Whether you want to cook healthier meals or don’t have the time to plan a full-on feast, these appliance require minimal prep in exchange for cooking sublime slow-cooker recipes. It doesn’t matter whether you’re cooking for yourself or for a crowd, because the best part about these adaptable devices is that there’s something out there for every person and lifestyle. Here are some factors to keep in mind while shopping:
Capacity: We’re not just talking about the quantity of food your slow cooker can make at a time. First, you’ll want to take into account how much space you have in your kitchen and on your counters for usage and storage. It’s no use dropping cash on a small appliance only to never use it because it doesn’t fit underneath your cabinets or is too wide to securely place on your counter.
Curious as to what size slow cooker is best for a single person? During testing, the Good Housekeeping Institute found that smaller models—so, 4 quarts or less—“produced a superior beef stew to slow cookers that had a capacity of 6 quarts or more.” Pair that with being less bulky and easier to lift and you’re sure to be a happy camper, whether it’s just you or two of you.
That being said, if you tend to cook bigger batches because you have a larger family or just love some good leftovers (and who doesn’t?), there are models available that are as large as eight quarts to meet your needs.
Temperature settings: At the very least, slow cookers have two temperature settings: High, which usually reaches about 212° , and low, which clocks in just above 200° . If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can find models with settings like browning meat, making rice, even sous vide.
The most handy feature to look for, especially when you’re using your slow cooker while you’re out and about for the day: a “keep warm” setting, which usually hovers about 20° above the recommended temperature for food safety at around 165°.
Features: In addition to the aforementioned browning, rice-making, and sous vide settings that some models offer, you can find a slow cooker that can do just about anything, from air frying to monitoring your food’s internal temperature with a built-in probe thermometer. Some appliances even offer additional conveniences to fit your lifestyle, like “delay start” settings and ovular shaped if you often plan on slow-cooking roast beef.
They can even come with nonstick inserts (which are more ideal than ceramic options because they’re typically lighter and easier to hand-wash) or lockable lids and rubber gaskets to effortlessly transport your food.