forget-it functionality, spring for a programmable slow cooker. Unlike manual models, programmable cookers will automatically switch off once the cooking time is up and their start time can be delayed, so you won’t have to worry about coming home to an overcooked stew.
To avoid extra hassle, go for a cooker that has straightforward control panel and is easy to clean. A non-stick, removable insert that is dishwasher safe will keep cleaning your slow cooker as low-maintenance as cooking with it.
Unsure where to start? Lucky for you, we’ve done the leg-work, and scouted out the best of the bunch, from bargain finds to bona-fide kitchen stars. Soon you’ll be making fall-apart tender ribs on weeknights and waking up to the smell of cozy make-ahead breakfasts that will be sure to lure you out of bed.
Use the guide below to navigate the shelves and find the best cooker for your kitchen needs.
1. The Cadillac of slow cookers
Kitchenaid Slow Cooker With Glass Lid, 6-Quart, $149, Canadian Tire
This all-star ticks all the boxes. It’s easily programmable, can keep foods warm for up to 4 hours after cooking, and has thick insulation to guarantee tender roasts and perfectly-cooked stews every time. As an added bonus, the insert and lid are dishwasher-safe, making cleaning it a cinch.
2. For small families and singles
Cuisinart 3.5 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, $100, Bed Bath & Beyond
Save yourself time and precious counter space too, with this small but mighty cooker. Its oval shape allows it to accommodate roasts and whole chickens up to 4 pounds, and cooks evenly while still being compact. The touchpad timer can be set for up to 24 hours and includes low, high, simmer, and keep warm settings.
If you’re looking for a budget version try the Hamilton Beach Stay Or Go 4-Quart Slow Cooker. A slight downfall is that it’s controlled with a manual dial, but at under $35, the price can’t be beat.
3. A cooker that does it all
Cuisinart Cook Central 6-quart Slow Cooker, $220, Bed Bath & Beyond
This cooker’s built-in brown/sauté function eliminates the need for a separate skillet when browning meat or sautéing onions and garlic, and it also has a handy steaming setting. These added features make it perfect for building flavour in soups and stews, or turning out tender-crisp vegetables. Not cooking for a crowd? This cooker also comes in a smaller, 4-quart version.
4. For the bargain hunter
Crock-Pot Countdown Programmable Slow Cooker, $50, Walmart
This Crock-Pot proves that a top-of-the-line slow cooker doesn’t need to break the bank. This highly customizable model can be set to cook anywhere from 30 minutes to 20 hours, and will automatically switch to a ‘keep warm’ setting when the time is up, so even if you come home late your food will still be toasty.
5. For the potluck MVP
Crock-Pot Cook and Carry Smart Pot, 6-Quart With Little Dipper, $90, Hudson’s Bay
This crock-pot makes sharing your slow-cooker creations easy. It’s the perfect companion for potlucks, picnics, and parties when you want to serve up something hot to guests. The lid tightly seals so you can transport your goods worry-free, and you can serve it straight from the removable crock, eliminating the need for extra dishes. Use the additional small pot for serving dips and sauces alongside the main event.
6. For the ultimate temperature control
Hamilton Beach 6-quart programmable Slow Cooker, $75, Bed Bath & Beyond
The built-in temperature probe on this model is the star, ensuring perfect doneness without interrupting cooking. It signals the cooker to turn off as soon as the food has reached the desired internal temperature then automatically shifts to keep it warm, so you’ll never have to worry about over-cooking food. If you’re not cooking meat or poultry, you can still whip up delicious meals using the manual and program functions.
7. For feeding a crowd
Elite Platinum 8.5-Quart Digital Slow Cooker, $50, Wayfair
If you’re feeding a family of 6 or more or are into mega-batch cooking, consider a slow cooker that has a capacity greater than 7 quarts. This model’s super-sized 8.5 quart pot is perfect for an 8 pound chicken or 5 pound roast, and the easy-to-use digital controls allow it to be set for up to 20 hours.