Cuisinart 7-Quart Multicooker
Calling all carnivores: The aluminum insert in this extra-large model lets you brown meat right in the machine for maximum caramelized flavor. It also works as a high-heat roaster and steamer.
To buy: $200, williams-sonoma.com.
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Best for Small Families
Crock-Pot 4-Quart Slow Cooker
You won’t have to sacrifice function for size with this compact, 8½-by-12-inch pick. Because it’s oval, it accommodates a whole chicken or roast (unlike round versions). The price is nice, too. But there’s no timer, so you have to switch to the warming mode manually.
To buy: $25, crock-pot.com.
Hamilton Beach Simplicity 6-Quart Slow Cooker
The beauty is in the details. A three-setting knob makes it a cinch to program, the digital countdown clock tells you how much cook time is left, and—genius!—the machine automatically switches to warming mode when the dish is done.
To buy: $50, hamiltonbeach.com.
Best for Entertaining
Proctor Silex 1.5-Quart Oval Slow Cooker
Break out this baby when you need to keep dips and desserts—cheesy quesos, chocolate fondues—melted and warm. This size is also particularly great for steel-cut oats: Fill the machine at night and wake up to piping-hot porridge.
To buy: $15, proctorsilex.com.
Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Programmable Stovetop Slow Cooker
With this convenient unit, slow cooking truly is a one-pot meal: Simply brown meat in the removable insert on your stove, then add the rest of your ingredients and let dinner finish in the slow cooker.
To buy: $70, target.com.
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Cuisinart 4-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
Perfect for a couple or a single person, this rectangular slow cooker tucks neatly into a corner and can accommodate most recipes despite its small size. Don’t let its compactness fool you—it still has all the bells and whistles, including a 24-hour timer, cooking rack, and dishwasher-safe lid and pot.
To buy: $80, cuisinart.com.
Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
No more overcooked roasts or dried-out chicken. An easy-to-use digital thermometer monitors the temperature of the meat and automatically switches to warm when the food is cooked through.
To buy: $60, hamiltonbeach.com.
KitchenAid 6-Quart Slow Cooker
Hate juggling the lid, the ladle, and your bowl when dishing up your slow-cooked masterpiece? This sturdy contender with built-in timer makes serving a one-handed affair: Leave the lid on and open one or both hinged panels for quick access to the delicious goods inside.
To buy: $130, shopkitchenaid.com.
Crock-Pot 6.5-Quart Touchscreen Slow Cooker
The trusty old slow cooker gets a modern lift with this sleek, stainless steel beauty, which features an easy-to-use touchscreen, silicone-wrapped handles that stay cool, and a countdown timer that automatically switches to warm when your meal is finished cooking.
To buy: $90, crock-pot.com.
Crock-Pot Triple Dipper
It may not technically qualify as a slow cooker (it doesn’t actually cook your food), but why quibble? This handy accessory is any host’s dream—it boasts three small stoneware crocks to keep your party dips, appetizers, and desserts warm for hours, set on a rotating lazy susan for easy access. Separate compartments hold crackers, crudités, or utensils, and there’s even a snap-on travel cover to hold everything in place if you decide to hit the road.
To buy: $60, crock-pot.com.
When it comes to setting it and forgetting it, Real Simple says these slow cookers are your best bet.