Best Mini Slow Cookers

Updated February 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

20 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
118 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best mini slow cookers

Last Updated February 2019

No kitchen should be without a slow cooker. With this simple appliance, you can create sumptuous soups, stews, chili, tender cuts of meat, and other dishes. The biggest plus is that you can fill the cooker up in the morning and let it cook all day, resulting in a complete and delicious meal that’s ready to eat the moment you return home.

A regular-size slow cooker can be a bit too much for some households. Enter the mini slow cooker. This is a great alternative for those who want the convenience of a slow cooker with a scaled-back output.

Mini slow cookers are great for singles and couples who don’t need nearly as much chicken cacciatore or beef stroganoff as a larger family. It’s also handy for those who want a compact cooker for side dishes and/or a way to keep leftovers warm.

If you are new to slow cooking, look for a product that ships with a robust collection of slow cooker recipes to start you off.

Construction

Any mini slow cooker you consider should be rugged and long-lasting. The exterior should be stainless steel or another other material that resists rust. Note, though, that stainless steel tends to get hotter than some other materials while the cooker is running.

The pot should be attractive enough that you would want to display it in your kitchen or in a party setting. A neutral color like white, while more susceptible to showing stains, would blend well with the majority of kitchen color schemes. If that’s not your style, however, don’t worry; there are enough mini slow cookers on the market that you should be able to find one that matches your decor.

Other primary construction elements to consider include the following.

  • Feet: Many slow cookers have rubber feet that provide extra stability on your counter.

  • Handles: Any handles for carrying should be rugged and attached sturdily to the main housing of the slow cooker. Cool-touch handles are ideal for safety.

  • Lid: Many consumers prefer a see-through lid made of tempered glass. With this type of lid, you can easily keep an eye on your food while it’s cooking.

Size

Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, but a “mini” slow cooker may be considered one that holds four quarts or less. Even within this narrow range, you will find a considerable difference in how much food a mini slow cooker can accommodate. Slow cookers with a four-quart capacity generally hold enough food for two to three people. Slow cookers with a 1.5-quart capacity size are much better suited for one or two diners.

Seven cooking methods in a compact size

The Instant Pot Mini Duo may be compact, but it offers seven different cooking functions including pressure cooking, rice steaming, and yogurt making. You can cook multiple items at the same time, and this option includes accessories such as a rice paddle and soup spoon.

How easy is it to clean?

The majority of slow cookers have an exterior shell that holds the electrical elements and an inner chamber made from stoneware, ceramic, or a similar material. Ideally, the inner chamber and lid will be dishwasher safe. The exterior shell should be easy to clean with a simple wipe-down. Note that touchpad controls will be easier to clean than protruding controls like knobs or buttons.

How many cooking levels does it have?

The majority of slow cookers provide a number of cooking levels that may include low, medium, high, and warm options. The more levels a slow cooker has, the more flexibility you’ll enjoy in your preparation of foods. The warm level is particularly useful if you plan to use your slow cooker frequently as a chafing dish.

Cooking levels are usually set via a knob, although you will find some slow cookers with touchpads.

DID YOU KNOW?

The lid of your slow cooker should have a sturdy rim made of rubber or another material. This helps keep heat and moisture from escaping while the cooker is operating.

DID YOU KNOW?

The USDA recommends that all meats cooked in a slow cooker should be thawed completely before the cooking cycle even begins.

DID YOU KNOW?

Built-in lid holders under the cover of some slow cookers allow you to check on the cooking process without having to find someplace to set the lid.

What other controls does it have?

While the majority of slow cookers are simple in terms of feature sets, you will occasionally find one that offers up a bit more. The primary advanced feature that you might run across is a timer. With a timer, you can set the cooking time for a meal and then walk away and forget it. When the time has expired, the cooker will switch to the warm level to keep your meal heated until you are ready for it.

Some slow cookers also give you the option of cooking rice, steaming vegetables, and engaging in other types of food prep. A slow cooker like this is a lot like an Instant Pot.

Mini slow cooker prices

Mini slow cookers can start out under $20, although the majority run in the $20 to $40 price range. Expect to pay a little more for slow cookers with advanced features and for those that have additional cooking methods built into them.

A portable food warmer

This warmer by Crock-Pot is great for leftovers, single meals, and keeping soup hot. It won’t cook food, but it does a great job keeping foods warm for those times when you want a hot meal at work, while camping, or on the road.

Tips

  • Don’t lift the lid to peek at your food! If you do, the slow cooker will lose heat, and you will add to your cooking time.

  • Be aware that some mini slow cookers don’t actually cook food; they simply warm it. Double-check which type you are buying so you’re not disappointed later.

  • If you plan on traveling with a full cooker, choose one with clamps or some other fastening system so the lid stays secure during transport.

  • The majority of slow cooker inserts are made of a stoneware or another substance that’s easy to clean — often in a dishwasher. The exterior housing should never be submerged in water, however.

  • Wattage affects how quickly a slow cooker heats up. The more watts it has, the faster it works.

  • Mini slow cooker cords tend to be on the short side. Shop around for one with a longer cord if it is a feature you need. The cooker should also offer an easy way to store the longer cord.

  • Don’t overfill your mini slow cooker. Using the right size for the right recipe will help your food cook evenly.

Other products we considered

There are lots of mini slow cookers on the market, many of which have unique and wonderful features. We included our top picks here, but we also want to point out a few other options that we like. The Crock-Pot 2.5-Quart Mini Casserole Slow Cooker is sized for up to three people. We really like its stylish design and the sturdy clamping system that allows you to easily take it on the road. The Crock-Pot 3.5-Quart Casserole Crock Manual Slow Cooker has a slightly larger capacity and a casserole shape that is perfect for lasagna and similar dishes. Finally, the Cuisinart 3.5-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker features an attractive brushed stainless steel design and a 24-hour LCD timer to give you more flexibility in your cooking schedule.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. The slow cooking method removes much of the guesswork from cooking, giving you a stress-free way to stretch your culinary muscles.

FAQ

Q. Can slow cookers inserts be used in the oven?

A. In addition to being dishwasher safe, some slow cooker inserts can be used to cook dishes in the oven or to store cooked foods in the refrigerator. Check your manual carefully to learn what you can and cannot do with your slow cooker insert.

Q. How can you tell when meat is done cooking in a slow cooker?

A. Slow cooking is based on the length of time you are cooking something at a specific heat level. For example, a recipe might call for you to cook something for eight hours on low or five hours on high. At the end of the cooking time, your food is done. You can back this up by purchasing a slow cooker that includes a temperature probe, or you can use your own meat thermometer to double-check food temperature.

Q. Can I brown meat in my slow cooker?

A. One area in which slow cookers fall short is the browning of meat. If you want to add color to your meat, there are workarounds, however. You can start meat off under a broiler or in a pan and then transfer it to your slow cooker. If you do use a pan, be sure you deglaze it with wine or stock and add all the meat bits to the slow cooker for added flavor.

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