You handle the morning mayhem that is getting the kids off to school, put in a solid nine hours of work at the office, then rush around like a chicken with its head cut off between picking up the kids, shuttling them to their activities, running errands, etc. And after all of that, you’re expected to have a healthy, homemade meal on the table at 6 p.m. for family dinner? Yeah right.
But before you resort to the McDonald’s drive-thru yet again (no judgment, by the way!), consider investing in the best slow cooker or the best Crock Pot instead. People—especially busy parents—are obsessed with the popular appliances because they basically do all of the work for you. All you have to do is set it and forget it. Think about how nice it will be to come home to *ready* chicken and dumplings, short ribs, garlic parmesan chicken, vegan chili. Hmmm…
Sounds too good to be true, right? But it’s not—and to help you choose the best slow cooker, we’ve rounded up eight of the top-rated ones below. Whether you’re looking for a portable Crock-Pot or the wildly trendy Instant Pot, these are the slow cookers that will make mealtime way easier.
Cooking ain’t easy. But it’s a heck of a lot less work when you have a programmable slow cooker like this one. The 4.5-quart Crock-Pot has four different settings—which can cook your food for up to 10 hours—that only require the push of a button to start. And even better? It has an automatic “keep warm” function that turns on as soon as your food is finished cooking—so when you inevitably get stuck at soccer practice for an extra 30 minutes, dinner will still be piping hot when you get home. Reviewers also like that the sturdy hinged lid along with the easy-to-hold handles make serving as easy as cooking (you can carry your crock right from the counter to the table!).
Like husbands who can cook, clean, and get the kids ready for school in the morning, we all want—and love—things that serve multiple purposes. And few things are as versatile as this all-in-one appliance from Cuisinart, which can slow cook, steam, or saute a delicious meal with zero work on your part. Along with a digital display that’s easy to use and lets you track your food’s temperature and cook time, the Cuisinart has a spacious non-stick aluminum crock that’s even—wait for it—dishwasher-safe. No wonder it has over 2,600 glowing reviews on Amazon, with customers saying that the slow cooker is incredibly efficient, cooks food perfectly evenly, and is a cinch to clean up at the end.
We all have that one friend who’s a little bit too obsessed with their Instant Pot. And while no, you really don’t want to hear about how it changed their life for the 300th time, their love for the trendy kitchen appliance is well-warranted. After all, the Instant Pot Duo isn’t just a pressure cooker (and steamer… and sauteer… etc.), it’s also a slow cooker—and a good one, at that. Equipped with a 6-quart stainless steel pot that’s both durable and dishwasher-safe, the Duo also uses a high-tech microprocessor to monitor the temperature, time, and heat and adjusts accordingly as your food cooks. I.e. you don’t have to worry about checking your food every 20 minutes to make sure it’s actually on track for your 6 p.m. dinnertime. The Instant Pot’s got your back.
Whether you have a big family or you’re cooking for a crowd, sometimes a standard slow cooker just isn’t going to cut it. Enter this oversized one, which has a large 8-quart capacity that’s big enough to hold an entire 8-pound roast chicken and an oval shape that can fit even the bulkiest, most awkward of vegetables. Available in bright red or sleek back, the slow cooker also has easy-grip handles for toting around and a “keep warm” setting that’s perfect for those nights when dinner is a little later than expected. Bonus: Both the mess-free glass lid and the removable stoneware crock are 100 percent dishwasher-safe so you can just put them in when you’re finished. No hours of scrubbing by hand required.
There are few things more depressing than opening up the office refrigerator at noon and pulling out yet another soggy salad or container of undeterminable congealed leftovers. Upgrade your sad desk lunch with this mini Crock-Pot in one of your favorite colors. Its small size (it can hold a perfectly-portioned 20 ounces of food) combined with its lightweight travel handle makes it easily portable for meals on the go. But perhaps the best (and coolest) feature is its removable warming base. You can leave the base—which plugs in and gently heats your food—at your desk, then simply tote the tiny pot back and forth each day, eliminating the need for even a microwave. Let’s just say you’re about to be the envy of all of your coworkers.
There’s a reason people are so obsessed with KitchenAid—the brand is known for high-quality, long-lasting appliances. And this slow cooker is no different. It has over 1,000 glowing reviews on Amazon, with happy home chefs raving that the removable oval crock is easy to handle and clean and that the temperature control is on point. Not only can you can program cooking for up to 24 hours in 30-minute increments, but the KitchenAid will automatically switch to its “keep warm” setting when your food is done. More impressively, that “keep warm” setting will stay on for up to four hours (!!) before it shuts itself off, which is a safety feature every busy parent will appreciate.
Slow cooker, pressure cooker, or steamer? The correct answer is all of the above—and more. This majorly upgraded Crock-Pot has 13 pre-programmed cook settings (including browning, sauteeing, and boiling) so you can start dinner by simply dumping in your ingredients and pressing a button. Plus, the crock itself is metal—as opposed to the usual ceramic—so its much more durable, crack-resistant, and truly non-stick. Said crock also has an extra large 8-quart capacity that can feed up to seven people (i.e. enough for the whole family and leftovers). And what do the Crock-Pot’s 1,200+ reviewers have to say? One person calls it “the smartest purchase I’ve ever made” while another gushes, “This is a versatile appliance that I use most every day. It’s an absolute game-changer.”
Why settle for one slow cooker when you could have three? That’s what you’ll get with this brilliant appliance, which has three 2.5-quart removable inserts. It’s especially perfect for anyone who loves entertaining or throwing parties—you’ll never have to worry about trying to keep one dish warm while you frantically try to cook the others. Each insert has its own heat controls (low, medium, and high) so you can cook three entirely different dishes at the same time without under- or over-cooking any of them. Plus, not only does the compact design make this slow cooker easier to store than three bulky individual appliances, it’s also ideal for laying out a build-your-own bar (think: baked potatoes with cheese sauce and broccoli or nachos with queso and chili).
Want to make mealtime—and your life—even easier? Check out all of our favorite home and kitchen products here.