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Market Review: Slow Cooker



Last update: Aug 2017
Among tons of slow cookers out there, finding a good pot luck these days can easily be confused. Besides, these newer versions go farer than the 70-ish ones do. See our simple guide to find best slow cookers for every task for getting the right one.


Best Slow Cooker

Best Programmable Slow Cookers

With programmable features, you can set cooking time and heat level (for example, 4 hours for High and 6 hours for Low) and leave them done, with no further touching. This is a lifesaver for busy people to prepare food without overcooking or dry out.

For mid-price programmable machines, Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget (Est. $50) rules the market for easy to use, good for travelling and practical usage with handy thermo-probe mode. The big rival, Crock-Pot Cook & Carry (Est. $40) programmable shares big piece of cake. This crock is a best-selling for a bit cheaper with longer timer, 20 hours compared with 14 hours of Set ‘n Forget’s, with a locking lid.

As a programmable market dominant, Hamilton Beach also launched many interesting models. Hamilton Beach 33660 (Est. $50) offers flexible programmable options by mix and match any temperature with your choice of cooking times from 30 minutes to 18 hours long. While Hamilton Beach 33861 Flexcook (Est. $50), the newer version, offers even flexible with 3 modes and variable time or heat setting, with a locking lid.

Another famous model, Crock-Pot Countdown Touchscreen (Est.$80), as a former recommended by Cook’s Illustrated, comes with sleek touchscreen has similar features with Cook & Carry programmable but short timer, 14 hours long.

Best Manual Slow Cookers

This is a good option for ones who need a simple machine in affordable price. For manual crocks, you don’t need any bells and whistles than a good reliable one, with quality material.

For this market, Crock-Pot continuously wins. The Crock-Pot Cook & Carry (Est.$35 for 6 quarts) in manual version is our top pick with nice performance and travel-friendly mechanism. We also like their franchisees, the NFL versions, for hooking the season. Hamilton Beach 33461 Stay or Go ($50) is an alternative of Cook & Carry but pricier. Anyway, as an expert manual mechanism, you can find any sizes from Crock-Pot, from 1.5 to 8.5 quarts.

Best for Serious Cooker

If you’re serious about slow cooking technique, you’ll find: a machine that (1) can nicely searing or sautéing before slow cooking process (unless you’ll have to wash another pan), (2) cook really low temperature. For food safety[1], slow cookers nowadays cook considerately hotter than your grandma’s versions and (3) have a thermometer control mechanism(s) for ensuring evenly cooking.

All the criteria passed, Cuisinart Cook Central (Est.$150 for 6 quarts) offers impressively practical browning and sauté modes, as well as programmable slow cooking. From America’s Test Kitchen test[2], it tends to run a bit hotter and faster than KitchenAid (Est.$100) but much easier to set and better to sear. Still, these two slowly heat up/down temperature and evenly cooking and up to 24-hour programmable timer. The KitchenAid hits the point of keeping lowest temperature for long cooking period. While Cuisinart offers more size selections: 4, 6 and 7 quarts. (The 7 quart has Roast mode)

Ninja Cooking System 4-in-1 (Est.$150) allows for 4 cooking functions that useful for slow cooking method as you can sear, brow, slow cook or even roast up to 425°F. A big contender of Cook Central. While All-Clad Gourmet (Est.$300) received much compliment from experts for searing and braising ability and a roomier shallow container, with 20-hour timer. However, for tons of bucks, the two above should be better picks.

Best Multi-Cookers (for Slow Cooking)

All-in-one machines are built for using versatile cooking methods. Still, a good machine for slow cooking should be capable for searing/browning as well as slow cooking for significantly improved results.

Instant Pot Duo (Est.$120) comes with the most extensive features from most-used countertop cookers, such as pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, or sauté. This programmable machine is easy to use in acceptable cooking results and price.

Breville Fast-Slow Pro (Est.$250), a Cadillac multi-cooker, cooks reliably great results for most duties, especially as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker and steamer. Honestly, it’s one of the machine that yields best searing and sautéing, while the reduce mode is unexpectedly useful for simmering.

KitchenAid Multi-Cooker (Est.$350), which offers 10 settings: risotto, rice, sear, sauté, simmer, soup, yogurt, boil/steam, slow cook and keep warm up to 24 hours, delivers beautiful cooking results and appearance. It’s flexible and easy to use but a bit pricey for small 4-quart size compares to the other two in 6-quart capacity.

Best Small Slow Cooker

Typically, most small sizes are found in manual. Crock-Pot shines for these pots as you’ll find many small manual crocks from 1.5- to 8.5-size capacity. Still, for programmable type, Cuisinart PSC-350 (Est.$59), a 3-quart size, is popular for reliable and easy to operate with 25-hour times and automatic Keep Warm mode.

Best Large Slow Cooker

For manual large cookers, Hamilton Beach 33182 (Est.$35) offers roomy 8.5-quart capacity with straightforward but reliable slow cooker. Also, you can find a simple Crock-Pot 8-quart pot (Est.$40) suit your need.

For programmable ones, Magic Mill 8.5-quart (Est.$59) features simple programmable settings from 30 minutes to 20 hours digital timer and a locking-lid mechanism. Alternatively, Elite Platinum MST-900D Maxi-Matic (Est.$59) has the same size, features, and timer period as Magic Mill but has no locking lid. While Gourmia DCP-860 SlowSmart (Est.$59), 8.5-quart size, has similar features but shorter timer and no locking lid.

Best Modern Technology

Perhaps the most famous tech-y slow cooker currently is Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Wi-Fi Enable (Est.$130). Clapping for WeMo app and Bluetooth connectivity for allowing to monitor and remote control your slow cooker from anywhere wi-fi connected. And after era of improvements, it can really work and have less connectivity problems than others, such as Black + Décor.

Instant Pot Smart Bluetooth (Est.159), a Bluetooth-enabled multi-cooker, jumped into the market and seemed success, as well. There’re some issues about the app and usable but agreeably works for all duties. Aside from smart technology, it works like an Instant Pot Duo.






Footnotes
  1. Slow Cookers and Food Safety, Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  2. Slow Cooker, America’ s Test Kitchen.







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