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Best slow cooker 2021: our top 5 for easy meals

Our Homes and Gardens edit of the five best slow cookers you can buy, with top picks from Crock Pot, Cuisinart, and more

Best slow cookers
(Image credit: Calphalon)

The best slow cookers are an essential for every kitchen. Combining convenience with great quality food, this is a brilliant low-effort way to cook for a family or prepare meals for the week ahead, all in one pot. 

There are hundreds of slow cookers from dozens of brands on the market, so finding the one that's right for you can be overwhelming. That's why we've selected the cream of the crop, from high-end to affordable cookers suitable for anyone from small households to large families. 

Much like the best toaster ovens, a slow cooker can offer many functions. In fact, two of our top five best slow cookers also have modes for steaming, roasting, and sauté.

Best slow cooker

Crock-Pot MyTime Slow Cooker

(Image credit: Crock-Pot)

1. Crock-Pot MyTime Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker overall: for easy programming and no-prep meals

Specifications
Dimensions: 14.4 x 14.3 x 9.7 inches
Capacity: 6-quart
Settings: Meal type, quanitity, temperature, schedule, maual
Reasons to buy
+Choose manual or smart modes+Schedule meals in advance+Automatic adjustment
Reasons to avoid
-No lock-down lid

The Crock-Pot MyTime Slow Cooker has all the perks of a digital slow cooker, with the option to set your timer in advance or simply slip into manual mode.

What we love

The Crock-Pot MyTime Slow Cooker is smart. It has the option to select the type of food you're cooking (meat, poultry, soup, veggies) and the volume (under or over 2 pounds, for example) for automatically adjusted timings and temperatures.

Alternatively, tap into manual mode for following recipes of your own. You can set the clock and use this to schedule your cooking ahead of time, which is perfect for those four-hour meals that you want to arrive home to, without having to be in the house to set the slow cooker into motion in the afternoon. 

Features

The six-quart capacity is the perfect middle-ground for making family-sized meals, while still being able to make smaller portions. Its shape is also well-suited to ribs, pulled pork, and even whole chickens.

Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker

(Image credit: Calphalon)

2. Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for maximum flavor: sear your ingredients before you cook them

Specifications
Dimensions: 17.78 x 14.37 x 23.19 inches
Capacity: 5.3 Quarts
Settings: Warm, low, high
Reasons to buy
+Removable dish for searing+High quality finish+Durable ceramic design
Reasons to avoid
-The shape won't work for some cuts of meat

The Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker is a great for foodies who want to pack their meal with maximum flavor. It's got an oven-safe ceramic insert that can also work on electric and gas cooktops. 

Why we love it

The finish is undeniably high-quality, with simple but tactile controls and a dial to set the timer. There are three settings: high, low, and a keep-warm mode to stop your meal from getting cold when it's done cooking.

Ceramic coating is perfect for even heat, and it has a nonstick finish that makes cleaning easy when you're done cooking. 

Features

The capacity is a mid-size 5.3 quarts, but the circular shape means the Calphalon Digital Sauté Slow Cooker is not suited to some cuts of meat such as turkey and pork shoulder. For chuck meat and chicken though, it's perfect. 

You could use it to make delicious soups or even cobblers, because once your filling is done cooking you can put the dish in the oven to brown the top. 

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure CookerH&G gold badge

(Image credit: Instant Pot)

3. Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

Best multi-cooker with a slow cook setting: do much more than slow cooking

Specifications
Dimensions: 13.38 x 12.2 x 12.48 inches
Capacity: 6 Quart
Settings: Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Saute, Steam, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Slow Cook, Keep-Warm, Yogurt, Pasteurize
Reasons to buy
+7 functions+Dishwasher-safe lid and pot+24-hour timer
Reasons to avoid
-An expensive option if all you want is a slow cooker

We've all heard of the iconic Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, and while it's technically a multi-cooker, we couldn't not include it in our best slow cooker guide.

Why we love it

While it's not cheap, for a slow cooker for 14 cooking modes the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker is immensely good value. You can sauté your onions and beef before putting on the pressure cooker lid for some slow cooked casserole. 

There are modes for soup, stew, and chilli, but there are also inserts to stem veggies and fish or pressure cook meat for speedy meals. 

Features

Set your Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker to cook in advance, with a 24-hour timer that will ensure you come home to a hot meal or even wake up to some fresh-cooked oatmeal. 

The dishwasher-safe bowl and lid also make cleaning amazingly straightforward.

Homes & Gardens rated 5 out of 5 stars

Black + Decker

(Image credit: Black + Decker)

4. BLACK+DECKER 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker

Best slow cooker for taking on the go: the clip-on lid makes this perfect for cookouts

Specifications
Dimensions: 14.09 x 17.32 x 9.65 inches
Capacity: 7 Quarts
Settings: Warm, low, high
Reasons to buy
+Clip-on lid+Chalkboard surface+Lid holder
Reasons to avoid
-No preset mode

If you love bringing your culinary creations to cookouts and family gatherings, the BLACK+DECKER 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker is for you. It has a generous 7 quart capacity and the stoneware pot can go in the dishwasher. 

Why we love it

You can cook up your mac and cheese, pulled pork, or chilli in advance of an event and take it along in the BLACK+DECKER 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker. Simply clip on the lid and it will be secure, even in the car.

It's also well-suited to serving, because there is an in-built lid holder that means you can prop it open while people pile their plates high, and then hygienically place the lid back on the stoneware pot. 

Features

The chalkboard exterior is another perk. With the BLACK+DECKER 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker you get two sticks of chalk included, which means you can write your recipe, or make a note of when you need to switch it off, with ease. 

Cuisinart MSC-800 Cook Central 4-in-1 Multi-Cooker

(Image credit: Cuisinart)

5. Cuisinart MSC-800 Cook Central 4-in-1 Multi-Cooker

Best slow cooker for feasting: cook up to 500 degrees with this immense multi-cooker

Specifications
Dimensions: 13.5 x 19.5 x 9.88 inches
Capacity: 7 Quarts
Settings: Slow cook, Roast, Brown/Sauté, Steam
Reasons to buy
+Great temperature range+Versatile dimensions+Cook for up to 24 hours
Reasons to avoid
-A bulky choice

The Cuisinart MSC-800 Cook Central 4-in-1 Multi-Cooker has the dimensions of a roasting tray, which means you can use it for complete one-dish meals and generous servings.

What we love

There are four modes in this slow cooker, and you can brown or saute meat and veggies without even having to take out the insert.

The roasting temperature ranges from 250°F to 450°F, and there is a reversible roasting/steaming rack for added versatility.

Features

A retractable cord means the Cuisinart MSC-800 will not clutter up your counters. When the cooking is over, the lid and pot are dishwasher-safe. 

What is the best slow cooker?

Crock Pot

(Image credit: Crock Pot)

Our top pick of the best slow cookers is the Crock-Pot MyTime Slow Cooker. It allows you to schedule your meals well in advance, and has a family-sized capacity. We also like the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker if you want a multi-cooker to tackle all your slow cooking needs. 

How do I choose the best slow cooker?

Something to consider when buying a slow cooker is whether you’d prefer a digital or manual option. A digital slow cooker will give you more control, allowing you to set timers and automatically switching to keep-warm settings. 

If you don’t mind a slow cooker that requires a little more monitoring, a manual slow cooker will cost far less than its digital counterpart, and will still offer you numerous heat levels and a keep warm setting to keep your meal warm even if it’s finished cooking before dinner. 

In our guide we’ve included both manual and digital slow cookers. While manual slow cookers are cheaper, they cannot be set on a timer or automatically switch to keep warm settings when done cooking, which means they need more supervision. Most slow cookers offer three heat settings - low, high, and keep warm, but some high-end digital slow cookers come with more features. For example, the Calphalon Digital Sauté has an oven-safe cooking pot that allows you to sear and oven-cook ingredients before slow cooking. This allows you to pack in the flavor and seal the moisture in your meat while still keeping your meals one-pot and easy to clean.  

Millie Fender
Millie Fender

Millie has been with the Homes and Gardens team since early 2021, bringing with her a love of cooking appliances and al fresco entertaining. She writes about stand mixers, blenders, and other small appliances, and loves putting barbecues and pizza ovens to the test. Millie thinks that the kitchen is the most important room in any home, but then, she is very biased.