It’s almost unfair how impressive slow-cooked food can be, given the minimal time and effort it requires. Showing up with a delicious hot cheese dip equals instant hero status at any Super Bowl party, poker night, or office potluck. Preparing not only dinner for your spouse, but a week’s worth of meals to boot will do more to reignite the spark in your marriage than a month’s worth of couples’ counseling.
The slow cooker is also a great way to motivate yourself to get outside. After all, the only thing that tastes better than twenty-four-hour pot roast is said pot roast devoured after a day of activities.
Behold, The Manual’s roundup of the best slow cookers. Your new best friend is somewhere on this list. Find it.
Elite Gourmet 1.5 Quart Slow Cooker
Why (your grandmother might ask) would anyone want a small slow cooker? Because (we respectfully answer) people who live alone still deserve to enjoy delicious dips, meatballs, sauces and soups. It also has the one feature you look for in a quality small cooker: simplicity. The settings on this little workhorse are limited to Off, Low, High, and Warm—if you need anything simpler, you probably shouldn’t be in the kitchen at all.
Crock-Pot Oval Stainless Steel 8-Quart Slow Cooker
Ideal for party animals, large families, and housemates who do that communal dinner thing, this classic Crock-Pot is big enough to bathe your dog in. To be clear, we don’t recommend that; you’re better off making a full week’s worth of meals in one shot, freezing them, and then doing it all over again with a new recipe. Voila! Expensive takeout habit broken. Aside from its formidable size, this cooker keeps dinner preparation super simple, with minimal setting options and a stoneware basin that you can just lift out of the pot and serve. Crock-Pot has been the slow cooker standard for decades, which means you can count on quality, durability, and 5-lb. roasts done to perfection with this bad boy.
Instant Pot 3-Quart 7-in-1
Let’s start with the obvious: this cute little number is a dead ringer for a certain bleep-bloop droid known for following Luke and C3PO around the galaxy. But there’s a reason besides its cuteness that this little R2 unit is the #1 selling multi-cooker this side of Alderaan. It does everything you want it to do, and then some. From slow cooking your favorite meats to pressure cooking and making rice, the Instant Pot will simplify your life in the kitchen. It will also make people think you’re a slightly better chef than you really are. Don’t be mad about that. Just say, “Thank you, Instant Pot.” Or bleep-bloop. It’ll understand.
Hamilton-Beach 6-Quart Slow Cooker
Are you the type who leaves wet clothes in the washer or forgets to turn the oven off? You’re the one Hamilton-Beach was thinking of when they designed the Set ’n Forget. The six-quart capacity of this cooker lets you roast a whole chicken or make enough pulled pork to feed your friends on game day, but even more importantly, its programmable features offer you the all-important virtue of flexibility. Which means you can leave the house, fall asleep on the couch, or queue up another episode of Battlestar Galactica, knowing that the Set ‘n Forget will automatically switch to warm once your food is done. So go on and keep slicing balls at the range—the Hamilton will have dinner waiting for you no matter when you get home.
Nesco Roaster Oven
Built with a whopping 18-quart capacity, the Nesco Roaster is designed for some serious cooking. While it may not be an ideal option for every crock pot aficionado, it could be a real dream for those chefs in need of an extra oven or anyone looking to roast a pheasant for a special dinner. Plus, Nesco boasts that this cooker wraps its contents in a “Circle of Heat,” which helps to keep the ingredients moist and tender regardless of the cook time.
Programmable Cooker from All-Clad
Best bang for your buck
This All-Clad cooker may not be the cheapest option on this list, but it might just be the best value. That’s because it comes packed with a ton of exciting tech, including a 4-20 hour cooking time range, an easy-to-read digital display, large push buttons, and integrated handles. This device is also notable for its even heat gradient, which allows for a greater deal of control than you’d get from other products on the market. An investment for sure, but one that may prove worthwhile for those serious about their slow cooking.
Breville 6-Quart Fast Slow Pro
If you’re looking for a slow cooker that’s Bluetooth-enabled and can sync with your iTunes while slow cooking beef and potatoes fit for Chef Hubert Keller…well, you might have to wait a few years. Until then, the closest option you have is the Breville Fast Slow Pro. Equipped with a color-changing LCD display that alerts you to the various functions going on, this Cadillac of cookers lets you pressure cook, slow cook, steam, reduce, saute and sear with the press of a button. The only thing it doesn’t do, in fact, is select and pay for your protein of choice. Hey, you can’t have everything.
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