Babble Best Picks:
What better kitchen appliance for busy parents with a family to feed than a slow cooker? Put the food into it after the kids go to sleep, set it to cook while you sleep, and by morning you've got dinner for that night almost done. Alternately, do your prep before you go to work and have the thing finish off dinner while you're at your job. It's pretty comforting after a long day to come home, open your door to the smell of home-cooked food, and know that dinner is already all but finished.
What's more, slow cookers are incredibly inexpensive - our pick for Most Versatile can be found for $49.99 and the Most Economical for as little as $25. For a family of four, that might be less than a single evening of take-out, and your trusted slow cooker will eliminate many desperate, what-to-cook nights when you end up calling for delivery.
I am a veteran and avid slow cooker user. I've had my Rival Crock Watcher for over 20 years, and it's still going strong, despite being put into play at least once a week (see Most Economical below for more information) to cook all manner of things from pork shoulders to dried garbanzo beans to turkey breasts to lamb tagine.
For the purposes of this article, I tested a wide range of slow cookers, both with beans or other legumes and with meat or stews. In general, I didn't find a whole lot of variation in how each cooked the food - instead I found that it's the different features that each slow cooker offers that distinguish them from each other.
-Jack Murnighan, Deputy Editor, Babble
Want to cook both large and small amounts, best is: Hamilton Beach 3-in-1
Are a complete novice and want an auto-cook option, best is: Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget
Cook large amounts and deliver it to parties and the like, best is: Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget
Want the cheapest good option available, best is: Crock Pot 6-Quart-Round
RUNNER-UP | Hamilton Beach Premiere
The Premiere has a nice combination of old-school sturdiness and new-school features and was in the running both for Best Overall and Best with Searing Insert. Its metal insert is safe both for the stove-top (for searing the meat before you slow cook it) and oven-use. I still haven’t come across a time when I’ve wanted both to bake and to slow cook the same dish, but I like the fact that I could if I wanted to (the insert could even double as a big baking dish!). I also liked the feel of this one more than its programmable, bells-and-whistles cousin, so if you don’t need all the new-fangled additions (like programming and the transport clips/gasket), this could be the one for you. And, like the Breville, it allows you to sear your meat on the stovetop, but this version costs significantly less. All around, it performs excellently for the price.