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Slow Cooker Size Guide: What Do You Need?

Slow cookers are a fairly simple appliance and a staple tool to make your time in the kitchen easier! With all the sizes available, choosing the right one is key to helping you successfully make delicious and effortless recipes!

round mocha colored slow cooker

Are you new to the slow-cooking world? You may be in the market for the perfect slow cooker and wondering where to start! Or, maybe you’ve had one sitting in your cabinet for a while and want to refresh your meal prep process.

Whether you are looking for a new tool to transform your cooking (and simplify your life!), or you find yourself needing to upsize or downsize, let me outline a few slow cooker basics to help you make an informed decision!

What are slow cookers and how do they work?

As the name implies, slow cookers are designed to cook food slowly for an extended period of time – unattended

A slow cooker consists of a base with electric coils and an inner stoneware or ceramic dish which goes by several names – crock, liner, pot, or bowl. Essentially, this is the piece that holds the food. Lastly, and very importantly, the slow cooker always cooks with the lid

A slow cooker works by generating heat from electric coils when turned on a low, warm, or high setting. The electric heat will warm the bottom of the bowl and slowly heat up the sides.

The lid will trap the heat inside the bowl creating a seal and preventing most evaporation. This means that the moisture stays inside the slow cooker.

Most slow cookers are universally known for their three basic settings – low, high, and warm.

A slow cooker cooks by the mantra “low and slow” even when on a high setting. The low and high settings don’t mean the actual temperature. Instead, these mean the amount of time it takes to reach a simmering point (approximately 200 ℉) slightly under the boiling point of 212 ℉.

The final setting is warm or “keep warm”. This setting keeps the food hot once it is fully cooked,  but is not a high enough temperature to rely on for cooking your food.

What’s the difference between a slow cooker and a crock pot?

Slow cookers are often synonymously called “crockpots” due to the popularity of the economical Crock-Pot brand. First introduced to American consumers in the early 1970s, the Crock-Pot slow cooker now has many competing brands offering many other bells and whistles on the staple appliance.

The Crock-Pot was first designed to cook beans and hearty stews in a simple, one-piece appliance. Now, you can find slow cookers in multi-cooker options that also sauté and brown meat. Slow cookers come in all shapes (circle, oval, rectangle) and sizes, and specialty varieties such as casserole slow cookers or fondue pots.

Some other reputable names in the slow-cooker industry are KitchenAid, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, and the international brand, GreenPan.

How are slow cookers measured?

Slow cookers are measured by quarts (4 cups in one quart) and usually range in size options from 1 quart to 10 quarts. Slow cookers will hold up to the stated quart amount, but they should not be filled with food right up to the brim. In general, a slow cooker should be at least ½ full but less than 3/4 full.

When selecting a slow cooker for yourself or to cook for family and friends, it is important to have a general idea of how you plan to use it. For example, a mini slow cooker (1-2 quarts), will be suitable for dips and appetizers but not full meals. Think about the types of dishes you may want to make such as large meals for entertaining, extra quantities for meal prep, or if you’d like something to make smaller portions for everyday use.

6 quart slow cooker
2.5 quart round slow cooker with purple dots
Processed with VSCO with s2 preset
3 quart slow cooker

In general, the more full a slow cooker is, the slower it will cook (increasing the cooking time). If you plan to make a portion for 1-2 people in a large slow cooker, you may find your meal has cooked much faster than intended!

Slow Cooker Sizes Available

The typical sizes available today could be categorized into mini, small, medium, large, and extra large.

Slow Cooker SizesQuarts
Mini1-2 quarts
Small2-3 quarts
Medium 3-4 quarts
Large5-6 quarts
Extra Large 7-10 quarts
Slow Cooker Size Guide

You’ll find a plethora of options across brands. It is helpful to know a few specifics about different sizes to find what you need!

Many cookware brands will offer mini or small slow cookers in decorative, trendy colors and styles. Since smaller slow cookers most likely won’t be your everyday go-to for meats, soups, and stews, the hardiness or versatility may not be as essential. This one is a perfect size for a dip or appetizer like Slow Cooker Sausage Cheese Dip or Slow Cooker Spinach and Artichoke Dip. It comes in 3 fun color options!

pink 2 quart slow cooker

For family cooking or large quantities for batches of meal prep, you’ll want a durable, mid-sized-to-larger option such as a 5-quart or 7-quart size.

Hamilton Beach is well-known for its heavy-duty, high-quality slow cookers. This brand currently offers a range of appliances from 3 quarts up to 10 quarts. This is one of the few brands currently offering this extra-large size!

Extra-large slow cookers would come in handy for crowd-pleasing favorites like Slow Cooker Tailgate Chili and larger meat dishes such as Slow Cooker Carnitas.

Slow cookers are also offered in a flat layout for casseroles. These also include essential lid locks for transporting. Check out these 2 options for a 2.5-quart size and a 3.5-quart size.

What to consider when choosing a slow cooker size? 

When choosing the slow cooker that will work best for you, here are a few items to consider!

First, think about recipes you like to make! So many recipes are designed for or can easily be converted for the slow cooker. Casseroles, meats, soups, and chilis are most common, but you can also make pastas, desserts, breakfast dishes, and more!

Also think about:

  • Serving Sizes – How many are you cooking for? If you want the ability to stay away and let it cook, plan for it to be more than ½ full to cook long enough.
  • Type of food – Do you plan to make a lot of casseroles or want an option for soups and stews? You may choose a flat or deep layout based on your recipe needs. 
  • Available storage – If you don’t have much storage, pick the size that will work for everything and adjust cook times accordingly.
  • Price – The good news is, most slow cookers offer very similar features, so your budget can help determine your slow cooker purchase! Even the most recognizable Crock-Pot brand has some excellent prices for standard slow cookers. (See 4.5-quart size here and 6-quart size here)
  • Technology – You can choose a slow cooker with three basic settings (low, high, and warm) or one with additional features. If you plan to be away from home while your food is cooking, be sure to find one that has a timer that automatically switches to warm at the end of cook time. 
  • “Counter” appeal – Choose a slow cooker that would look nice out on your counter if you don’t have a place to store it. There are so many stylish options and you can use it almost every day! (Now, I hardly even use my stove!)
  • Latch – Will you be transporting your slow cooker often? A version with a lid-locking latch will come in handy. Remember, never hook the latch when cooking due to excessive pressure build-up!
  • Accessories – Many slow cookers will also come with additional tools or you can purchase them separately. Some helpful items that you may wish to add are steamer trivets, silicone lid locking attachments, roasting racks, or insulated carrier bags.
Infographic with a guide for different sized slow cookers

Conclusion: What is the best-sized slow cooker?

In short, the best-sized slow cooker is the one that you will use the most and that works well in your kitchen! 

Most home chefs prefer to cook a few servings at a time, or at least have enough for the next day’s leftovers. A great mid-size option is the standard 5-quart Hamilton Beach slow cooker that is sure to work for nearly any slow cooker recipe. This size will allow 1-2 people to have leftovers and would also be suitable for a family meal.

purple 5 quart slow cooker

Keep in mind –  all slow cookers heat a little differently. Be sure to test yours out with varying recipes to be mindful of cook times. Most of the time, slow cooking is very flexible and times can be adjusted – especially with adjusted ingredient sizes.

The slow cooker truly is one of the home chef’s greatest conveniences!

Slow Cooker FAQs

  • What are standard slow cooker sizes? Slow cookers come in many quart increments – you can find them as small as 1.5 quarts and increasing in ½ a quart all the way up to 10 quarts.
  • What size slow cooker fits a whole chicken? Most standard whole chickens for cooking range from 4-6 pounds. You could use a 5-6 quart slow cooker –  ensuring that there is still a little extra room in the pot. If you wish to add vegetables or potatoes, size up to a 7 or 8-quart slow cooker.
  • What size slow cooker is best for a family of four? A 5 or 6-quart slow cooker would be best for a family this size.
  • What is the biggest slow cooker size? A 10-quart slow cooker is currently the largest on the market!


  1. Hi! I have a Hamilton Beach slow cooker that is approximately 10 to 15(?) years old.
    I don’t know what size/volume it is, but want to take soup to a luncheon in two days. It should hold enough FOR 8 servings of broccoli-cheese soup (or more?) I’ll probably make it in a pot on top of the stove and just switch to the slow cooker to transport it and keep it warm for an hour and a half.(?)
    How many servings of creamy broccoli soup do you think this size* will hold just for keeping the soup warm enough to serve?
    *Outside measurements include handles and lid: 11.5″ W x15.5″ L x10.5″ H.
    Please reply ASAP since I’ll start prepping it in about 15 hours.😃
    Thanks! Nancy Schwarzmann
    email: [email protected].

    1. I would suggest using a large measuring cup and filling it with water. Track how much of the water it takes to fill your slow cooker 2/3 full. Then plan around 1 cup per person.

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