Slow Cooker Buying Guide

In this slow cooker buyers guide you will learn what to look for in a slow cooker, what size is best for you, which brand is reputable, how much you can expect to spend on the slow cooker, how to use or what it is good for…

Are you ready to give cooking in a slow cooker a try? It’s a wonderful way to prepare your family’s meals without having to spend hours in the kitchen stirring pots. Make a pot of beef stew that tastes like you’ve slaved for hours over the stove, when all it really took was dumping a few ingredients in your slow cooker and turning it on. And since you’re only using one pot, clean-up is a breeze as well.

How To Choose The Right Slow Cooker

Start with any slow cooker you currently have and make it work. See if you like the dishes it creates and if slow cooking works well for you and your family. If it does and you’re ready to shop for a new model, use the tips below to guide you in your purchasing decision.

Slow Cooker Sizes

Slow cookers sizes vary to cater for a wide range of  family sizes, single people, etc. A slow cooker size can range from small to extra large. These sizes are anything from 1.5 qt to well over 8 qt. You can also get slow cooker sizes expressed in litres. At times the unit of size (volume) is influenced by the country of manufacture or where the slow cooker is being sold.

When looking for a slow cooker in UK or Australia you are more likely to find all sizes expressed in liters. On the other hand, when in the US or Canada the sizes may be expressed in quarts.

As a guide 1 qt =  0.95 liter or 1 liter = 1.06 qt, if you are confused treat it like rate of exchange between currencies. This means that for the same size slow cooker, the numerical value bearing the qt units will always be higher than the numerical value bearing the liters units.

The difference between the numerical values is about 5%. This is helpful in that whenever you have a slow cooker size expressed in liters, you simply increase it by 5% to get a rough estimate of the equivalent  qt value. Or if the size is expressed in quarts, simply reduce it by 5% to get the equivalent in liters.

Now having looked at the size and how it can be expressed, let us look at the best size to buy for your purposes.

How many people are you feeding and are you planning on making mostly main meals, soups and stews for a family of four to six people, a six quart model will be your best bet. If you’re doing a lot of cooking for crowds (church potluck anyone?), you may want to go with a bigger model.

And if you’re cooking for two, or only plan to make side dishes and desserts in the slow cooker, a four quart one will suffice. If you’re not sure what to get, stick with the standard six quart version.

Popular Brands

There are quite a few different brands out there that make quality slow cookers. Some of the favorite slow cooker brands include Crock-Pot (of course…), Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, and Kitchen-Aid. Sticking with a popular brand not only guarantees you’ll get a quality product, it also makes it easier to find parts down the road, should for example the lid fall and break.

At the same time there are also relatively newer brands that are making a mark in the market. One of such brands is the Instant Pot brand… Instant Pot manufactures multi-function kitchen appliances that started off as pressure cookers…

Used or New?

One question we haven’t addressed yet is if you need to buy a new slow cooker at all. As mentioned earlier, start with what you got. After that, it’s perfectly fine to look for a used model. One of the places to look for inexpensive used or refurbished  slow cookers is Amazon Warehouse.

You can find them very inexpensively at your local thrift store. Heck, you may even have a friend or family member who will give you theirs.

So many people have a slow cooker sitting in the back of their kitchen cabinet and never use it. Ask around, you may get lucky. And if you do, don’t be surprised if they ask for it back once they see, smell and taste some of the amazing meals you’re making in it.

What Bells And Whistles Do You Really Need?

When you want to buy a slow cooker, there are certain things that you also need to look at. You need to look at features and check which ones you really need.Retractable cords are nice, but it’s also not that hard to tuck the cord under the slow cooker when you store it.

Further you may want to look at functions, the type of slow cooker suitable for your needs or ideal under your circumstances, the shape, the color you want, the material used both for the outer part and insert pots, etc.

Slow Cooker Functions

Cosori 8-In-1 Multifunctional Pressure Cooker

There are some fancy slow cooker models on the market today. And there are some very affordable basic models that function with no more than a high or low cooking feature and they may do everything you need your slow cooker to do. This is a basic type of slow cooker which is commonly known as a crock-pot.

You can also have a multi-function slow cooker that can do more than slow cooking. This type would have functions of other kitchen appliances built in like being a pressure cooker as well, steamer, rice cooker, etc. The Instant Pot is one of the brands that manufactures multi-function units.

Slow Cooker Types

There are different types of slow cookers including electric, non electric, manual, programmable, digital, etc.

Electric slow cookers use electricity to be functional so if you do not plan on going camping or not living in the woods where there is no electricity, then an electric slow cooker is where you would start.

You may also like a manual slow cooker instead of a programmable or digital one. A manual slow cooker can have advantages over a more fancy one with LED display. Some elderly people prefer manual over digital and if you are buying it as a gift for an elderly person, these are the kind of things to consider.

If you like camping or leaving in area where electricity is not reliable or in a cabin where there is no power, then a non-electric slow cooker would be your option. This type of slow cooker is ideal for people who like tail-gating, or rv-ing and living on solar power for electricity, etc…

You may not be as old-school as grandma or grandpa and like something digital… in that case you will looking for a digital or programmable slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Color

You might need to consider slow cooker color especially if you are looking for a kitchen appliance that will match with other appliances of kitchen painting. Slow cookers come in different colors including black, red, silver, stainless steel, tan, chalkboard surface, etc.

Slow Cooker Shape

Depending on your kitchen cabinet, style, etc., slow cooker shape is something that can be considered. There different shapes like oblong, oval, round, etc., to choose from.

Slow Cooker Material

The type of material used to make this kitchen appliance is also something to consider. This maybe because of health reasons or just pure preference. You may like stainless steel more than ceramic or stoneware. Slow cooker material like plastic may not be a preference

Slow Cooker Insert Material

Also important is the material of the slow cooker insert pot. Like above a choice of material may be due to health reasons, perceptions or preferences. If you do not like non-stick coating you will be particular with the type of material used in the insert pot.

On the other hand say if you like ceramic you will buy a slow cooker with ceramic insert. Some inserts are aluminum, stainless steel, etc.

Having a “keep warm” feature is helpful. Do you need a programmable timer so the chili can start cooking itself even if you’re out running errands or just getting back to the office after a quick lunch?

Slow Cooker Price

One other thing you need to consider when buying a slow cooker is budget. What is your budget and do you have an estimation of how much slow cookers cost?

Slow cookers range from just under $50 to luxurious ones that cost in the regions of $350. So you must have an idea of what to expect in a slow cooker that costs say under $100 or under $200. Also depending on whether you are looking for a digital one, manual or non-electric.

All these considerations have a bearing on the price. Normally the more feature the more pricey it becomes. That is also necessary to consider the necessary features as opposed to nice to have features.

Slow Cooker Buyers Guide Conclusion

Take a look at what’s on the market and decide what you can and can’t live without. If this is your first slow cooker, start with a very basic model. You can always add another one with more features down the road.

Having more than one slow cooker is definitely not out of the question if you enjoy this way of cooking. You can fix pulled pork on one, and still have room for Mac and cheese or a squash casserole to cook away in the second one as a side dish. And smaller models come in handy for hot dips, appetizers and desserts.

Multiple slow cookers really come in handy around the holidays when you’re fixing a variety of different casseroles and the likes. If you can prepare a few of them in your slow cookers, you don’t have to worry about using up precious oven time. And it’s one more thing you can set and forget.

Head on over to Amazon or take a walk through the small appliance section of your local super store and see what your options and price ranges are. Take a look at the reviews on Amazon and see what folks like and what they don’t like. Then make an informed decision and get your first slow cooker. When you get it to the house is when the real fun starts… cooking with it.