Choose the right one
Slow cookers come in a range of sizes and functionalities. Some have bells and whistles, like searing and steaming, but we’ve found that the most important features are a timer (preferably digital), an auto-shut-off/keep-warm function and a see-through lid. There are many good slow cookers available for well under $100, and we’re partial to the Crock-Pot, Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart brands. If you’re cooking for one or two people, you can get by with a 4-qt or smaller, while a big-batch cook will want at least a 6-qt capacity.
Use it to get ahead
If you’re usually rushed in the morning, prep supper ingredients in the slow cooker insert and refrigerate overnight. Pop the insert into the cooker before you leave for work.
Low and slow is the way to go (usually)
Slow cookers have various heat settings, each with its own advantages. Opt for the low setting when it comes to cooking tougher cuts of meat like beef brisket, chicken thighs and pork shoulder, as this allows for tenderizing. Beans also prefer the low-slow method, but vegetable-based dishes can handle the higher setting with a reduced cook time.
Leave it alone
Never open the lid during cooking or you’ll significantly increase the cook time. It’s okay to check for doneness about 15 to 30 min before the end of cooking.
Go easy on the liquids
Liquids won’t evaporate or thicken — so add just enough to cover meat. For best results, leave a 2-in. space between the top of the insert and the lid.