Finding the best slow cooker
Most home cooks have a slow cooker. It’s the perfect set-it-and-forget-it appliance—add your ingredients, set the time, and you’ll have a phenomenal home-cooked meal by the time you get home from work. And when the weather cools down and all you want are comforting meals, that slow cooker becomes your BFF. You probably didn’t know you can make these 7 things in a slow cooker.
However, we bet you never thought twice about your trusty slow cooker. As it turns out, there are plenty of differences between the brands (beyond just size and color). Some offer expanded cook options outside the basic low and high, while others advertise themselves as being travel-friendly with special clips to keep that lid on tight—who among us hasn’t tipped over a slow-cooked dish to pass on the way to a potluck? Considering all these features and how much we rely on this appliance, the Test Kitchen had to find the best slow cooker out there.
To find the Best Loved Brand, our sister site, Taste of Home’s culinary team used several slow cooker options to prepare your recipes. Over several months, their cooks and food stylists got a feel for each brand. Then they created a series of tests where they could see how each performed side by side. To find out which brand was best, the staff recorded how each gadget handled these essential tasks:
- Slow cooking chicken: We cooked chicken breasts on the highest setting in a sauce of stock, cream, and butter. How long did it take for the chicken to reach temperature (165ºF)? Did the cream curdle?
- Slow cooking a beef pot roast: We cooked beef on the slow cooker’s lowest setting. How tender did the meat become?
- Controls, settings, and features: Were the controls and settings easy to understand and use? Were the extra features useful?
- Price: Is the product affordable? Is it well priced for how well it performed?
The Best Slow Cooker: Chefman Slow Cooker with Stoneware Crock
via chefman.comIf you can believe it, the best slow cooker, according to the Test Kitchen, wasn’t the biggest name in the business (though we did test it!). Instead, it was a smaller brand with a totally new style of crock. Here’s why we’re trading in the old Test Kitchen slow cookers for a Chefman Stoneware Crock model ($44).
Features we loved
- Stoneware crock: The unique stoneware crock was the Test Kitchen’s favorite feature. In addition to working with the slow cooker base, it could be used in the oven or heated on the stovetop. That means when it comes to prepping some slow cooker meals, like pot roast, you can brown the meat and then slow cook it all in one pan. No need to get your cast iron pan dirty browning that chuck roast.
- Dishwasher-safe crock: When you’re done with your slow cooker meal, you can pop the stoneware crock right into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. This stoneware insert is the slow cooker gift that keeps on giving.
- Beautiful aesthetics: We know that the look of a product has nothing to do with its performance, but we appreciate a good-looking gadget when we see one. We love how Chefman’s slow cooker looks sitting on the countertop.
- Price: Chefman’s standard 5-quart slow cooker costs less than $45.
How it performed
Chefman’s stoneware slow cooker passed all their tests with flying colors, garnering a perfect score from the Test Kitchen.
When it came to cooking chicken in cream sauce, this brand produced perfectly cooked chicken in two hours. As for the cream sauce—it simmered nicely but never curdled.
But what really impressed the culinary team was how well the pot roast turned out. After cooking low and slow for a few hours, the pot roast came out fork tender and ready for a cozy, cold-weather dinner. What put it over the top, though, was that the roast could be browned in the crock right on the stovetop—no need to dirty another pan. This extra step isn’t necessary, but it adds some depth of flavor to your roast.
This stellar performance, along with the affordable price, had Taste of Home’s food stylists and cooks singing Chefman’s praises. This slow cooker exceeded their expectations, and we’re happy to recommend it. Before you start cooking, make sure you never put these foods in your slow cooker.
We also recommend…
via amazon.com, bedbathandbeyond.com
While the Chefman blew us away with its slow cooking skills, these two brands are also worth your consideration.
- KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker ($60, left): We loved the slow-and-steady way this KitchenAid cooked—we didn’t notice any temperature spikes during the cook time, something that was common in other models. We were both intrigued and perplexed by the medium setting because we’ve never seen a recipe that requires it.
- Cuisinart 6½-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker ($100, right): Given its big base, this slow cooker from Cuisinart takes up more counter space than many other models. That said, we liked the easy-to-use control panel, which includes a 24-hour timer and an automatic warming function for your finished dish. Now, try out these non-food uses for your slow cooker.