If you want to cook delicious meals for your family without spending a ton of time in the kitchen, you’ll want to add a slow cooker to your collection of appliances. These versatile devices allow you to toss in some ingredients in the morning and come home in the evening to a ready-to-eat meal. The cooking process is slow and takes time, but the set-it-and-forget-it design allows you to be hands-off while the cooking happens. They’re designed to safely cook while you’re out of the house or sleeping.
Whether you’re looking for a programmable slow cooker, one that’s perfect for buffets, or something more affordable, we’ve found the perfect one for you.
Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker ($50)
This slow cooker will cover pretty much all the bases you’d want a kitchen appliance to hit. It’s programmable so that you can set a cooking time and leave it to work on its own, or you can operate it manually by selecting high, low, or warm temperatures without inputting a time. The slow cooker also comes with a temperature probe to determine when the food is done cooking. When cooking is complete, the cooker will automatically switch over to the warming setting, maintaining a safe temperature until it’s time to eat.
Live in an area with more than your fair share of power outages? This model will continue operating even during brief outages, so you’ll still come home to a meal that’s ready to enjoy (even if you will be eating in the dark). Plus, the affordable price tag means everyone from college students to seasoned professionals can start slow cooking tomorrow.
KitchenAid KSC6222SS Slow Cooker with Easy Serve Glass Lid ($106)
For a slow cooker that can go directly from cooking to serving, check out this one by KitchenAid. It comes with a glass lid that can be opened up on either side, which makes it perfect for simultaneously serving and keeping food warm. Cooking for a big family or a special event? The oval-shaped 6-quart insert can accommodate large foods, such as a whole turkey or a pork roast. While many slow cookers only come with high and low cooking temperatures, this one features high, medium, and low cooking in addition to a warming setting.
This slow cooker is also programmable, so you can set it up 24 hours in advance to let it start preparing your meal unattended. Once cooking is complete, it will immediately switch over to the warming setting for up to four hours. Want to monitor the food while it’s cooking? The digital display shows the temperature as well as how much time remains in the cooking process.
All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Oval-Shaped Slow Cooker ($140)
If you’re in the market for a higher-end slow cooker, this programmable appliance by All-Clad is one to consider. The oval-shaped design holds up to 6.5 quarts and is large enough to accommodate even a large group of dinner guests. If you want a smaller version, you can opt for a 4-quart model for $120. The slow cooker can also be programmed up to 26 hours in advance, so you can go about your day knowing that you’ll come home to a delicious meal that’s ready to eat.
The stainless steel exterior makes this a durable investment and also an aesthetically pleasing addition to your kitchen counter. The black ceramic insert has integrated handles that make it easy to grip and remove, and the glass lid helps to keep heat trapped inside for more moist and delicious food. The digital display is easy to read, and the intuitive push-button controls make it easy to select different programs for cooking your food. Both the insert and lid are also dishwasher-safe, meaning you can pop them into the washer for an easy clean-up.
Crock-Pot SCCPMD1-CH Hook Up Connectable Entertaining System ($35)
One of the great things about slow cookers is that the appliance is perfect for cooking delicious food in large quantities for events, dinner parties, potlucks, and more. This Crock-Pot was designed with extra features specifically to accommodate such scenarios. The unit features two 1-quart crocks that are the perfect size for dips, side dishes, and sauces. Cook the dishes at low, medium, or high heat, then turn on the warm setting to keep that nacho cheese or turkey gravy warm for the rest of the event — after all, nobody likes congealed cheese sauce or cold gravy.
Serving a particularly large crowd? Choose one of the other models that holds a single 2-quart ($38) or 3.5-quart crock ($50). You can easily connect the units for a space-saving serving set-up, and up to six units can utilize a single power outlet. When it comes to storing the units, they’re designed to fit easily on top of one another, and the cords can fold up directly into the base of the unit.
Crock-Pot SCCPVI600-S 6-Quart Countdown Programmable Oval Slow Cooker ($54)
Sometimes, a slow-cooker alone can’t get the job done, as you may need to transfer the food onto the stove to get the perfect brown. With this Crock-Pot, you can transfer the ceramic-coated stoneware insert directly onto the stove for easy browning. You can also program the slow cooker to cook for any length of time between 30 minutes and 20 hours. The digital timer counts down the remaining cooking time so that you can monitor how much longer it’ll be before the food is ready to enjoy. When it’s time to eat, take the insert directly to the dining table so that everyone can help themselves. Having a party or dinner event? The 6-quart size can make enough food to serve at least six people. The insert and glass lid are both dishwasher-safe for convenient clean-up. One-pot meal prep has never been easier.
Instant Pot Duo60 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker ($100)
While this Instant Pot does do a great job at slow cooking, it also does a whole lot more. In fact, this kitchen appliance will serve as a rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and food warmer. The user-friendly control panel makes it really clear which program you’re selecting, and you can also delay cooking time up to 24 hours — perfect for doing meal prep the night before a big dinner party. The appliance will be a safe addition to your kitchen counter, with 10 proven safety mechanisms. The stainless steel pot and stainless steel steam rack will stand the test of time, even if you pop them into the dishwasher after every meal. The Instant Pot Duo comes in three sizes: There’s a 3-quart Instant Pot Duo Mini ($80), a 6-quart Instant Pot Duo60 ($100), and an exceptionally large 8-quart Instant Pot Duo80 ($140). You can check out our full review of the Instant Pot Duo60 here.