Best slow cooker 2020: 7 top slow cookers for comforting, healthy dishes

Cook soups, stews and casseroles (and more) with one of the best slow cookers you can buy right now...

best slow cooker: crockpot
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(Image credit: Crock-Pot)

Early fall is the perfect time to get your hands on the best slow cooker you can find. Slow cookers are essential for making classic autumn dishes like chili and butternut squash soup--and their appeal only increases as winter comes. 

Outside of the obvious recipes, slow cookers are also a handy meal-prep partner for whipping up everything from roasts to beans and taco fillings, and they're great for desserts and snacks: Think fudge cake, cinnamon buns and even yogurt. 

If you're feeling creative, you can even put your slow cooker to work for braising, steaming, and poaching--or use a multi-cooker that is built to make those extra functions easy.

If you have a surplus of fresh ingredients, your slow cooker comes to the rescue again: They're great for batch-cooking fresh ingredients into something you can put in the freezer to make your grocery store or farmer's market produce haul go even further. 

So what makes a slow cooker worth buying? The best options cook evenly and accurately and are easy to use, with many of our top picks offering little extras that make them even more convenient than the competition. We did the research--reading reviews, testing top models, and checking manufacturer specs--to come up with a shortlist of the best slow cookers you can buy. Keep scrolling to find which models made the cut.

Want to speed up the dinner process? Check out our list of the best pressure cookers

What is the best slow cooker?

If you want the best slow cooker (in our opinion) we wouldn't hesitate to buy the Breville Fast Slow Pro. In addition to slow cooking it can sear, sauté, and even pressure cook. It also automatically knows which time, temperature and pressure to use for the best results, no matter what you're cooking up.

The Fast Slow Pro is technically a multi-cooker. If you're looking for a more straightforward slow-cooker, we recommend buying the Crock Pot 4qt Programmable Slow Cooker, a great pick for those on a budget.

Want to see what else made the list? Scroll down for more of our top picks, for the best prices.

Best slow cooker you can buy: SAGE FAST SLOW PRO™

(Image credit: Sage)

1. Breville Fast Slow Pro™ Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker all around

Specifications
Capacity: 6Qt.
Power: 1100W
Finish: Brushed stainless steel
Dimensions: 13.4"Wx13.4"Dx15.8"H
Reasons to buy
+11 settings+Can also reduce, sauté, and sear+Clear LCD display to see food’s progress
Reasons to avoid
-Quite large, so can be hard to store

Get more for your money by going for the professional-quality Breville Fast Slow Pro, which is a pressure cooker and slow cooker in one appliance.

What we like about it

We love the Brevilla Fast Slow Pro's multi-sensor technology; just select your food type, and this slow cooker will adjust cooking temperature and pressure as needed. It also has a much safer, friendlier steam-release design that the pressure cookers of yore. Some of those appliances were, quite rightly, a little scary--but this one isn't.

The Breville Fast Slow Pro's lid is also removable and can be cleaned in the dishwasher, and the ceramic cooking bowl doubles as a serving dish.

Things to note

Although we love this multi-cooker for its ability to do everything--including slow cooking--very well, it is on the large side. So if you have limited space, it might be a challenge to store.

best slow cooker

(Image credit: Cuisinart)

2. Cuisinart Cook Central 7 Qt. Electric Multi-Cooker

Best large slow cooker

Specifications
Capacity: 7Qt.
Power: 1800W
Finish: Stainless steel
Dimensions: 11"H x 19"W x 15.5"D
Reasons to buy
+Cooks multiple foods at once+Extra-large capacity+Brown, saute, steam, and sear functions
Reasons to avoid
-Takes up a lot of counter space

The Cuisinart Cook Central 7 Qt. Brushed Stainless Steel Electric Multi-Cooker truly does it all--and is large enough for a big family or frequent party host.

What we like about it

No more searing on the stove top and transferring to the slow cooker later. (Yay, fewer dishes!) Besides simply slow-cooking, this machine comes with options to roast, brown, sauté, sear, steam or combination-cook; switch modes with the touch of a button. It even includes a reversible roasting/steaming rack, and its seven-quart capacity is the largest of any model on our list.

To make things even easier, the aluminum cooking pot inside this multi-cooker is dishwasher safe. And the cord is retractable to reduce counter (or cabinet) clutter. 

Things to note

Although excellent, this is another fairly large appliance that could be challenging to store in some kitchens. But keep calm and scroll on--we have some more compact options to suggest.

best single-function slow cooker

(Image credit: KitchenAid)

3. KitchenAid KSC223SS 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker

Best single-function slow cooker

Specifications
Capacity: 6Qt.
Power: 700W
Finish: Stainless steel
Dimensions: 17.5"Wx10.5"D10.8"H
Reasons to buy
+Easy to program and use+Consistent cooking temperatures+Performs well at low cooking temperatures+Automatically switches to "warm" function
Reasons to avoid
-Only does one thing (but does it well)-Not available in a smaller size

The KitchenAid KSC223SS 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker only does one thing--slow cooking--but it does that one thing very well. 

What we like about it

The KitchenAid KSC223SS doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of a multi-cooker. But it does do one thing -- slow cooking -- very well, thanks to an internal thermostat that helps it maintain consistent cooking temperatures, even on the low setting. 

This slow cooker's controls are intuitive and easy to use: Choose from its three temperature settings, use the +/- buttons to set the cooking time (from 30 minutes to 24 hours), and go on about your life. 

Once it has completed the programmed cook time, the KitchenAid KSC223SS will automatically switch to a "warm" setting, and the display will count up from zero so you know how long your food has been holding at warm.

This slow cooker's large, sturdy handles make it easy to move around, and the 6-quart capacity is enough to serve a family, or create days' worth of freezer meals for one or two people. Both crock and lid are dishwasher safe.

Things to note

This is a fantastic slow cooker. But if you want a more versatile appliance that can also do pressure cooking, searing and other functions, check out one of the multi-cookers we recommend in this buying guide.

crock pot slow cooker

(Image credit: Crock pot)

4. Crock Pot 4Qt Programmable Slow Cooker

Best budget slow cooker

Specifications
Capacity: 4Qt
Power: 200W
Finish: Charcoal
Dimensions: 12.3"H x 8.8"W x 12.2"D
Reasons to buy
+Hinged lid comes off easily+Digital timer and screen+It’s easy to clean after use+Relatively compact
Reasons to avoid
-Some say the lid seal isn’t great. This means moisture can drip onto the worktop while cooking

Ideal for cooking everything from casseroles and soups to meat dishes and chocolate pudding, the Crock Pot 4QT Programmable Slow Cooker gets the job done for under $30.

What we like about it

This trusty little slow cooker can be set to cook for anywhere from 30 minutes to 20 hours--ideal for having dinner ready when you get home from work or all-day soccer games on Saturday. The hinged lid makes serving and stirring easy--no need to worry about where you'll set the lid or what kind of mess it'll leave behind.

This slow cooker's 4-quart capacity cooks up generous quantities of food for get-togethers, family meals or putting leftovers in the freezer. The stoneware cook pot and lid are both dishwasher-safe, and the cook pot is oven-proof. 

Things to note

It's hard to beat this price for a dependable slow cooker. But if you're prepping meals for a large family or want a little more functionality, it might be worth investing in a model that's larger, more advanced, or both. 

slow cooker

(Image credit: Black + Decker)

5. Black + Decker 4Qt Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for small spaces

Specifications
Capacity: 4Qt
Power: 1000W
Finish: Blue geometric, White polka dot
Dimensions: 10"H x 9"W x 10"D
Reasons to buy
+Fun patterned exterior+Removable pot and lid+Cooks on three basic settings
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing high-tech in terms of features

Short on space? The Black + Decker 4-Qt Slow Cooker won't capitalize the countertop and has a deceptively large cooking capacity.

What we like about it
This Black + Decker design has a relatively small footprint, which makes it great for kitchens without a lot of counter space. Yet it still offers a four-quart capacity, which makes it large enough for a family dinner, hosting a couple of friends, or meal-prepping for several days in advance.

Although this slow cooker is decidedly no-frills, with three temperature settings controlled by a single knob, it couldn't be easier to use. And if you plan to store it on the counter, the fun, patterned designs are a fun departure from the standard-issue stainless steel slow cooker.

Things to note

If you want an auto-off or auto "hold" feature to keep your food warm, it's worth investing in one of the slightly more techy models we've recommended.

best slow cooker

(Image credit: Crock Pot)

6. Crock-Pot 6qt Cook & Carry Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for tailgating

Specifications
Capacity: 6Qt
Power: 240W
Finish: Red, Silver
Dimensions: 9.25"H x 16.5" W x 12"D
Reasons to buy
+3 different settings+Bowl and lid are dishwasher safe+Easy-carry handles; exterior stays cool+Fun game-day designs
Reasons to avoid
-Basic settings, although 3 may be all you need!

Here's something we learned the hard way: not all slow cookers travel well. The Crock Pot 6qt Cook & Carry Slow Cooker, on the other hand, was made for travel, with easy-grab handles and built-in clamps that hold the lid shut. Don't try to transport a gallon of hot mulled wine in your trunk without it.

What we like about it

This travel-savvy slow cooker is big enough to feed a crowd, and the locking lid and easy-carry handles make it ideal for tailgating, potlucks, or picnics. It's also one of the best-price models on our list, at around $35.99 for an ample six-quart capacity. 

Things to note

This slow cooker's settings are very basic--but it's hard to beat its combination of capacity and travel-friendly features. So if your first priority is entertaining on the go, this may be all you need!

smart slow cooker

(Image credit: Ched IQ)

7. CHEF iQ Smart Cooker

The best smart slow cooker

Specifications
Capacity: 6Qt
Power: 1000W
Finish: Black
Dimensions: 13"H x 13"W x 13"D
Reasons to buy
+Wifi-enabled+Control with your smart phone+Multi-functional
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Just when you thought slow-cooking couldn't get any simpler, we present you the wi-fi enabled, pre-programmed CHEF iQ Smart Cooker.

What we like about it

Once you've downloaded the Chef iQ mobile app to your smartphone, you can control this smart cooker from anywhere. But that's just the start of its cleverness: It comes with more than 100 cooking presets for common ingredients, and an integrated scale even weighs ingredients for you.

Besides slow-cooking, the Chef iQ also has a pressure cooker function, and steams, boils, and sautés. Using the pressure-cooking feature? The appliance will automatically release steam when it's done cooking, via one of three methods tailored to the ingredients.

Things to note

This is one intelligent slow cooker! But if you're not going to really make use of the smart/mobile app features, you can save some money by opting for a slightly simpler model.

What are the benefits of using a slow cooker?

  • For many dishes, using a slow cooker means you simply pop the raw ingredients into the pot, set it to go, and leave it until it's time to serve up;
  • A slow cooker can transform cheap ingredients into hearty meals that don't rely on tons of fat to be tasty; 
  • You'll be surprised at what you can cook in a slow cooker: yogurt, oatmeal and a Sunday roast, for example. Find more ideas in our guide to things you didn't know you could cook in a slow cooker.
  • Slow cookers don't use a lot of electricity, despite being left on all day.

What can I cook in a slow cooker?

Slow cooker-friendly ingredients to have in your pantry

For those evenings when you just don't want to go to the supermarket/don't feel like making anything elaborate, the following ingredients can very easily be thrown in together as the base for a simple but delicious stew (no cooking knowledge required):
1. Canned tomato
2. Chopped carrot and celery
3. Cubed potato: best if peeled first
4. Canned chickpeas/beans
5. Stock. Choose veggie or chicken for even more flavor
6. Mixed herbs and salt, for flavor
7. Optional: Cubed chicken or beef 

Perhaps the best question to ask here is what CAN'T you cook in a slow cooker? They make effortless dinners with a minimum amount of prep time, and they can do the cooking for you while you focus on other things.

A slow cooker is one of those essential mealtime gadgets that you might not realize you need--until you take the plunge and start using one. 

All slow cookers work in the same way, although some have added technology to help fine-tune the process. They cook your food slowly at a consistent temperature, locking in flavor and tenderizing even the toughest ingredients to produce mouthwatering results. 

Take our slow cooker roast beef and slow cooker pulled pork, for example. These are quick, easy meals which will delight dinner guests. And why not finish off with a slow cooker rice pudding for a healthy dessert, breakfast, or snack?

Need some more inspiration? No worries: check out our best slow cooker recipes.

What is a good size for a slow cooker?

Slow cookers are available in all shapes and sizes but, as a general guide, most families don't need anything over a 7-quart capacity. If you're cooking for two, a 2- to 3-quart slow cooker is plenty. 

A larger 4- to 5-quart option will feed a family of four, and those slow cookers with capacities of 5.5 to 7 quarts are great for serving large families, stocking up with leftovers in your freezer, or entertaining on special occasions. 

How much should I spend on a slow cooker?

Because there are so many slow cookers out there, sorting through the many choices can be confusing--especially if you're on a limited budget. So, how much do slow cookers cost--and what do you get for your money?

As with any kitchen appliance, to a degree, you get what you pay for. But the good news is that slow cookers don't have to be expensive. 

Budget slow cookers

At the cheaper end of the market (think $50 and under), you'll find models from Crock Pot and Black + Decker, both on our list above. You'll get basic features and you may find the slow cooker gets hot on the outside or that it's not as easy to clean as a more expensive model. However, they'll still do the job of slow cooking many dishes. And if you're new to this type of cooking, they're a good place to start.

What won't they do? You can't sauté in this kind of slow cooker, because they don't reach the required heat. So you'll need use a frying pan for this extra step, which helps give your slow-cooked foods a pleasing color. Make sure you scrape all the juices from the frying pan into your slow cooker, to capture the fullest flavor in your dish. 

Blow -the-budget slow cookers

Bump the budget up towards and beyond $100, and you'll get a multi-functional appliance that might have pre-programmed recipes, smart features, go in the dishwasher, and may even be able to perform the functions of a pressure cooker, too (such as the Breville Fast Slow Pro).

Our advice? If you're new to slow cooking, start with the best model you can afford and be prepared to upgrade if you get hooked on this efficient, flavorful cooking method.