How to Choose a Slow Cooker

how to choose a slow cookerOne of the questions I get asked most often is, “What is the best kind of slow cooker to buy?”

I don’t know that there is one best model of slow cooker.  You certainly don’t need the latest and greatest to make delicious meals for your family.  But there are a few things to consider before buying.  

Slow Cooker Size

Slow cookers work best when they are nearly full.  If they only have  small amount of food in them, they tend to overcook the food.

If you’re shopping for a slow cooker to use for main dishes, match the size to your family size.

  • For a family of 6-8 people, buy a 6 quart slow cooker.
  • For a family of 4-5 people, buy a 5 quart slow cooker.
  • For a family of 2-3 people, buy a 4 quart slow cooker.

If you’re looking for a cooker for breakfast oatmeal, you’ll want a 1.5 – 2 quart model.

Even with a family of 6, there are times that I find a 3-4 quart model would be nice.  For some side dishes and desserts, my six quart cooker is bigger than I’d like.

Other features to consider


Generally, as long as you can choose “high” or “low” cooking, you’re good to go.  But there are other features that are nice.

“Keep warm” is a good setting to have.  I don’t use this one often, but it’s nice when someone is coming in late for dinner or if I’m using the crockpot during a party.

Programmable slow cookers are also nice, but this can mean several different things.  I have one that is programmable, but the cooking times are limited.  It does kick over to “keep warm” when the cook time is up though.

Fully programmable slow cookers let you choose the temperature and the any number of hours/minutes you need.  This is a lot more useful and worth paying for if you’re out of the house and can’t watch the food.

Take Along

If you like to take a crockpot full of hot food to pitch-in dinners, be sure to buy one with a lid that locks and seals.

Oval or Round

I have both an oval and a round slow cooker.  I like them both, shapes equally well.  Shape is just a matter of preference.

My favorite recommendation

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This one by Hamilton Beach is my favorite.  I recommend it a lot.  That said, I do not own one of these and have never used one.  I like this model because it’s programmable, has a lid that locks, and is a 6 quart, which is the size I need most often for my family.  It also has a meat probe, which could come in handy, but I would probably never use it.  I also like the price of $49.99.  It’s a good price for that many features.

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This white one is similar to the one above, but it is only a 5 quart.  It’s nice, if you’re looking for something smaller or just like the white color.  But at $59.95, it does cost more.  I have no idea why.

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Finally, this Cuisinart will brown, steam and slow cook.  It comes in both a 6 quart and 4 quart size and is fully programmable.  I’ve never used one, but it gets great reviews on Amazon.  It’s quite a big pricier than the other models though.

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  1. I just bought a Hamilton Beach model that has the metal insert that can be used on the stove top for browning and searing and I love it. I find the ones with the built in browning just don’t get hot enough to properly brown or sear meats.

  2. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that u took your time to answer my question..I always had a eye on the Hamilton one that u mentioned but was little hesitant.Thank you..

  3. I have a Hamilton Beach 6 qt one similar to the one that you have above, my only difference is that it doesn’t have a locking lid (it wasn’t available when I was gifted it). I love it for roasts or anything that is better flat. I love my older round one for soups or sauces, that I have to put over something. It’s better to scoop out. I also have a small one that’s great for dips and when I’m only cooking for myself and my two small children. But that one only has one setting, plug me in.

  4. Rachel Fairchild says:

    Have the Hamilton Beach one with a locking lid. I got it as a gift 3 years ago and use it at least once a week. I love it very much! I love the locking lid; no more spilled yummies in my car! I have never used the temperature probe. I would highly recommend it. It does not sear the meat but if that needs done I do that before putting it in. Great slow cooker though.

  5. Debbie Thurmond says:

    I absolutely LOVE crock pots. I use them a lot and simply could not live without them. I have every size and use them all for different things. My 4 quart is a Rival that I got for a wedding gift 34 years ago. It still heats evenly and cooks to perfection! I have been somewhat disappointed with a couple of very expensive digital crockpots. They all seem to eventually not maintain even heating. They get too hot on the sides and bottom. So for me, simpler is better.

  6. Jay Alison says:

    I’m looking to buy a slow cooker and just read your article. I am disappointed to read that you have never tried the slow cookers that you are recommending. How can you recommend them if you’ve never used them? What slow cooker do you have and why aren’t you recommending that one?

    • Unfortunately, I don’t have the budget or space required to review a lot of slow cookers. I own a basic Hamilton Beach 6 qt and a Crockpot brand oval shape. Both get the job done. I also own a 2 quart Rival that is good for small things, like oatmeal. Most of the basic type slow cookers are similar. If you’re looking for one like that, you probably can’t go wrong.

  7. pennyi do says:

    I have one that lacks a rubber seal around the lid. It pops and spatters liquid. I will never purchase another one without a seal!

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