I’ve rounded up and researched some of the best slow cookers. My favorite? The Calphalon Slow Cooker.
A slow cooker is a must-have for this busy home cook. Making healthy, delicious meals for my family is easier with this convenient appliance.
But with the proliferation of slow cookers on the market, how do you know which ones are safe to use? Which ones have health risks, and which ones are perfectly safe?
I like the Calphalon Slow Cooker because it ticks all the boxes without being too complicated. But you may want something different. So I’ve broken down all the specs of some of the best cookers out there.
Which non-toxic slow cooker is right for you? Let’s get started!
Why Should You Use a Slow Cooker?
They save a ton of time.
For busy home cooks, there isn’t enough time to stand over the stove all day long. With slow cookers, you can easily toss in the ingredients, let them slow cook all day, and come home to a hot meal.
On a hot summer day, the last thing you want is to crank up the oven to high heat. Plus, why pay extra on the electric bill to heat an entire range when you only need to cook one dish?
Slow cooking uses less energy than a traditional oven while still giving you optimal results. And they won’t heat up your entire house.
They make cleanup easy.
Cooking several types of food separately can create a lot of dirty dishes. And who wants to turn dinner prep and cleanup into a three-hour tour? No, thanks.
With a slow cooker, you have just one pot to clean. That’s it. [Insert happy dance]
Need some easy tips on cleaning your slow cooker? Watch this short video for ideas:
Some claim that slow cookers destroy nutrients. While longer cooking times result in more nutrients being lost, that’s not the whole story.
First, lower cooking temperatures preserve more nutrients. Secondly, any nutrients you do lose will seep into the liquid and stay inside the sealed pot. The food can reabsorb some of those nutrients through steam.
If that’s not enough, consider that most slow-cooker recipes include fresh, healthy ingredients—things like fresh vegetables, lean meats, and broth.
If your goal is to cook healthy meals? A slow cooker can absolutely help.
They boost flavor.
In a slow cooker, food has a longer time to absorb spices and liquid, resulting in tender, flavorful food.
Are Ceramic Slow Cookers Safe?
It depends. Ceramic slow cookers don’t contain any Teflon, like traditional non-stick coatings. But ceramic slow cookers can contain a lead glaze.
Before you immediately toss out your ceramic crock pot, however, it may not be as bad as it sounds.
Manufacturers use this glaze to seal porous ceramic. This allows a stone pot to hold food without absorbing liquid.
When baked correctly in the kiln, the ceramic glaze won’t leach lead. However, if not baked properly, lead leaching can occur.
Health Concerns of Lead-Glazed Ceramic
Even small amounts of lead exposure may cause problems over time.
Effects from lead poisoning include stomach pain, vomiting, headaches, learning problems, high blood pressure, kidney impairment, and more.
But, the good news – you can protect your family from dangerous lead levels with a few simple steps:
- Check the California Proposition 65 Labeling. This label is required when ceramic leeches past 0.226 parts per million. That’s even stricter than the FDA’s requirement of three parts per million. If that label is there, use extra caution.
- Avoid high-risk slow cookers. As a general rule, avoid crock pots without labels, especially those from relatives, thrift stores, etc. Stay away from slow cookers with a cracked glaze and avoid bright red, orange, or yellow ceramic. Those tend to contain higher amounts of lead.
- Check the manufacturing. Most crock pots made in China are fine and meet FDA standards. But not all. Be sure to buy from a reputable brand, and you have no need to worry.
- Use a lead testing kit. If you still have doubts, you can purchase these inexpensive kits online. Simply rub the inside of the crock pot in question. If the swab turns red, there’s leachable lead.
Of course, if you still have doubts, you might opt for a slow cooker with a clay or stainless steel insert.
Best Lead-Free Slow Cookers: Product Reviews
Calphalon Slow Cooker: Best Overall
This Calphalon Slow Cooker has a capacity of 5.3 quarts (5 liters), so it’s big enough to easily feed a family of 4-5. It has a cooking pot with a ceramic non-stick coating.
The digital timer is easy to use, with a manual dial to determine heat settings. And if you prefer to use this ceramic cookware pot on the stove or in the oven?
No problem. The inner pot is oven-safe and compatible with all cooktops, including induction.
Cleanup is easy with the ceramic non-stick surface. But you will have to wash it by hand since this slow cooker isn’t dishwasher-safe.
User reviews raved about this Calphalon crock pot. They loved the sleek, matte black stainless finish and the lightweight design.
They enjoyed using it to sauté food on the stovetop at higher temperatures, then slow cook the rest of the meal on low.
Users did caution that the pot is not the same diameter all the way down. It looks more funnel-shaped. Not a big deal, but you may not have the cooking surface area to brown as much meat on the stove.
It’s a little pricey compared with other basic slow cookers, but it’s well worth the investment.
- Attractive design
- Easy to use
- Easy to clean, ceramic non-stick
- Great cooking performance
- Inner pot is hand-wash only
- Unusual shape
Instant Pot Duo, 6 Quarts: Best Multipurpose Slow Cooker
Instant Pot Duo combines the best of pressure cookers and slow cookers in one nifty appliance. It has a capacity of 6 quarts (5.68 liters), but there are also 3-quart and 8-quart options available (2.84 & 7.57 liters).
This 7-in-1 Instant Pot functions as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, rice cooker, and more. The stainless steel pots are lead-free, free of non-stick coatings, and dishwasher-safe.
There are several features to make cooking convenient. The delay timer allows you to set a later cooking time. The auto warming function keeps food warm after cooking. And the safety features can give you peace of mind, allowing you to “set it and forget it.”
One note, however. If you like to monitor food and cook by tasting, the Instant Pot isn’t designed for that.
Users loved their Instant cookers. They could cook an infinite number of dishes with the press of a button. They loved the versatility and the ability to keep food warm after cooking.
There is a learning curve to this electric pressure cooker. That’s one of the biggest drawbacks, and some people don’t want the hassle.
But there are literally thousands of reviews and recipes, so you can have all the help you need. In fact, it might be info overload!
You also might need to purchase a separate glass lid for the slow cook option. I personally haven’t had a problem, but some said the included lid doesn’t work on the slow cooking mode.
The Instant Pot Duo is definitely the most multifunctional on my list. And it’s affordable, to boot.
The biggest reason I couldn’t make it my top choice is that most people end up using these as pressure cookers, not slow cookers. The slow cooker function gets overshadowed.
Watch Stephanie Manley describe the differences between an Instant Pot and a traditional slow cooker:
- Easy to clean
- Multifunctional: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, etc.
- Lead-free, non-toxic
- Automatic shutoff
- Delay timer
- Learning curve
- Might need glass lid
Vitaclay Slow Cooker: Best Clay Slow Cooker
This Vitaclay is a 4-in-1 appliance that functions as a rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and steamer. It has a total capacity of 4.2 quarts (3.97 liters) or 8 cups. There is a smaller 6-cup version, as well.
Vitaclay uses a 100% unglazed clay pot that’s naturally lead-free. This non-toxic slow cooker supposedly cooks food up to four times faster than other slow cookers and requires less energy since clay is naturally thermal.
And since clay is alkaline, it reacts with acidic foods to make them taste sweeter, meaning you don’t have to add extra sugar.
The double lid design maximizes steaming which speeds up the cooking process for tender and flavorful food.
The digital control panel is intuitive and easy to use. The Vitaclay is fully programmable and features a delay timer and automatic warmer settings. The LCD clock is easy to read and shows the cook mode.
Customers raved about the performance of this slow cooker. They loved to use it to cook meat, brown rice, oatmeal, veggies, soups, and more. They felt like the Vitaclay helped them make healthier meals.
However, there were several peripheral issues. For instance, several users had problems with cracking and damage to the inner pot. This isn’t surprising, as clay is notoriously fragile.
Another issue was the delay timer. The instruction book says to set the cooking time to when you want your cooker to begin cooking, but you actually want to set the time to when you want your food to be finished cooking. This caused a lot of confusion among users.
Speaking of instructions, several people felt the manual was poorly written and clunky in the directions. The good news? Most were able to resolve their issues with help from Vitaclay or other customers.
All in all, this Vitaclay offers healthy, consistent results and multiple cooking methods. But there are some minor issues you may want to be aware of before jumping in.
This is a pricier model, so you’ll need a little flexibility in the budget. Still, if you have your heart set on a clay slow cooker, this one is it.
- Unglazed clay pot
- Lead-free, contains no heavy metals
- Auto-warming and delay timer
- Non-toxic and naturally thermal
- Multi-functional (4 cooking methods)
- Double-lid to speed up cooking
- Instruction manual isn’t the best
- Delay timer is tricky
- Clay is fragile, prone to cracks
Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker: Best Large Capacity
At a capacity of 10 quarts (9.46 liters), this Hamilton Beach slow cooker can certainly feed a crowd. For those who need something smaller, though, there is also a 6-quart (5.68 liters) option.
This heavy-duty crock pot has a stoneware pot with a ceramic coating and a glass lid. Both are dishwasher-safe. The dial is simple and easy to use, with just three heat settings: high, low, and warm.
The full-grip handles make it easier to carry and transport the cooker, and the clip-tight sealed lid means you don’t have to worry about messy spills.
Customers liked the cooking performance of this Hamilton Beach slow cooker. Some said the low settings were a little hot, but most people had excellent results. They also said it was easy to clean.
This slow cooker features a simple design with no bells or whistles. For the most part, users were quite happy with that, with one exception. A lot of customers complained about the lack of an indicator light.
Still, the bare-bones approach means this slow cooker is one of the most affordable options on the list, without sacrificing performance.
- Easy to clean
- Easy to use
- Clip-tight lid for safe transport
- Large capacity
- Bare bones design
- No indicator light
360 Stainless Steel Slow Cooker: Best Stainless Steel Pot
For those looking to splurge, I suggest this 360 Stainless Steel Slow Cooker. It’s on the smaller side, only holding 2.3 quarts (2.18 liters), but this stainless steel cooker has a lot of utility.
The stainless steel pot is actually a casserole that also functions as a cookware piece. It’s oven-safe up to 500°F (260°C) and features a tri-ply construction with an aluminum core.
To use it as a slow cooker, simply place the stainless steel insert into the slow cooking base, plug in the base, select the desired heat setting, and you’re good to go.
This 360 can function as waterless cookware. Essentially, the lid creates a vapor seal that allows you to heat your food from every angle. Foods cook in their own natural juices. If you’re cooking something dry, like pasta, you will want to rinse it first.
Customers did say there is a slight learning curve to regulating temperatures. But they loved the results they got with this 360 slow cooker.
One of their favorite ways to use this pan was to sauté meat and vegetables on the stovetop, deglaze the pan, then finish the food by slow cooking it. And cleanup? Easy. This cooker is dishwasher-safe.
One complaint they had was that there is no “off” switch or indicator light. To make sure it was off, most people just unplugged it. Not a deal-breaker, but definitely problematic.
These 360 stainless steel slow cookers are proudly made in the U.S. But you’ll pay significantly more for the material and American manufacturing.
- Ergonomic handles
- Non-toxic, lead-free
- Made in the U.S.
- No “off” setting or indicator light
- Small capacity
Crock Pot Slow Cooker: Best Bargain Pick
The Crock Pot brand is so synonymous with slow cooking, that people use the terms “slow cooker” and “crock pot” interchangeably.
This Crock Pot has a capacity of 8 quarts (7.57 liters), large enough to easily cook for 10+ people.
This non-toxic slow cooker can cook for up to 20 hours and has a digital countdown timer. And the auto-warming function keeps food warm after cooking.
The removable lid and stoneware pot are dishwasher-safe. And the ceramic cookware coating releases food easily.
Users were very pleased with their slow cookers. They liked the auto-warm, the countdown timer, and the flavorful results.
Several users did notice that their Crock Pots cooked at higher temperatures than other slow cookers. They had to adjust their cooking times accordingly.
There were a few isolated incidents of the slow cookers smoking during the first use. Several follow-up comments said the company quickly replaced their defective cookers with no problems.
If you are on a tight budget, this Crock Pot slow cooker is a great option. It has a few frills, but it’s pretty simple and straightforward to use.
- Simple to use
- Dishwasher-safe lid and inner pot
- Countdown timer
- Auto-warming function
- Short cord
- Cooks at higher temps
- Isolated reports of smoking
All-Clad Ceramic Slow Cooker: Best Splurge
All-Clad Cookware is known for their U.S.-made stainless steel cookware. This All-Clad Slow Cooker has a ceramic insert with a stainless steel exterior. It has a 4-quart capacity (3.79 liters), enough to feed 4-5 people.
Both the insert and lid are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup. And the easy-to-read digital display and large push-button controls all you to find the perfect slow cooking program.
Customers were happy with the All-Clad cooker. They said it had precise, even heating and was easy to use. They liked the digital controls and the overall look. They said it was good for making decent-sized batches and storing leftovers.
Some did say the lid is loose-fitting, which could release too much steam and allow moisture to escape.
Others were disappointed to learn that this ceramic slow cooker is manufactured in China. While All-Clad does make stainless steel cookware in the U.S., it outsources its ceramic products.
As is expected with All-Clad, this cooker is pricey. And since it’s not manufactured in the U.S., it may not be worth it for some.
- Dishwasher-safe ceramic insert
- Automatic keep warm
- Integrated handles
- Digital timer
- Made in China
- Ill-fitting lids
Best Non-Toxic Crock Pot: Final Verdict
So which of these non-toxic slow cookers is the best? My recommendation is the Calphalon Slow Cooker. It’s straightforward to use, high-performing, versatile, easy to clean and looks great in the kitchen.
However, if you need a pressure cooker combo? The Instant Pot is wildly popular and affordable.