I get a lot of emails asking me what slow cooker I use and what model I recommend someone purchase. This post is my attempt to create a quick and easy resource that allows me to simply copy and paste a link instead of doing actual work. I am surprised by how many people simply do not have slow cookers. You really should have one in your kitchen to expand your ability to plan meals ahead of time, not to mention that you can score one for under twenty dollars. People sometimes email me asking me if they can make my recipes in an oven, and I always reply the same way. Buy yourself a slow cooker and thank me later.
Step 1: Determine your budget
- Slow cookers range from just under $20 for 4-quart manual/analog models to just shy of $50 for a 6-quart with all the bells and whistles.
- Used slow cookers can often be found at second hand stores for around $10.
- Department stores often put slow cookers on sale in their circulars, they are worth checking out. I scored my 4-quart analog Crock Pot for $15.
Step 2: Determine your programming needs
- Cooking longer is not always better. Analog units are less than ideal for those that are away from home all day since they do not have programming timers.
- You can turn your analog/manual slow cooker into a programmable slow cooker with a simple lighting timer. See this post for more info on how to do that.
- If you are someone that is often away from home when you are slow cooking, getting a programmable cooker is a smart idea.
Step 3: Determine what size you need
- If you are cooking for one, just get yourself a 4-quart model.
- 4-quart slow cookers are exclusively manual/analog, so if you require programming capabilities for your lifestyle, just spend a few bucks on a lighting timer to make it programmable.
- If you are cooking for 2 or more, or like to batch cook for the week, definitely get yourself a 6 or 8 quart cooker. You will regret purchasing anything smaller.
- 8-quart slow cookers also all seem to be manual/analog, so once again if you want to make your unit programmable just use this hack.
The 5 models I recommend you purchase
This is your basic entry level 4-quart model. It is almost always available for under $20, and can be made programable with a lighting timer. There is no reason you shouldn’t at least have this model in your kitchen if you are without a slow cooker in your life.
This is the 8-quart analog model I recommend. It is huge and the oval shape is great for large cuts of meat. It is usually priced around $35 and can be hacked into a programmable slow cooker for under $10.
This is your entry level programmable slow cooker. For just under $40 you get a 6-quart unit that you can program, and it also features a locking lid. This is a bonus for those of you that may wish to take a dish to a potluck or family gathering. You don’t have to worry about spilling your slow cooked goodness all over the inside of your trunk.
This is my favorite slow cooker! I have three models in total but this is by far my most used and the model I most often recommend to people. It is going to cost you about $50 yet it is totally worth the price of admission. You get all of the bells and whistles, and there is no need to spend a dollar more on any other model on the market. This is the most you should ever spend on any slow cooker in my opinion. In addition to programming capabilities and a locking lid for transport, you also get a programmable temperature probe! What this means is that you can program your slow cooker to switch down to warming mode once your cut of meat hits a predetermined temperature. All slow cookers will eventually reach over 200 degrees Fahrenheit, even on low if you leave them on long enough. If you are cooking a cut of meat that you do not want to exceed a certain level of doneness, this feature allows you to pull that off. Again, if you can swing the extra bucks, get this model and thank me later.
Ok this one is not a slow cooker, but I already gave you the 4 models I recommend. This lunch warmer is super cool and handy for the office worker. For under $20 this cute little buddy allows you to bring your paleo eats to work and you simply plug it in to warm your meal. No need for a microwave!
Also, see my post on how to hack your analog slow cooker into a programmable unit or Sous Vide machine: