I’ll freely admit I’m obsessed with my slow cooker. Sure, I didn’t name my firstborn “Crockpot,” but that’s only because my wife put her foot down. “It’s an old Irish name,” I protested, convincing no-one.
As a time-poor and cash-strapped freelancer, I rely on my Crockpot to transform the cheapest cuts of meat into delectable meals that massage my tastebuds into a blissful sense of euphoria, momentarily distracting me from the unpaid invoices and mounting utility bills. A regular favorite is pulled pork, which involves submerging a pork shoulder into in a seasoned broth of hard cider and barbecue sauce until it disintegrates into a sticky, meaty, tender mess.
And unlike other methods of cooking, slow cookers require the least amount of attention. Most recipes involve chucking your ingredients into a bowl and returning hours later, once the slow cooker has done its magic. This means you can prepare your dinner in the morning, allowing you to return home to the smell of an already-cooked fajita casserole or Lancashire hotpot.
And the best part? They’re cheap. You can easily get a brand-name slow cooker for less than $20, and it’ll do the job.
Hamilton Beach 3-Quart Slow Cooker
Our first contender is a bargain-basement slow cooker from Hamilton Beach, currently retailing at $18.11. This dead-simple product lacks the bells-and-whistles of more expensive rivals, most notably a timer. However, it scores points on size. With a volume of just three quarts, it’s perfect for singletons or couples living in tiny apartments. And both the lid and stoneware are dishwasher safe, making cleanup a breeze.
Crock-Pot Cook & Carry 6-Quart
Get a slow cooker that’s big enough, and you can cook a hearty and healthy meal for the entire family. This model from Crock-Pot holds twice the volume as the aforementioned model from Hamilton Beach, giving you enough capacity to make delicious stews and roasts for up to eight people. It also comes with deep handles, allowing you to easily carry it to the table — and even pot-lucks! Best of all, at under $30, it’s nothing short of a steal.
Hamilton Beach Portable 6-Quart Set & Forget Slow Cooker
Like the previous slow cooker, this model from Hamilton Beach has a massive six-quart capacity. It also comes with several features that make it a compelling buy. With its digital timer, you can ensure you never over-cook your pot roasts. It also comes with a temperature probe, which shows if your chicken is dangerously undercooked, or if your topside is sufficiently rare. And, for those living with children, it comes with a pair of locking clips to prevent any dangerous spills.
Instant Pot DUO60 6
The Instant Pot has a die-hard following thanks to its incredible versatility. Yes, it’s a slow cooker, but it’s also a rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and more. This, in essence, means it can replace many of the bulky kitchen gadgets gathering dust. The six-quart version, ideal for a two-person household, costs $65 on Amazon.
Crock-Pot 8-Quart Multi-Use XL Express
Predictably, Crock-Pot, one of the largest brands in the slow cooker space, has its own take on the Instant Pot. This one replicates much of the functionality of the Instant Pot, but also comes with several specific pressure cooker settings, allowing you to get the best results whether you’re cooking rice, stew, or even a tasty dessert. And, with eight quarts of volume, it’s big enough to feed a mid-sized family.
Ninja Auto-iQ Multi/Slow Cooker
This tasty number is the Swiss Army knife of slow cookers. Sure, it can stew and sauté with the best of them, but also comes with 80 built-in slow cooker recipes. Just add the ingredients, and it’ll automatically cook it for the right amount of time. It can also apply heat in three different ways, giving different results for exceptional results.
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