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Slow Cookers

How to Buy a Slow Cooker

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When buying a slow cooker, consider three factors: size and shape, features, and cost.

Size and Shape

Slow cookers range in size from one quart to 12 quarts:

Best For . . .
4 quarts or less
Cooking for individuals; preparing dips and snacks
4–6 quarts
Family use
6+ quarts
Entertaining; preparing extra food for freezing

Most slow cookers are either oval or round. Though the shape won’t affect how the slow cooker functions, it may affect how the machine fits in your kitchen or on your available countertop space.


The slow cooker you buy should have these two features:

  • High and low heat settings
  • Auto-shift, which turns the cooker from high heat to low after a period of time that you can set

Slow cooking is so easy that any cooker with just these two features should be able to handle any slow cooking job. Never buy a slow cooker that lacks these features.

Additional Features

Some slow cookers have more advanced features that might interest you but are not essential:

  • “Keep warm” setting: Keeps food warm. Helpful when serving directly from the crock at buffets.
  • Programmable touchpad: Provides more flexibility than auto-shift in selecting heat settings.
  • Machine-washable crock: Makes cleanup after cooking simpler and easier.

Slow Cooker Cost

Slow cookers are fairly inexpensive. You shouldn’t have to spend more than the following:

  • $25–35 for small models (less than 4 quarts)
  • $40–55 for medium models (4–6 quarts)
  • $60–90 for larger models (6–12 quarts)

Beware of “False” Slow Cookers

Not all “slow cookers” are slow cookers. You can spot and avoid impostor slow cookers by watching out for two things:

  • They provide intermittent—not continuous—heat
  • They have a separate heating element beneath, rather than within, the metal base

False slow cookers aren’t suitable for most slow cooker recipes. They tend to scorch food and make it stick to the crock.

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