Best Cheap Slow Cookers
This buying guide features Crock-Pot and slow cooker reviews, along with recommendations for the best cheap slow cookers on the market.
Hundreds of reviewers sing the praises of this 6-quart programmable slow cooker (starting at $49, Amazon). Food is cooked thoroughly and evenly, according to Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 33969 reviews on Amazon and Walmart.com, and users are rarely disappointed. They tell of setting the temperature to low, walking out the door, and returning home eight or nine hours later to a warm and perfectly cooked roast, stew, soup, pot of beans, or chicken in pasta sauce. Giddy reviewers without much practice in the kitchen report great success preparing healthy and flavorful meals without much effort.
The Crock-Pot SCV400 (starting at $20, Amazon) is a basic, manual, 4-quart slow cooker that hits a sweet spot with reviewers. They like the very affordable price, absence of bells and whistles, mid-range size, and, of course, tasty results. In Crock-Pot SCV400 reviews on sites including Amazon, where the model earns an average of 4.4 stars from nearly 1,000 users, consumers report using it to poach pears, prepare a Thai recipe for soup with shrimp and curry, roast a small chicken surrounded by fresh vegetables, rustle up some shredded pork, and bake potatoes in the heat of summer.
The portable and programmable Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S (starting at $49, Amazon) stands out for its ease of use and flavorful results. On Amazon, nearly 2,800 reviewers award it an average of 4.2 stars out of 5. They say the gasket on the tight-fitting lid helps trap moisture, and the digital timer is a simple and welcome convenience.
This giant 8.5-quart manual slow cooker garners an average of 4 stars from more than 400 reviews on Amazon and Walmart.com, where users share enthusiasm for its capacity and performance. There are a lot of "love it" and "great" comments sprinkled throughout. One reviewer tells of loading the pot with a 4-pound roast, 5 pounds of potatoes, and plenty of carrots and onions. Others simply say the Elite Platinum MST-900 turns out a mean stew and everything else a slow cooker is designed to make. One reviewer claims to have tested the temperatures on the warm, low, and high settings and pronounced them to be on the mark, at 160, 210, and 225 degrees.
Other Products We Reviewed
Hamilton Beach 33155 Review
Enthusiasm abounds in Hamilton Beach 33155 reviews for the value this slow cooker provides frugal consumers. There aren't many slow cookers in the $20 price range and fewer of these are family-size, as is the 5-quart Hamilton Beach 33155 (starting at $20, Amazon
The handful of critiques we found in Hamilton Beach 33155 reviews mention plastic parts that broke, the difficulty of adjusting the strap that's meant to hold the lid in place, off-putting odors associated with the rubber gasket around the lid, and a thin outer shell that's prone to denting.
The Hamilton Beach 33155 features a 5-quart, oval-shaped stoneware cooking vessel that the specs say can hold a 4.5-pound chicken or two small roasts. There's a glass lid with a rubber gasket that helps seal in moisture and keep the lid from rattling when steam escapes, and a strap to tightly secure the lid and prevent spillovers. This manual slow cooker comes with high, low, and keep warm heat settings, as well as a setting for off; what's lacking is an indicator light to signal whether the power is on or off. All the removable components are dishwasher-safe.
This low-cost slow cooker is one tough competitor. It may lack the finesse of some models, but given its price point and performance, the Hamilton Beach 33155 easily earns the top spot on our list.
Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S Review
The Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S (starting at $38, Amazon
Few products are perfect, however, and that includes the Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S. Grousing about inadequate heat (16 hours to cook a corned beef seems excessive, asserts one consumer critic), too much heat (stew cooked for 9 hours contained dry meat, mushy carrots, and burnt bits, claims another), outer walls that get hot, and plastic handles that break show up in some Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S reviews.
The 7-quart size appeals to cooks responsible for feeding large families. The specs say it's large enough to feed nine people and hold a 7-pound roast; one consumer reports getting eight portions from 4 pounds of cut-up chicken and vegetable accompaniments. The programmable settings let you choose 4 or 6 hours on low or 8 or 10 hours on high, and there's a countdown timer for the warm mode. The removable oval stoneware crock is dishwasher-safe, as is the glass lid; the crock can also be set in the oven at temperatures up to 400 degrees. A recipe book is included.
Frugal consumers in the market for a programmable slow cooker should find the Crock-Pot SCCPVP700-S to their liking. The programming options on higher-end models may be more open-ended, but the pre-set combinations on this Crock-Pot give cooks a measure of freedom beyond what they'd experience with a manual slow cooker.
Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 33163 Review
Several bonus features enhance the appeal of the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 33163 (starting at $25, Amazon
And yet, users have a few bones to pick. We read a few Hamilton Beach 33163 reviews that carp about tell-tale odors from the rubber gasket released back into the pot's contents (scrubbing with baking soda and vinegar has no effect, asserts one reviewer), locking latches that are hard to snap in place, a hot and full pot that's hard to remove from the base, and the occasional pot that cracks.
The 6-quart Hamilton Beach 33163 is oval-shaped and comes in black or white. It has the standard three heat settings plus an off setting; there's also an indicator light to let you know whether the unit is on or off. As noted above, the lid has a rubber gasket for a tighter seal and two latches to fully secure it in place. There's a groove in the handle on the lid for storing the included serving spoon and a holder on the side for a name or recipe tag. The pot and lid are dishwasher safe.
Marketed as "stay or go," the Hamilton Beach 33163 lives up to its travel-ready billing. This is a basic, cheap slow cooker with a few frills and commendable performance that together add up to good value.
Crock-Pot 38501-W Review
At first glance, the very low price on this programmable slow cooker makes the Crock-Pot 38501-W (starting at $23, Amazon
But others, including consumers who posted Crock-Pot 38501-W reviews at Amazon, aren't won over. These critics complain about hot spots, burnt food, leaking, sputtering, broken side handles, and a lid handle that's too hot to touch. At Newegg, reviews describe the temperature controls as useless, noting that liquids boil even when the controls are set to warm. One consumer grouses that a frozen, 4-pound roast cooks so quickly it can't be left to cook all day even when set on 4 hours/low heat, and other reviews warn that this slow cooker needs babysitting: leaving the contents unattended is a surefire way to a dry, burnt, and otherwise unpalatable meal, they assert.
The 5-quart capacity of the Crock-Pot 38501-W suits two hungry people or a small family. Its best feature is the programmable settings panel, which lets you choose 4 or 6 hours on low or 8 or 10 hours on high; once the time runs out, the cooker switches itself to warm mode. The stoneware crock has a stick-resistant coating and is dishwasher safe, as is the glass lid.
The Crock-Pot 38501-W seems to be an attempt to offer frugal consumers a cheap slow cooker with programmable settings. But based on the reviews we found, this product just doesn't rise to the occasion. Where's the convenience of a slow cooker -- and a programmable one, at that -- if you can't just walk away?
West Bend 84384 Review
Consumers generally like the West Bend 84384 (starting at $23, Amazon
The West Bend 84384 is a basic model with a couple of nice extras. Like most slow cookers in this price range, it features a dial with high, low, keep warm, and off settings; a removable dishwasher-safe crock; a glass lid; and stay-cool handles. But unlike many others, it boasts an on/off indicator light, a brushed stainless steel exterior, and rubber feet that prevent sliding.
At the $23 price point, this mid-size model provides decent value. But complaints about high heat levels prevented it from earning a spot on our list. With other good options out there, you might want to consider those first.
Hamilton Beach 33141 Review
Hamilton Beach 33141 reviews indicate this simple slow cooker is well liked by consumers. With its 4-quart crock, this model is the right size for a household of four people (the review at How Stuff Works says it can serve six, but we're skeptical) and the right shape for roasts and chickens as well as the usual stews and soups. Several reviews posted at Amazon note that standard slow cooker recipes should be downsized but stress that food cooks thoroughly and evenly. That said, users don't seem to agree whether the Hamilton Beach 33141 cooks too fast or too slow. A number of reviews, including one at Overstock, insist this slow cooker has a hot streak while some say it runs cooler than other slow cookers. Bottom line: see how it goes and adjust timing accordingly.
And finally, a few Hamilton Beach 33141 reviews note that boil-overs occasionally happen and some units have reportedly broken mid-cycle (cracked crocks and shattered lids, for example), which leaves quite a mess, not to mention hungry diners.
The Hamilton Beach 33141 (starting at $24, Amazon
There's nothing fancy here and the value pricing of the Hamilton Beach 33141 makes up for what some might consider its shortcomings. Moreover, the majority of users seem pleased with the performance of this straightforward slow cooker.
Crock-Pot 3735-WN Review
This basic slow cooker comes with just enough features to get the job done, according to Crock-Pot 3735-WN reviews. Many consumers mention that the 3.5-quart capacity is exactly what they were looking for given the size of their households. A review posted at Epinions, for example, relates that this comparatively small slow cooker makes enough stew or chili to feed four without leftovers; other reviews say it's the perfect size for two-person households. Regardless, users report successfully preparing soups and stews (Tip: add ingredients like noodles and asparagus later in the cooking process), pulled pork and roast chicken, beans and steel-cut oatmeal. And yet, reviews at Amazon caution that this cooker runs hot. Users say that recipe recommendations for time and heat may need to be ratcheted downward; one review reports that soups are done in four hours and another suggests sticking around to make sure nothing burns.
The biggest gripe posted in Crock-Pot 3735-WN reviews concerns the plastic handles and knob. Consumers who commented on both sites say the round lid handle, which is attached with a screw, tends to come loose (regardless how often you tighten it) and is a repository for dishwater. The handles on the crock itself seem weak to some users, several of whom report they have cracked or come perilously close to falling off. Some reviews also describe the outer metal shell as thin and too easily dented and a few comments posted several years ago grumble about ill-fitting lids, which let steam escape and the contents to bubble out onto the counter.
The Crock-Pot 3735-WN (starting at $24, Amazon
The Crock-Pot 3735-WN is as basic as it gets for a slow cooker, but its small size seems to be a large draw for slow cooker users.