steaming pot

What size crock pot should you get? (And sizes explained)


With slow cookers, size matters.  Choosing crock pot sizes is probably the most important decision in purchasing a slow cooker.  Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, from ½ quart to 10 quart and anywhere in between.  They even make these personal slow cookers for taking hot lunches on the go!

What size slow cooker should I buy?

For best results, your slow cooker should be two thirds to three quarters full for properly cooked food.  Too little food will cause your food to cook faster and dry out quicker.  Too much food will cause cooking time to increase.  

Crock pot sizes:

½ -3 quart slow cookers are best for a single person or two.  Under 2 quarts is great for dips, sauce or dessert.  

3-4 quart slow cookers are best for medium size dishes.  They best fit about 4-5 servings.

5-6 quart slow cookers are good for bigger pieces of meat like roasts or pork shoulder, or when making 6-8 servings of food.

6 quart is the standard size for slow cookers.  This is what’s used in most recipes.

7-10 quart slow cookers are large.  You’ll want these bigger units to cook huge batches of food for parties, large families, or batch cooking for weekly meal prep.

Generally you can estimate 1 lb per qt, depending on the shape of the slow cooker.

Crock pot sizes not only depend on how many people you’re cooking for.  It also depends on what you want to cook.  Smaller portions work great in a smaller pot, but if you want to cook ribs, or a roast, you’re going to need a larger unit.

You can cook small amounts of food in a large slow cooker with accessories but you’re better off buying the appropriately sized crock pot than trying to adapt a larger one.  

Pot in pot recipes will also require a larger unit to fit a baking dish or casserole dish inside of the crock pot.  The method is not fool-proof and it requires an oven-safe bowl, casserole dish, or baking pan placed on a wire rack or aluminum foil inside the slow cooker.  

It’s not worth risking ruining dinner and wasting food.  

How big is a 4 qt crock pot?

A 4 qt crock pot fits a 3-4 lb roast, weighs around 9 pounds and is approximately 12” long x 8” wide x 12” tall.

How big is a 5 qt crock pot?

A 5 qt crock pot fits a 5-6 lb roast, weighs around 12 pounds and is approximately 12” long x 9” wide x 12” tall.

How big is a 6 qt crock pot?

A 6 qt crock pot will fit a 6-8 lb roast, weighs around 12 pounds and is approximately 14” long x 9” wide x 14” tall.  


Modern slow cookers have a variety of features.  There are manual slow cookers and there are digital slow cookers that are programmable, with timers and settings for different meals.  Some have just high and low settings, and some have a keep warm function, which keeps food warm after it finishes cooking.  This can be handy for parties.

Manual control slow cookers are simple to use and less expensive than digital.

As programmable slow cookers are more expensive than manual slow cookers, you can save some money by purchasing a manual slow cooker and an electric mechanical timer that can be set to turn on and off at set times.

Travel slow cookers like this one from Presto look like a cooler, have a flip up handle, locking lid sealing spills in, and cool-touch housing.  Handy for picnics, pot lucks and tailgating parties.

Slow cookers are made of different materials such as aluminum, stoneware and ceramic.  Newer models have removable pots making clean-up easier.  You can also transfer these inner pots to the oven easily.

Many multi-cookers, such as the Instant Pot, also serve as a slow cooker.  You can use the saute function to brown your meat first and then switch it over to slow cook to complete cooking for enhanced flavor in one pot.

How does a slow cooker work?

Slow cookers produce a low steady heat, which helps to tenderize tough cuts of meat using heat and moisture. Keeping the lid on traps heat and moisture.  Opening the lid during cooking can increase cooking time.

Benefits of slow cookers

Food cooked at lower temperatures retains more nutrients and better flavor. 

Slow cooking is a good method for tenderizing big, tough, inexpensive cuts of meat like pork shoulder, chuck roast, beef brisket, chicken thigh, chicken drumstick, lamb shank, and short ribs, reducing your grocery bill.

Slow cookers are a great time-saver, passively cooking dinner while going about your day. Just throw all of your ingredients in and you can cook a whole meal at once.  Even doing the cooking when you’re at work, running errands or sleeping.

How much does a slow cooker cost?

Prices range from $10 up to around $125 for a single function slow cooker.  Multi-function cookers, like the Instant Pot, can range up to $300.

What is the difference between a crockpot and a slow cooker?

“Crock-pot” is a brand name for a slow cooker made by Rival.  These were the original slow cookers that made them popular, so the name has become synonymous with slow cooker.  Kind of like a Jacuzzi is the brand name for a hot tub, or like Kleenex is with facial tissues, but they are used interchangeably.  

So if you’re wondering which is better, crockpot or slow cooker, they are just two different names for the same thing.

Today, any company that makes small kitchen appliances makes some version of a slow cooker.  Popular brands include Black & Decker, Hamilton Beach, West Bend, KitchenAid, All-Clad, Calphalon, Bella, Presto, Cuisinart, Ninja and Breville. 

Should meat or vegetables go in crockpot first?

Many recipes and slow cooker instructions say to place firm, slow-cooking root vegetables on the bottom of the slow cooker and then place meat on top.  However, this is up to personal preference.  

Some feel the vegetables cooking in the juice get too mushy for their tastes and prefer them cooked on top of the meat.  Try it both ways and see which you prefer.

Can you put raw burger in crockpot?

It turns out, you can add raw ground beef to a crockpot.  Carmelizing meat before adding to a slow cooker creates bolder, richer flavors.  However, this step is not necessary. Laura over at even has instructions for large batch cooking ground beef in a crockpot.

Why are my potatoes hard in slow cooker?

Cooking all day and your potatoes and carrots still hard in your slow cooker?  

There are several factors that could be at play here.  The most likely solution is to make sure the vegetables are covered in liquid and turn the cooker up to high for an hour or until cooked through.  

Slow cookers only heat to around 140-160 so the liquid is needed to cook the vegetables completely.


Cooking for one or two?  Downsize most recipes with a few adjustments and cook in a 3-quart cooker.

You can pre-cook dinner overnight while you sleep. Add all ingredients and let it cook overnight.  The next morning, when it’s done cooking, refrigerate and let the flavors soak in during the day.  Reheat for dinner that night.

Many people find having two slow cookers in their pantry useful.  One smaller crock pot for cooking dips, desserts, hot cereals and smaller meals.  One larger for soups, stews, roasts, and having leftovers.

Final Thoughts

Slow cookers are a great kitchen tool for busy households. They make it easy to prepare home cooked meals any night of the week.

With a variety of crock pot sizes, features, and price ranges available, you’re sure to find one that fits your needs.