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Slow cookers are pretty much a gift from the heavens. Whether you're a busy parent who cooks for the whole family, or you're constantly on the go and don't have time to slave over a stove, these clever appliances are here to back you up!
They gently simmer and cook your food low and slow over the course of the day, so you can come home to a meal that tastes like you've been in the kitchen for hours. And don't worry, it's completely safe to leave them on while you're gone.
If you're looking for an appliance that can do all the meal prep for you, look no further. We've rounded up the top slow cookers on the market, so you can whip up dinners with ease.
The classic Crock-Pot slow cooker combines all the basic functions you need at just the right price. Choose from low or high cooking temperatures, and select a cook time of anywhere between 30 minutes and 20 hours. The countdown timer lets you know exactly how much time is left, and once your food is done cooking, it'll switch to a keep-warm setting.
Thanks to a locking lid, liquids remain tightly sealed inside the cooker and don't end up on your countertop. Plus, handles make it easy to transport to and from potlucks or even between the kitchen and dining table. After you're done cooking, carefully remove the liner and toss it in your dishwasher for easy cleaning. Also included is a 16-ounce dipper warmer that keeps sauces at the perfect temperature while serving.
Best Budget Buy
If a simple, no-frills option is what you're looking for, you'll find just that in this 7-quart slow cooker by Hamilton Beach. It features high and low temperature settings, plus a keep-warm function that auto-starts when your food is done cooking. You can choose from 2-, 4-, 6-, 8-, or 10-hour cook times, and when you're done cooking, feel free to toss the lid and bowl insert into the dishwasher for no-fuss cleanup.
The only downsides to this sized model is that it doesn't include a countdown timer, nor can you select a delayed start time. If that doesn't bother you, the cooker itself is a fantastic option, but if you're interested in those settings, you can check out the 4- and 6-quart options (available at the link above), which have all the same settings but include a countdown timer.
Best for Smart Homes
For anyone paranoid about leaving an appliance on when they're not home, you can now check on your slow-cooker meal without actually having to be in the kitchen! Quickly and easily adjust your temperature and cook time via the WeMo smartphone app, or turn it on or off from a distance!
You can program it to send you a notification when the cook-time is up, so even if you're not home, you can let the kids know when dinner is ready to be served. Plus, the oval stoneware is removable and dishwasher-safe for super fast cleanup.
Best for Cooking Meat
This programmable slow cooker includes a temperature probe that makes cooking meat a total breeze. You don't even have to open the lid to take the temperature, and you'll never have to risk serving undercooked meat to guests or family.
You can cook your dishes to a desired temperature or a desired time, up to 24 hours. Once the temperature or cook time has been reached, it'll switch to the keep-warm function. A digital display lets you see how much longer is left on your timer, and it can also be switched to show you the current temperature, so you get an idea of how much longer you need to cook your meat all the way through.
Best for Temperature Control
Wave goodbye to your stove! The three programmable functions on this slow cooker are perfect for sautéing vegetables and browning your favorite meats, steaming veggies or fish, and, of course, slow-cooking. You can even switch between any of these functions, which means that you can brown meat before slow-cooking it with the touch of a button.
One of our favorite things about this cooker is the ability to control the actual temperature, instead of just selecting low or high. Plus, the LCD display screen is extra-large and backlit in blue, making it easy to read the time and temperature. Lastly, the cooking pot is nonstick and removable, so you can easily toss it into your dishwasher for speedy cleaning.
Best for Versatility
Eliminate the need for multiple bulky kitchen appliances with the Instant Pot, a true jack-of-all-trades appliance. It can be a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and warmer, and it can even act as a sauté pan with the proper settings.
A recent update to the Instant Pot DUO Series, this model features a sleek, easy-to-read, blue LCD screen, as well as three new cooking settings for cake, eggs, and — the newest feature — sterilizing. The Sterilize function allows users to pasteurize milk and sterilize baby bottles, jars, and utensils, as well as perform certain types of canning. It also comes in various sizes, depending on how big you want your batches.
If you plan to use it mostly as a slow cooker, you'll find the operation easy, with settings that include a delayed start time and a keep-warm function when cooking is done. It also has a built-in timer that notifies you when your food is done, and it'll automatically switch to keep-warm, so your food doesn't get cold. The only downside is that you can't see through the lid, so in order to check on your dish, you'll have to pop the top off.