The faster the pace of your life, the better slow cookers look. What's not to like about stirring together ingredients in the morning, attending to other tasks while the slow cooker bubbles away on the kitchen counter, and spooning out a completed dinner come evening?
The 15 slow cookers that we tested (all with a 6- to 7-quart capacity) turned out tasty spare ribs, pulled pork, honey chicken wings, and apple brown Betty.
Prices, which ranged from $40 for some Hamilton Beach and Rival models to $250 for the All-Clad 99005, didn't predict performance.
The differences were in the details.
The $70 Hamilton Beach Set 'N Forget 33967 offers the best combination of features for the money. Other worthy choices include the $50 Rival Crock-Pot SCVC604H-SS, a CR Best Buy.
For those who like mechanical models, pick the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 33162H, $40.
Features that count
let you program a dish, usually in 30-minute intervals, and automatically switch to “warm” when cooking is done. While a mechanical model is simpler to use, you must manually turn it to warm mode.
You can place an oven-safe
pot in the oven for quick reheating.
pot and lid can go into the dishwasher. Touchpad controls are easier to clean than knobs and buttons. Slow cookers with a stainless-steel exterior might look sleek but can be more work to keep shiny.
A locking lid
helps keep food from spilling during transport, say, to a potluck supper. Some slow cookers have a serving ladle that fits snugly into a notch in the lid.
vary, even among models with similar capacities. Bulky models are more difficult to store and transport and take up more counter space.
Other helpful features
Before slow-cooking, you can brown meat in a stovetop-safe pot
, as some recipes require.
A hinged lid
is attached to the unit so that you don't have to set it on the counter to mix or serve food. The lid is removable for cleaning.
The replacement cost
of a broken pot and lid can rival the cost of a new cooker, so you might want to check replacement-part pricing before choosing a model.