We spent 80 hours testing 10 slow cookers to find the best option for most households, and our favorite turned out to be the Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S. This modern version of the traditional Crock-Pot has hinged locks so you can transport your signature pulled pork without any messy spills in your car. You can program cooking times ranging from 30 minutes to 20 hours, and its stoneware interior works well as a serving dish.
Hamilton Beach Set’n Forget 33969A
Cuisinart Programmable PSC-650
Our Test Results
Why Trust Us?
When it comes to buying a cooking appliance, you not only want it to perform well, you want it to also be safe so no one gets sick from the food or burned in the process of making it. We tested each slow cooker for a wide variety of factors, documented everything and scored each accordingly. When testing for temperatures, we used an infrared thermometer to get the most accurate reading.
When testing, we followed manufacturer's instructions and measured everything that went into each slow cooker precisely so each appliance was judged by the same standards. We also examined how easy it was to transport each slow cooker, as well as how easy each was to clean and store. We also combed through user manuals, watched instructional videos and read the fine print in warranties.
How We Tested
We invested 80 hours testing 10 slow cookers to find the best options for any household. To start, we placed 2 quarts of cold water in each slow cooker with the lid on the device. We tested the water temperature after each slow cooker had been operating for two hours on low heat, then after two hours on high heat, and again after 10 hours. We also measured the amount of water at these intervals to see how much had evaporated. You can expect some level of evaporation with any slow cooker, and we found that the average percentage of moisture loss is about 17 percent. Some cookers have moisture loss as low as 5 percent and as high as 43 percent.
We then made beef stew using low-cost beef (since it is full of connective tissue, which can become tough when cooked). Besides the chopped beef, the stew included roughly chopped carrots, onions and potatoes, as well as beef broth and seasonings. We ran each crock pot for 10 hours on low heat and examined each batch to see if the beef was tender and if the vegetables were well-cooked but not mushy. We also checked to see how flavorful each batch tasted. We tested the stew's temperature along with measuring to see how hot the handles and base of the machine had become.
We did plenty of temperature testing to make sure any slow cookers we recommended would help reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses. Many slow cookers in the 1970s offered very low temperatures, but U.S. food safety regulations have changed since then. Slow cookers now must reach high temperatures quickly so that food doesn't spend too long in the 40- to 140-degree Fahrenheit range. Slow cookers now typically cook at a range of 165 to 212 degrees, though some get down to 139 F on low and up to 237 F on high.
Key Features to Look for in a Slow Cooker
The best slow cookers let you program cooking times and heat levels, and they have digital displays so you can see your settings. The best offer intervals ranging from a half-hour to as much as 20 hours. With programmable cooking times, you can prepare foods the night before, put ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, set the cook time and head off for work, knowing that a tasty dinner will be waiting when you get home.
Ease of Use
The best slow cookers are straightforward machines that give you clear instructions, are simple to program and do most of the work automatically. For example, many have timers that switch from the cooking level you originally set to a warm mode once the food has finished cooking. Additionally, many slow cookers have removable interiors and lids that can go in the dishwasher.
Slow cookers with hinged locking lids let you take the whole thing to a social event with no risk of spilling along the way. Some slow cookers include an insert that is safe to put in the oven, which means you can sprinkle some extra cheese and bread crumbs on top of a finished slow cooker casserole and then put the insert into the oven for a few minutes to nicely brown the top. One slow cooker we found also includes a cooking rack that lets you easily make baked goods.
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