Best Slow Cookers from Consumer Reports' Tests

CR tested 17 models to find the best ones on the market

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Slow cooking meatballs using a Crockpot iStock-647430764

Consumer Reports bought and tested 17 of the most widely sold programmable and manual slow cookers, including three models from the venerable Crock-Pot brand. You'll also see slow cookers from All-Clad, Black+Decker, Calphalon, Chefman, Crux, Elite, Hamilton Beach, Kalorik, KitchenAid, and Pioneer Woman in our slow-cooker ratings.

All of the models are oval, a shape that accommodates roasts and other large cuts of meat better than a round slow cooker can. The tested models range from $30 to $170.

Past tests have found that any slow cooker can turn out tender, delicious garlic honey chicken. The real challenge? Beef stew with potatoes and carrots, which is why, in our latest tests, we cooked pots and pots of it on high heat for 5 hours, then cooked the same dish on low heat for 8 hours. Staffers sampled the results, weighing in on taste and tenderness.

"There's a big difference in performance among the 13 programmable slow cookers we tested," says Ginny Lui, CR's head tester for these countertop appliances. "The best cooker served up tender meat and veggies in 5 hours, but in the lowest-scoring cookers, the vegetables were firm and the meat was tough even after 8 hours."

Performance didn't vary widely among the four manual models. These cookers don't have a timer and don't switch to keep-warm mode when cooking is done. So you’ll have to plan your schedule around your pot roast. But at $30 to $40, they're far less expensive than their programmable cousins.

Read on for ratings and reviews of five of the best slow cookers, based on CR's tests, listed here in alphabetical order. For all the details and even more options, check our slow-cooker ratings and buying guide.

CR’s take: With a capacity of 5.3 quarts, the Calphalon Digital programmable slow cooker earns a Very Good score in our low-setting test. It turns out beef stew with fairly tender meat and veggies in 8 hours, and about the same when cooked on the high setting for 5 hours. It weighs just 7 pounds, and the aluminum pot is round and has a ceramic nonstick coating, the only one in our ratings with that feature. There's another feature that sets this model apart: You can use the pot on any type of range to sear, sauté, or brown food before slow cooking. Program this cooker for up to 20 hours, and the auto-warm setting lasts 4 hours. The warranty is for three years.

CR’s take: The 6-quart Crock-Pot Cook & Carry has a ceramic pot, a hinged lid that locks, and a handle on the lid to help make carrying this 12-pound appliance easier. It’s 1 of 4 programmable models tested that garners an Excellent in our low-setting tests, meaning it can serve up deliciously tender beef and veggies in 8 hours. It’s impressive on the high setting, too. You can also program the Crock-Pot for up to 20 hours. Once cooking time ends, this cooker moves into keep-warm mode for up to 4 hours. Wrap the cord around the notches on the back of the cooker for neater storage. The warranty is for one year.

CR’s take: The Crock-Pot Thermoshield’s capacity is also 6 quarts, but it eats up more counter space than the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry. Insulation keeps the exterior from getting hot to the touch, as most cookers do. Earning a Very Good score in our high-setting test, this slow cooker has the same features as the Crock-Pot Cook & Carry, including the lid lock and cord wraparound for storage. There’s a small handle on the lid, but use the side handles for carrying. The warranty is for one year.

CR's take: This 6-quart Hamilton Beach is one of the least expensive of the programmable models we tested, and it beat out Crock-Pot, long synonymous with slow cookers, in our tests. The Hamilton Beach is the only model to earn an Excellent rating in our high-setting tests; it’s the fastest in its category. Program this cooker for up to 24 hours; the auto-warm option lasts for 24 hours, too. The owner’s manual includes tips on using the temperature probe and hold-temp mode to cook meat and fish using the sous vide method (placing food in a sealed bag and slowly cooking it in a warm bath of water). The warranty is for one year.

CR’s take: One of the largest models we've tested, the 8-quart Kalorik SC 41175SS earns an Excellent rating in our high-setting tests. (After 5 hours, our beef stew was tender.) You can program this model for up to 16 hours, and when it's done cooking, the appliance switches to auto-warm for 6 hours. The pot is ceramic, like those in most of the slow cookers we've tested, and the lid locks for safe transport. But this cooker weighs 15 pounds, making it one of the heaviest in our tests and kind of a nuisance to lug around. The warranty is for one year.

Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

A multidimensional background in lifestyle journalism, recipe development, and anthropology impels me to bring a human element to the coverage of home kitchen appliances. When I'm not researching dishwashers and blenders or poring over market reports, I'm likely immersed in a juicy crossword puzzle or trying (and failing) to love exercise. Find me on Facebook