Approximate retail price: $299.00
Features: The unit (shown above) can slow cook, brown, sauté and steam foods, eliminating the use of your oven or multiple pans. It has a 6-quart nonstick cooking pot, 24-hour timer, a see-through glass lid, simmer setting and recipe book. All components are BPA-free, according to the manufacturer.
Warranty: Limited 3-year warranty
Pros: Good Housekeeping called it “one of our top picks in the slow cooker test,” saying “although it's pricey, you get a lot of bang for your buck, since this device can also be used as an electric roaster, skillet or steamer.” Amazon reviewers praised the device with 4.8 stars out of 5, saying the slow cooker is “so easy I almost think I've forgotten to do something,” and “so versatile and so easy to use and clean.” Many specifically praised the slow cooker's ability to brown or sauté food in the same pan. Crockpot Review says, “Although it costs a little more than ordinary slow cookers, this machine is definitely worth it.” The 3-year warranty is also longer than what most manufacturers offer.
Cons: Although reviews for this product are generally very high, some owners had issues. Good Housekeeping said “the insert became discolored when we washed it in the dishwasher and the unit boiled our beef roast on high.” Amazon only had one 1-star review, which said the product broke after one use.
Why this model is the best: This slow cooker is pricer than many others on the market, but if you’re looking for a model that can serve multiple purposes in your kitchen, owners say it is worth the investment.
Approximate retail price: $49.89
Features: This 6-quart slow cooker has a digital timer (for cook times from 30 minutes to 20 hours) and high, low and warm settings. A locking gasket lid seals food in for easy transport. The lid and stoneware are dishwasher safe.
Warranty: 1-year limited warranty
Pros: Walmart customers said, “WOW! This unit blew me away,” and “I like the fact that you can take the ceramic piece out and put it in the dishwasher.” An Amazon review said, “This one cooks evenly, never scorches, and the casing is surprisingly lightweight! The oval shape also makes it easier for me to store.”
Cons: A few Amazon reviewers complained that the device gets too hot and burns food, even on the low setting: “The "warm" setting is a little too hot for some things like pulled pork, but fine for chilis and soups.” Others complained about a burning plastic smell and the power cord being too short.
Why this model is the best: This mid-priced slow cooker is ideal for potlucks, parties or any time you want to travel with hot food.
Approximate retail price: $27.99
Features: This 4-quart slow cooker has a dishwasher safe lid and removable stoneware interior pot and high, low and warm temperature settings.
Warranty: Limited 1-year warranty
Pros: Amazon customers said, “Sure, it's not a top brand with an LED panel or huge capacity. It's not fancy or flashy. But it cooks a damn good roast.” And: “It's a nice, lightweight, no bells-and-whistles, functional and well-made appliance that stays right on my counter!” Sears customers also rated it highly; one said, "The heat settings are just right and the ceramic crock does not get too hot to the touch when you go to remove it."
Cons: Several Amazon customers complained that the plastic knob broke. One said, “I checked their web site and a replacement knob and shipping costs about as much as a new unit - too bad because I'd be perfectly happy just replacing the part.” Another said, “Biggest thing I didn't realize before buying this: there is no light indicating that it has turned on. Not exactly a deal breaker at all but did surprise me.”
Why this model is the best: Looking for a no-frills slow cooker? This basic model doesn't cost much and comes highly recommended. Just be careful with that plastic knob.
Approximate retail price: $17.99
Features: This 4-quart slow cooker has a dishwasher safe glass lid and removable stoneware and high, low and warm settings.
Warranty: 1 year
Pros: iVillage contributing food editor Sharon Bowers says this model is low-tech but she loves it for that reason. “What I really use it for is cooking beans. My kids love black beans and if we remembered to put on our rice cooker in the morning, dinner is almost totally ready when we get home,” she says. “You can lift out the stoneware liner and serve it right at the table, and it's also much easier to clean that way. And it's really inexpensive, unlike the fancier ones with timers and thermometers and more elaborate settings."
Cons: “It's a big, clunky thing in my cabinet under my sink,” Bowers says. “Normally I do not like appliances that do only one thing, but you can cook so many different foods in this, even though I mainly cook beans, that I argue to myself that it's not a single-purpose appliance. So I never get rid of it despite its awkward size. And I don't buy the smaller 1.5 quart because you can't cook a whole pound of beans in it!”
Why this model is the best: It's dirt cheap, easy to use and gets the job done. What more could you ask for?