Choosing a Slow Cooker

It’s fair to say many of our criteria remain the same today as 4 years ago:

  • To feed our families of 4 and 5 people 4 qt is sufficient for family dining but 6-7qt gives the added capacity to scale up for guests and events.

  • A programmable slow cooker with a keep warm function and preferably a stove proof insert, although this is not entirely necessary. Newer models now include an electric, built in sauté function. Also relatively new to the market is the Instant Pot which Jane uses frequently. It is a multi functional pressure cooker, slow cooker and rice cooker with a built in sauté function. She LOVES it!

  • Durability is key because we use our slow cookers frequently. From our extensive testing, the more pricey brands also deliver the best durability.

  • A few years of recipe testing and we have accumulated a number of slow cookers of varying sizes so we’ve presented what we think are the best choices in the table below.

UPDATED JANUARY 2017: The well known Cooks Illustrated magazine presented the results of their most recent tests in an article “Searching out the Best Slow Cooker.” Note: Not all brands were tested so we include our own choice of All Clad, tried and tested in our own kitchens.

Cooks Illustrated Highly Recommended:

KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker with Solid Glass Lid $99.

Cuisinart 6-Quart 3-in-1 Cook Central with built in sauté function $110

Cooks Illustrated Recommended:

Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System with built in sauté function $130

The slow cookers that we personally use and recommend:

Instant Pot Multi Functional $99

Hamilton Beach Stovetop friendly Slow Cooker at Amazon 6qt aluminum insert

Crock Pot Touchscreen ceramic insert

Williams Sonoma for All Clad Slow Cooker 7qt aluminum insert

Sur La Table for All Clad Slow Cooker 4qt Ceramic Insert

Williams Sonoma for All Clad Slow Cooker 4qt Deluxe aluminum insert

Crate and Barrel for All Clad Slow Cooker 6.5qt ceramic insert








ALL CLAD 4qt Ceramic Insert


yes set to 30 minute increments



ALL CLAD 4qt Aluminium Insert (non stick PTFE coated)


yes set to 30 minute increments



ALL CLAD 7qt Aluminum Insert (non stick PTFE coated)


yes set to 30 minute increments



HAMILTON BEACH 6 qt  (non stick PTFE coated)


yes set to 30 minute increments



ALL CLAD               6.5 qt


yes set to 30 minute increments




Boil it, Bag it, Slow Cook it, Serve it!

Heat retention cooking method requires no electricity!

It works on a buy one – give one model. Read more about this product.





16 thoughts on “Choosing a Slow Cooker

  1. Looks like the All-Clad has a nonstick cast-ALUMINUM insert (different than cast iron, no?)… Any hesitations about the safety of that?

    • Dear Sabrina

      The All-Clad non stick insert is cast-Aluminium. I am waiting for a response from All Clad to confirm that it is Anodized, an electro-chemical process that hardens it.

      I will post their response.

      Best wishes

      • Any news from All-clad about the safety of the aluminum insert? I just received a 7 quart as a gift and I’m hesitant to use it.


        • Hi

          All Clad have not responded on the safety issue, we will contact them once again and hope to get a response. There is a lot of information available on the internet. Currently, the EPA states:

          “Consumer products made with fluoropolymers and fluorinated telomers, such as Teflon and other trademark products, are not PFOA. PFOA is used as a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers and can be also be produced by the breakdown of some fluorinated telomers. The information that EPA has available does not indicate that the routine use of consumer products poses a concern. At present, the EPA does not recommend any steps for consumers to take to reduce exposures to PFOA.”

          We appreciate you need to consider this in your choice of slow cooker. We hope this helps Amy.

          Jane and Meg

  2. So…. I see that your criteria includes cast iron stovetop use and non of the listed slow cookers meet that criteria.

    I’m currently searing in a Le Cruset and then slow cooking in a standard timer ceramic slow cooker. The hassle is that I have two pans to clean up and when I am done searing, I have to deglaze the Dutch oven if I want all the lovely flavor. Lots of work.

    I really need someone like Lodge to make a cast iron cooker with temp probe hot plate for slow cooking.

    Did you ever hear back from All Clad?

    • We are awaiting a response from All Clad and we will update our pages accordingly.

      While the inserts appear to be Aluminium, I’m certain they are hard anodized.

      I will keep you updated and thank you for the question.

    • All Clad replied with this:

      The stovetop model we recommend has a Cast Aluminum Insert which is non-stick coated using PTFE.

      Thank you for your patience. We’d be happy to answer any other questions, and have since updated this page.

    • Hi

      Thank you for the message. The All Clad Deluxe range includes the aluminum insert, now available in 2 sizes. There is also a ceramic version. The links on our web page reflect the models pertaining to our criteria and/or suggestions. Please accept our apologies for any confusion. Amazon perhaps don’t have any vendors (other than private individuals) who sell these particular slow cookers in which case follow our links to those retailers and manufacturers who do. Please let us know if we can help further and we hope you find the one you want.

      Best wishes
      Jane and Meg

  3. I love cooking in my crock pot but recently it seems as if it is running hot. I am adjusting recipes to cook on low, but for the high temp times. Is there a guideline or way to determine what the actual temperature should be on low or on high? Is it universal among slow cookers? Thanks for your time and knowledge.

  4. I have been trying to find a slow cooker that has BOTH the ability to be used on a gas stovetop AND a temperature probe. I don’t need (or even particularly want) anything larger than a 6 qt, I think 4 or 5 is more ideal for us (just me and hubby). Do you have any suggestions?

    • Hi and thank you for your question. After reviewing the models available, there doesn’t appear to be a specific gas stove proof insert which also includes a temperature probe adapted lid. However, I can suggest that the Hamilton Beach 6qt stove top model which I use, does have a small vent in the lid which you could potentially put a thermometer in. I can do so in mine. I hope this helps.


  5. Thanks for all your hard work. I love using my All Clad 7 qt with non-stick insert, but am concerned that it may have lead. I have searched online and it seems that many have posed the question, but All Clad doesn’t give a definitive “no” answer. What do you think?

    • Dear Lia

      This is a tricky one. The market is evolving and new products are emerging without the coating you mention. As yet, we haven’t seen it used in slow cookers, but hope it will. The answer we received from All Clad is copied below for you to see:

      Please reach out to us if you have any further questions. We have other recommendations for slow cookers with ceramic inserts on our Getting Started pages.

      Best wishes
      Jane and Meg

      “Thank you for contacting us in reference to your concerns with non-stick coating. Our non-stick coatings contain PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), a remarkable plastic polymer. This is the slippery ingredient that makes the non-stick finish. PTFE is made up of “tetra fluoro ethylene” molecules that contain only carbon and fluorine. The non-stick coating is not attacked by acid or alkali bases and is very stable when heated. Health authorities in the US, Canada, France, Europe and other countries have approved non-stick PTFE coatings for use on cookware. Actually, it is an inert substance which does not enter into chemical reactions with food, water, or household cleaners. If ingested, it is totally innocuous to the body. Non-stick is so safe it is frequently used by the medical profession
      for coating heart stimulators, small pipes used as replacement arteries, and has even been injected into patients with serious kidney conditions.

      To cause any possible hazard to the consumer, it would be necessary to heat 36 non-stick frying pans simultaneously to 750° F. Since in a domestic kitchen the maximum temperature possible to which a pan can normally be heated is approximately 575° F, there is no risk should a pan be accidentally overheated.

      Please note that any material overheated at a high enough temperature will emit fumes. Fumes from overheated non-stick cookware will not adversely affect humans or household pets with the exception of birds.

      **** Birds’ delicate respiratory systems are highly sensitive to everyday kitchen fumes resulting from ordinary cooking, whether using non-stick or uncoated cookware. Users should observe good cooking practices and never allow non-stick cookware to overheat. For safety, veterinarians recommend that birds always be kept in a well-ventilated room away from the kitchen.”

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