To find the best slow cooker in 2016, we considered slow cookers of all shapes and sizes, including those with at least four quarts of space in their oval-shaped containers, as well as the option to program multiple heat settings for up to 24 hours at a time either through an LCD display or over a Wemo-connected smartphone app.
So what’s the best slow cooker of 2017? Without hesitation, the Cusinart MSC-400 Cook Central 3-in-1 ($99.99) slow cooker takes the cake, thanks to not only its stellar slow cooking capabilities, but also the option to saute, brown, steam and sear all your ingredients inside one pre-programmable appliance!
- 1 Best Slow Cooker
- 2 How We Choose the Best Slow Cooker
- 3 Why You Should Buy a Slow Cooker
- 4 #1 Pick Cuisinart MSC-400 Cook Central 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker – Editor’s Choice/Best 4-Quart Slow Cooker
- 5 #2 Pick Crock-Pot SCCPWM600-V2 Wemo Slow Cooker/Best Programmable Slow Cooker
- 6 #3 Pick Cuisinart 3.5-Quart Slow Cooker/Best Small Slow Cooker
- 7 Honorable Mention Crock-Pot SCV400B 4-Quart Manual Slow Cooker/Best Budget Slow Cooker
- 8 Most Important Features
- 9 Mistakes or Things to Avoid
- 10 What Else You Should Think About
Best Slow Cooker
|Cuisinart MSC-400 Cook Central 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker||Crock-Pot SCCPWM600-V2 Wemo Slow Cooker||Cusinart 3.5-Quart Slow Cooker|
|Rank||#1 - Editor's Choice/Best 4-Quart Slow Cooker||#2 - Best Programmable Slow Cooker||#3 - Best Small Slow Cooker|
|Tub Capacity Options||4/6/7-quart||6-quart||3.5-quart|
|Buy Now||Buy Now||Buy Now|
How We Choose the Best Slow Cooker
But what is a slow cooker, really? Even though almost all slow cookers carry the same number of basic features: programmable heat settings/timers, 1.5-quart or larger cooking tubs, and sturdy lids that trap heat efficiently, we wanted to stick to a stricter set of criteria when it came to choosing the absolute best of the best.
Optimally the best slow cooker will have a digital LCD display that you can use to set exact times and heating methods ahead of time, as well as clocks which let you know how long is left in each cycle. Also, if the slow cooker had an option for a “warming” setting this was a huge plus, because even though the cooking times might be exact, not everyone is always home at the same time and keeping a meal warm so everyone can eat at their leisure is a huge plus.
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Another feature to keep an eye on is whether or not the slow cooker is programmable. As any budding slow cooker chef will tell you, many recipes will ask you to cook your food on high for a certain number of hours, then switch to low for the remaining time to pull out the best flavors possible. While some cookers here only use the display to program this, the #2 pick will actually let you connect to your WiFi network through the WeMo app so you can adjust the heat settings from your smartphone while you’re away.
Why You Should Buy a Slow Cooker
For anyone who wants to save money on their monthly food bills but are constantly running around and don’t have time to whip up a new dish in the kitchen every night, slow cookers are the ultimate definition of “set it and forget it”. They’re convenient because besides possibly prepping a few ingredients beforehand, all you need to do is dump everything into one pot, turn it on, and come back eight hours later to a beautifully cooked meal.
If you already have a slow cooker, but you’re constantly burning food in it and wondering how hot does a slow cooker get, generally they are supposed to bubble around the 190° to 212° range. If your current model is scorching ingredients or leaving dangerous items like chicken undercooked every time, then it’s definitely time to invest in a new slow cooker with more solid temperature controls.
#1 Pick Cuisinart MSC-400 Cook Central 3-in-1 Multi-Cooker – Editor’s Choice/Best 4-Quart Slow Cooker
Price: $99.99 | Features: 3 independent cooking modes, programmable LCD display, 24-hour max cook time
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: The multi-cook function takes this slow cooker to the next level.
When it comes to anything in the kitchen, Cuisinart continues to set the standard that pretty much every other appliance maker out there aspires to beat.
Things are no different with the Cuisinart MSC-400 3-in-1 Cook Central “Multi-Cooker”. This model easily takes the cake as the best rated slow cooker thanks to its 3-in-1 functionality, which lets you brown and saute all your ingredients in the same pot before you send it into slow mode.
The bright, backlit LCD display makes it simple to program your meals for up to 24 hours of total cook time, although only the most adventurous cooks should dare to go this long if they know what they’re doing ahead of time.
With the option to steam, saute, and slow cook all from the same tub, it’s not hard to see why the Cuisinart MSC-400 wins the #1 spot on our best slow cookers list for 2017.
#2 Pick Crock-Pot SCCPWM600-V2 Wemo Slow Cooker/Best Programmable Slow Cooker
Price: $117.99 | Features: Wi-Fi network connectivity, Wemo app compatibility, 6-quart container
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: This is the first (and only) wireless-enabled “smart” slow cooker on the market.
Although most of the options on this list are programmable, the Crock-Pot SCCPWM600-V2 takes things to a new level as the first slow cooker that connects to the Wemo app for ultimate control over your food.
The dread of anyone who starts a slow cooker before they leave for work is the possibility of getting a flat tire on the way home, and missing the crucial minutes they need to turn the cooker off. With the help of the Wemo app you can now control every aspect of the cooking process right from your smartphone, and never leave things up to chance again.
Other notable features include the 6-quart tub, ceramic stoneware container, and stainless steel chassis that makes it a breeze to clean in case things accidentally boil over the top.
#3 Pick Cuisinart 3.5-Quart Slow Cooker/Best Small Slow Cooker
Price: $59.95 | Features: 3.5-quart ceramic container, stainless steel housing, 24-hour cook timer
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Great if you love slow-cooked food, but don’t want to go overboard with it.
Cuisinart is back at it again, this time with a 3.5-quart option for anyone who likes making smaller batches of slow-cooked food.
Perfect for couples or the single among us, a 3.5-quart tub is a solid pick if you make most of your meals in a slow cooker each week, or just want to experiment without having to freeze half of what you would get out of a 6-quart before it goes bad.
The Cuisinart 3.5-quart comes with a programmable LCD timer, uses an oval-shaped ceramic container, and has three separate heating settings that will switch down to warming or off completely when the timer runs up, depending on your preferences.
Honorable Mention Crock-Pot SCV400B 4-Quart Manual Slow Cooker/Best Budget Slow Cooker
Price: $19.99 | Features: Three heat settings, manual control, oval-shaped ceramic container
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: This Crock-Pot is perfect if you want to save on your grocery and appliance bills at once.
But maybe you’re not totally sold on all the amazing benefits slow cooking has to offer just yet, and want to dip your toes in the inexpensive side of the pool instead?
Well fear not because, like always, Gadget Review has you covered! The Crock-Pot SCV400B 4-Quart Manual slow cooker is very modestly priced at just $19.99, and also comes in a massive 7-quart version for less than twice the price at $34.99.
The oval-style ceramic container will evenly heat your food all the way through on one of three available temperature settings, though potential buyers should be warned: this thing is all manual, all the time.
If you’re not completely versed in the ways of slow cooking just yet, you might want to go with a programmable option to save yourself the hassle instead.
Most Important Features
- With only so many hours to spare in the day, the last thing you want to be worried about is whether or not your slow cooker is burning $60 worth of ingredients and ruining dinner that night because you forgot to set an alarm on your phone.
- To solve this problem, it’s always a good idea to go with a programmable slow cooker opposed to a manual version.
- Programmable slow cookers can cycle through multiple heating modes at specific time intervals without intervention, which means no more blackened-to-a-crisp chicken for you or your family!
- In general, if you want a slow cooker that will make enough food for a single person or couple to eat with a bit of leftovers to spare, a 4-quart model will handle the job just fine.
- 6-quarts and above are made for families of four who want some leftovers, while small slow cookers like 1.5-quart options are great if you want to experiment with a lot of different recipes, but don’t want to make too much of any one dish at a time.
Oval vs. Circular
- This is a debate that has raged on since the beginning of the slow cooking movement, but which is better?
- Ultimately there’s no real difference in how the food is prepared, it’s just what you can fit inside of it.
- If you make a lot of stews a circular tub will work fine, but if you like to cook meats like pork shoulder or whole chickens, the oval shape will be able to fit these in much easier.
Slow Cooker vs. Crock Pot
- What’s in a name? Well, it turns out a whole heck of a lot of nothing when it comes to the debate between slow cookers vs. Crock-Pots.
- As a keen shopper you’ll always have the question of “who makes the best slow cooker” at the front of your mind, but marketing isn’t everything.
- Although they’re branded differently, ultimately that’s all this debate comes down to: branding. Although Crock-Pot kicked the slow cooker revolution off in the 70’s and used to be made with specialty heating elements that competing slow cookers didn’t have, nowadays Crock Pot is just another brand of the same product with the same level of build quality as the rest.
Mistakes or Things to Avoid
Pressure Cooker vs. Slow Cooker: It’s important to know when shopping for a slow cooker that they are nothing like pressure cookers; quite the opposite, in fact. While slow cookers often take 6 hours or more to make a meal, pressure cookers use exactly that – pressure – to rapidly cook foods in a fraction of the time they’d normally take. Don’t get the two confused unless you want vastly different cooking experiences in the kitchen.
Don’t Go Manual If You’ve Got the Money to Spend: Although we’ve listed one manual option under the best budget slow cooker option, optimally, you want something that you can program ahead of time for the true “set and forget” experience. Manual slow cookers need you to be at home to change from low-to-high or to turn on the warming setting, while programmable cookers can automate the whole process from start to finish with only a few button presses at the start.
What Else You Should Think About
The best slow cookers are the perfect option for making lots of food at once with very little effort, but the best microwaves still reign supreme as the easiest way to eat without lifting a finger. And while technically you can still get away with making many of the same slow-cooked dishes in your oven and a large pot, often there’s few ways to control the heat as accurately as you would in a slow cooker without having to constantly monitor the oven and the dish throughout the full 8-12 hour process.
And although the Cuisinart MSC-400 Cook Central 3-in-1 is worthy of the #1 spot on our list because it handles so many jobs at once, you’re still going to need something else to whip up your breakfast in the morning. That in mind, why not take a look at our picks for the best blender for green smoothies to start your day off on the right foot?
And last, if you’re always reheating your slow-cooked meals in the microwave but no one in your family knows how to cover their bowls with a paper towel, then you’ll definitely need to check out our in-depth guide on how to quickly and safely clean your microwave in a pinch.