The Best Non-Toxic Slow Cookers: Plus What to Avoid

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Written by Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

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Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, H.Dip. NT

Sustainability Expert

Leigh Matthews is a sustainability expert and long time vegan. Her work on solar policy has been published in Canada's National Observer.

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As a working mom on a budget, my slow cooker is in near constant use. Not all slow cookers are safe or easy to use, though. Here are the best non-toxic slow cookers, with safe inserts and straightforward settings.

Non-toxic 360 cookware slow cooker

We’ve had a few questions recently about slow cookers, so we figured it time to round up the best non-toxic options.

Can you please recommend the safest crock pot/slow cooker? I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of trying to find the least toxic option, and I’m overwhelmed.

Kristin

Is there a safe non toxic option for a 6 qt electric slow cooker or electric pan for long soup cooking low and slow?

Sally

Most slow cookers have one of two types of insert:

  • Glazed ceramic
  • Non-stick cast-aluminum.

Neither type of insert makes the cut at Leaf Score, given the potential toxicity issues, environmental impact, and lack of durability. We offer better options for safe, non-toxic slow cookers below.

First, though, here’s why you’ll want to avoid slow cookers featuring ceramic and PTFE.

Glazed ceramic slow cookers – avoid

Some ceramic glazes are non-toxic, but some pose a risk of leaching heavy metals like lead and cadmium into your food. 

Older ceramic or stoneware cookware with a glaze likely won’t have been leach tested and even newer cookware can vary considerably from batch to batch and may leach more as it ages.

Here are some other reasons why I don’t recommend ceramic or stoneware crockpots:

  • Families often cook with these crockpots daily
  • Food is in contact with the crockpot for hours or even days
  • Slow cooker meals are often acidic, which increases metal leaching
  • These things together are a recipe for lead poisoning.

Ceramic inserts also tend to chip or develop scratches over time, which can affect any non-stick properties and increase the risk of exposure to any underlying substrate that could leach toxic chemicals. 

You also just don’t want to accidentally ingest any chipped off ceramic when eating your delicious stew.

Non-stick PTFE slow cookers

Most slow cookers these days have a non-stick insert that is made with PTFE. This forever chemical has no place in a non-toxic kitchen, for reasons we’ve gone over time and again at Leaf Score.

This type of non-stick cookware usually comprises covered aluminum. Because the non-stick PTFE coating degrades over time and is liable to peel, scratch, or chip away, there’s a risk of exposure to aluminum too.

Although unlikely with a low-heat slow cooker, non-stick PTFE inserts can overheat. This means there’s a risk of exposure to toxic fumes and polymer fume fever. 

These coated inserts are also difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. And they need replacing every few years. 

Overall, this means these types of slow cooker inserts are very unsustainable. Add to that the environmental pollution that accompanies the production of PTFE and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

How to choose a safe, non-toxic slow cooker

The best non-toxic slow cookers have a stainless steel cooking pot. This kind of cookware is non-toxic, durable, and easy to recycle when the time comes.

Sure, stainless steel isn’t technically non-stick, but this doesn’t really matter if you’re cooking soups, stews, and other juicy meals.

If stainless steel isn’t your jam, there are a few good options for non-stick ceramic slow cookers and even ones that work with cast iron!

The inner cookpot is the most important thing to look at when choosing a safe, non-toxic slow cooker. However, you’ll also want to check the other parts of the cooker and any accessories included. 

Wherever possible, avoid slow cookers with lots of plastic parts. Favor those with stainless steel housing and handles instead as these will usually last longer and be easier to fix if anything comes loose. 

The same goes for super fancy slow cookers that have a lot of settings. The more gadgetry a device has, the more there is to go wrong. For a slow cooker, you really just need a handful of cook settings and some simple buttons or dials. WiFi compatibility really isn’t necessary for a slow cooker.

1

360 Cookware 6 Quart Slow Cooker Set

Non-toxic 360 cookware slow cooker

Highlights: A genius slow cooker that works with your existing pots and pans (or buy with 360’s tailor made pot). Simple, durable, non-toxic, and versatile, from a brand committed to sustainability and safety.

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What we like

  • Sturdy, smart base design
  • Ergonomic handles and space-saving design
  • 3-ply stainless steel insert is oven safe to 500 degrees
  • Induction capable insert
  • T-304 Surgical Grade Stainless Steel
  • VaporSeal lid helps retain moisture for juicy, delicious food
  • Made in the US in an eco-friendly factory
  • Easy to clean by hand and is dishwasher safe

What could be better

  • Lacks the same variety of programs of other models

Coupon alert!

360 Cookware is offering Leaf Score readers 25% off its slow cookers and other cookware and bakeware. Use code Leafscore at checkout!

My favorite slow cooker is one that can work with pretty much any stainless steel, cast iron, or suitable ceramic pots. This genius device from 360 is a space-saving, cost-saving, versatile slow cooker.

It’s also super fun to cook with and available in several sizes, so you can get one for the family, one for the office, and even one for large events or use in a dorm room or for anyone else living alone.

The smart design of the 360 Slow Cooker eliminates the need for a special slow cooker insert. You can, however, purchase the 360 Slow Cooker bundle, which includes 360 Cookware’s stainless steel insert. This insert heats fast and even and can be used in the oven and on all cooktops, including induction.

Always use a pot or pan!

The heating surface of this slow cookers looks like it’s cookworthy, but the steel plate is not a cooking surface. You must use a pot or pan on the black anodized steel plate for cooking.

360 Cookware has an inside layer comprising T-304 surgical grade stainless steel, 18/8. That means there’s 18% chromium and 8% nickel in the steel. The outer layer is T-400 stainless steel, with a lower nickel content and high carbon steel content. That means it works really well with induction cooktops.

The stainless steel layers surround an inner core of aluminum to create an overall thickness of 2.7 mm. The aluminum is a fantastic heat conductor and helps the cookware heat evenly. This aluminum layer never touches your food, meaning these cookpots are safe and non-toxic.

Is it non-stick?

While it doesn’t have a separate non-stick coating, 360 Cookware dry sands the steel to create a non-porous surface that is functionally non-stick without added chemicals. This makes it easy to brown meat and use the same pot for the rest of your slow cooker meal. And it makes it easier to clean the pot later. 

One of the big selling points of the cookware is the Vapor Cooking design. The Slow Cooker pot has a special dome shaped lid that traps moisture to help seal in the juiciness of foods. That means less humidity in your home and more efficient cooking on a lower heat. 

The 360 Cookware Slow Cooker lid has a smart design that traps moisture to keep your meals juicy and delicious

Why we like 360 Cookware

360 Cookware is made by Americraft Cookware, which has been in business for more than 40 years. This family-run cookware company makes everything it sells in an environmentally friendly factory in Wisconsin. The company makes a point of paying a living wage and providing health care and retirement plans for its employees.

360 Cookware is safe and sustainable, and it has a solid reputation as high performance cookware, including for its slow cookers. 

The company aims to make heirloom quality products that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren. All 360 Cookware is made with high grades of stainless steel, typically with a mirrored finish to help keep the cookware looking great for many years to come. And if anything goes wrong, which it rarely does with this cookware, Americraft offers a lifetime warranty, even for its legacy brands.

Sustainable packaging

My 360 Cookware slow cooker arrived in plastic-free packaging made from recycled and recyclable cardboard, further impressing me with the company’s commitment to eco-friendliness.

Americraft prides itself on running the greenest cookware factory in the world. That means it makes 360 Cookware in a way that helps protect the environment from many of the usual insults of manufacturing. 

The company took pains from the start to have processes that didn’t require toxic chemicals or the EPA permits that go with them. That means no dumping of toxic chemicals into local waterways and no toxic emissions from the factory. 

My experience with the 360 Cookware Slow Cooker

The 360 Cookware Slow Cooker has become our go-to for weeknight family meals. It’s a smart, simple, safe way to cook large batches of stew, chili, and other dishes that satisfy me and my toddler, with minimal effort.

I love how easy it is to use the included cookpot, which is impressively non-stick for stainless steel. I’ve tested it out on our electric stovetop too, and it’s great for creating a fond and browning onions and so on before adding the rest of your ingredients. The dials are straightforward and don’t require reading a lengthy manual, and there’s no worry you’ve got it on the wrong program and will come home to food that never cooked or overcooked.

The design definitely seals in juices and even aromas, which is great if you or another family member is sensitive to smells (one of the downsides of most slow cooking is that the whole house smells allllllll day).

At clean-up time, the stainless steel pot is much easier to clean that a heavy ceramic pot. No need to worry about too much soap or scrubbing too hard (not that you need to scrub much at all). This pot is robust and easy to keep in good condition. My top tip is to dry it right away though, otherwise you may end up with some marbling, especially if you have hard water at home.

Here’s a video of the 360 in action, with the stainless steel pot going from stovetop straight to the slow cooker base.

2

Wolf Gourmet Multi Function Cooker

Highlights: Gorgeous multi function high end slow cooker. Non-toxic stainless steel cooking pot also works on cooktops and in a regular oven. Tons of functionality and 7 quart capacity.

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What we like

  • 6 cooking modes
  • Can cook up to 18 cups of rice!
  • Removable stainless steel tri-ply vessel usable as a separate dutch oven
  • 7 quart capacity
  • Temperature probe
  • Straightforward programmable controls
  • Sous vide program (with removable rack)
  • Oven-safe glass lid
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Five-year limited warranty
  • Significant sustainability efforts by Wolf

What could be better

  • Very expensive
  • Requires careful programming
  • Company lacking in diversity, equity, and inclusion 

The Wolf Gourmet MultiFunction Cooker is a step up from standard slow cookers. This beauty has a removable 7 quart tri-ply stainless steel insert you can use on any cooktop, including induction. The insert is also dishwasher safe and oven safe.

The Wolf Gourmet slow cooker has six programs, including one for cooking rice, a sous vide program, a sear/brown program, and three slow cooker programs: 

  1. A straightforward manual slow cook program
  2. Meal timer slow cook option (to perfectly time dinner)
  3. Programmable slow cook option for when you want to use up to two different heat settings.

I love the look of this slow cooker and its stainless steel build. This makes it more durable and sustainable than most plasticky slow cookers. I also really like that you can easily purchase the accessories as this means you aren’t stuck with an unusable slow cooker if you damage or lose parts such as the sous vide rack, temperature probe, stainless steel insert, or the stainless steel knob on the front of the slow cooker control panel.

The big downside to the Wolf Gourmet slow cooker is the price. At almost $1000, this is one for the wedding registry perhaps. That said, you can often get it at a hefty discount (sub $700) at Amazon, ABT Appliances, and other major retailers.

Sustainability at Wolf

Wolf and its parent company have a clear, longstanding commitment to sustainability. Here are just a few of the eco-friendly practices that earn Wolf points from me:

  • Wolf uses around 82% recycled stainless steel
  • Wolf Gourmet appliances are built in the USA 
  • No wastewater is produced during manufacturing 
  • Rooftop solar helps power company operations
  • More than 83% landfill diversion rate at US manufacturing sites
  • 100% of scrap metal recycled
  • Significant decrease in water usage since 2018
  • Impressive efforts to enhance biodiversity and land use at facilities
  • Robust employee health and wellness initiatives
  • Emphasis on local procurement of raw materials and parts.
3

Instant Pot Duo Cooker

Highlights: Very affordable, very versatile slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, and more. Stainless steel insert and a good balance of functionality and simplicity. Available in three sizes.

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What we like

  • Affordable and versatile
  • Removable stainless steel insert and steaming rack
  • Three sizes available – 3, 6, and 8 qt.
  • Great safety features
  • Can cook sous vide
  • Allows yogurt making, fermenting, and sterilizing
  • Energy efficient
  • Helps prevent aromas and humidity escaping

What could be better

  • Steep learning curve
  • Risk of serious injury if used incorrectly

Instant Pot is one of the few options for a slow cooker with a stainless steel insert. The design of this slow cooker also means you can significantly reduce cooking times, thanks to the pressurized container. With the Instant Pot you can cook a baked potato in less than 15 mins, without a microwave!

The Instant Pot is very versatile. Depending on which one you choose, it can do the work of up to 10 other kitchen appliances, with options to:

  • Roast
  • Bake
  • Steam
  • Stew
  • Ferment
  • Sauté
  • Warm and sterilize
  • Sous vide cooking
  • Make rice.

Instant Pot uses an 18/8 stainless steel inner pot comprising food grade 304 three ply stainless steel. That means it has an aluminum core for even heat distribution.

This slow cooker boasts a ton of safety features, including ensuring you can’t open the lid when the interior is pressurized. The exceptional seal also means all the flavor and aromas (and humidity) are trapped inside. So don’t expect to come home to a house smelling of stew.

Versatile slow cooker

There are three sizes of Instant Pot available – 3, 6, and 8 quart – making this a great choice for an affordable slow cooker that does plenty besides.

I recommend the Instant Pot as an affordable option for:

  • Dorm rooms
  • Seniors who live alone
  • Anyone with a kitchenette only
  • Anyone who makes their own yogurt!

The Instant Pot can also work as a baby bottle sterilizer. This is a much more sustainable option than buying a separate sterilizer which you’ll likely only use for a year or so.

More affordable options

I wouldn’t ordinarily recommend a slow cooker with a ceramic or stoneware insert but I also understand that the options above are much more expensive than many families can afford. 

If you can, save up for a stainless steel slow cooker. 

If your only option is a cheaper ceramic slow cooker, check out the two below.

4

Crock-Pot 6 Quart Cook & Carry Slow Cooker

Highlights: Simple and affordable slow cooker with a robust build and good capacity. Built-in timer to help prevent overcooking while still keeping food warm.

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What we like

  • Very simple
  • Very affordable
  • Durable (can last a decade or longer)
  • Very quiet (no alarms)
  • 6 quart capacity
  • Timer function to switch to warm mode
  • Lockable lid for mess-free transport
  • Company has been around a long time

What could be better

  • No toxicity testing available for the stoneware insert
  • Synthetic rubber gasket on locking lid
  • Maybe too quiet! Easy to miss when the timer’s done
  • Some reports that even the low heat setting is too high

The Crock-Pot lacks the same range of functions as the Wolf Gourmet slow cooker but what it does it does well. This is the OG of slow cookers, coining the term crockpot itself.

I especially like the timer function that lowers the heat when you want, but doesn’t just turn off the cooker. That way, even if you’re a little late getting to dinner, your food will be warm but not horribly overcooked.

Other features that come in handy include a lockable lid. That means you can use this slow cooker to make a meal and then easily transport it across town without spilling everything.

Downsides to the Crock-Pot

One notable downside to this cooker is its quietness. While that’s great for folks who abhor kitchen alarms, it may mean you don’t realize when the slow cooker switches from cook to warm mode. 

There are also quite a few angry reviews from customers who find this crockpot far too hot even on a low setting. Even the company itself is careful to suggest you always fill the insert at least two thirds of the way, with a considerable amount of liquid. So, if roasts are your thing, this is not the crockpot for you.

Finally, and most importantly, Crock-Pot offers no robust information on heavy metal testing. The company website says its cookware passes all relevant safety tests, including the California Prop 65 leach testing requirements for lead and cadmium. But it doesn’t offer any third-party testing of its actual glazes, which means we don’t know for sure that the ceramic is free of heavy metals.

Elsewhere, Crock-Pot has stated that its parent company, Jarden Consumer Solutions (JCS) tests for extractable (i.e., leaching of) lead and cadmium using accredited third party laboratories and ensures the slow cooker stoneware is far below the U.S. FDA and California Regulation Prop 65 requirements.

My experience with Crockpot Slow Cookers

A few years ago, we signed up to a vegan family meal plan where we got grocery lists and recipes for weekday dinners. It was super helpful for two fulltime working parents-to-be and we got to know our Crockpot very well.

The old-style Crockpot was one I inherited from a friend and it was largely unused and in great condition. We used it two or three times a week and loved it. The downside was knowing the ceramic and glaze could be exposing us to heavy metals. The ceramic cookpot is also very heavy and awkward to clean. After a few dings, the ceramic glaze has some significant chips, though the pot itself remains in good condition without any cracks or chips, just some hard to remove food residue in the corners.

The Crockpot had very straightforward controls, which made it easy to set and go in the morning. The lid fit fairly well and it’s nice it’s glass, so you can see you food simmering. It put out a lot of heat though, making me think it was very energy inefficient. With a small kitchen and small children who like to climb, this slow cooker is a real safety hazard.

For all these reasons and more, we were in the market for a safer slow cooker. The 360 Cookware Slow Cooker is just the ticket!

All in all, the Crockpot served us well for several months. It has a lot of good features and is a great option for smaller budgets and occasional use. We kept ours for guests to use as it still has a lot of life left but probably wouldn’t get sold in a thrift store because of those chips in the ceramic.

5

All-Clad SD700450 Programmable Oval-Shaped Slow Cooker

Highlights: Easy to use, versatile slow cooker from a brand known for quality cookware. Expensive and has a ceramic insert, but otherwise a very good option for family meals.

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What we like

  • Good temperature control
  • Stay cool handles
  • Simple, easy-to-use controls
  • Two size options
  • Dishwasher safe insert

What could be better

  • More expensive than Crock-Pot
  • Heavy ceramic insert
  • No testing available

The All-Clad slow cooker is a lot pricier than the Crock-Pot but has a much better reputation for temperature control and overall quality. Low really does mean low with this slow cooker, and high is really high!

Even on high heat settings, though, the handles still stay cool, making this a good option for a safer kitchen with little space.

The controls let you quickly and easily program the slow cooker to satisfy your cooking schedule. 

This crockpot is available in two sizes, a 6.5 and 4 qt. Because the insert is ceramic, it’s quite heavy. This makes it harder to clean than a comparable size stainless steel insert. The insert is, however, dishwasher safe. 

Again, the downsides of this slow cooker are the ceramic nature of the cookpot. While All-Clad has a good reputation, that doesn’t mean this crockpot is entirely lead-free. All-Clad doesn’t offer any insight into its testing, though it is sold in California, so must pass Prop 65 leach testing as it doesn’t display a warning.

How do you use a slow cooker?

If you eat meat, a slow cooker is a very handy kitchen appliance. Typically, you would brown some meat in a pan, then add the meat and other ingredients to your slow cooker and let everything cook on a low heat for a few hours.

We’re a vegan household, though, and we favor the slow cooker for making things like soups, stews, and chili. 

In general, slow cookers work best for more liquidy meals. Though you can also use a slow cooker for roasts and other meals where something steams or bakes for a long time in a marinade, sauce, or its own juices.

Slow cookers are also great for warming things like mulled wine or apple juice/cider for parties. 

Depending on the slow cooker, you can also use these appliances for sous vide cooking (cooking at very low temperatures in a warm water bath).
For things like soups and stews, you usually add everything to the pot all at once, with the exception of some herbs and any garnishes. This can include dried beans and pulses, stock, veggies, tomatoes, sauces, and so forth. Let everything cook for 6-8 hours, with the occasional stir if you’re home, and then add herbs and spices about half an hour before you’re ready to eat dinner.

What’s so great about slow cookers?

Slow cookers are great for making healthy and tasty food when you have limited time to be active in the kitchen. They also make kitchen clean-up a breeze, and often leave you with tasty leftovers for lunch the next day.

For folks with limited kitchen space, or with no traditional oven, cooktop, or microwave, slow cookers are also a great option for making meals at home.

My toddler gets very squirrely right around the time I need to make dinner. Rather than trying to do all the things, which invariably means someone gets frazzled, I push my dinner prep to earlier in the day, when everyone has more patience. That way, I don’t need to handle hot pots and pans and sharp knives while trying to connect with my kid.

Can I just use a pressure cooker as a slow cooker?

Maybe. 

Some pressure cookers have a slow cook mode, but not all work this way. And, as with many multifunction kitchen devices, you may have to compromise on performance if you want your pressure cooker to also act as a slow cooker.

You might also find that a pressure cooker isn’t quite the right shape for use as a slow cooker if you plan to cook roasts.

The other big issue is that most pressure cookers don’t let you ‘set it and forget it’. Unlike with a programmable slow cookers, you can’t just turn on a pressure cooker and then walk away!

One of the best options I’ve seen for a pressure cooker with excellent slow cooking capacity is the Zavor 6-quart MultiCooker. This also has a stainless steel cookpot, making it non-toxic.

The Instant Pot is another decent option with a stainless steel interior, but it’s not quite as high performance as a slow cooker.

Why don’t you recommend the Black and Decker 7-Quart Digital Slow Cooker with Temperature Probe + Precision Sous-Vide?

I usually like Black and Decker products, given that the company is more sustainable than most. However, despite good reviews and a nice design, the slow cooker comes with chemical exposure warnings for styrene and BPA. 

Given the potential for daily use of a slow cooker, I’d say to stay away from one that could repeatedly expose you and your family to any known chemicals of concern. That means choosing a non-toxic slow cooker instead of this Black and Decker model.

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  1. Great post – thank you!
    I think the instant pot in your article is the duo, which seems to be their longstanding most popular model.

    They’ve got newer versions now that come with a silicone ring for extra sealing of the pressure cooking. Do you know if a silicone ring for sealing would be safe for pressure cooking?

    As I ideally wanted to purchase one of the newer models because they’ve got some features I could really do with, but just wasn’t sure if this silicone ring could cause any health risks of leaching into food etc. I mean I use silicone utensils all the time, but I wasn’t sure if pressure cooking with a silicone sealing ring could cause any issues. thank you – Ryan

  2. I stopped using slow cooker with ceramic in 2003 because of lead contamination. At that time there was no information about the toxicity in slow cooks. I sent the cookers for testing at a lead testing facility in Albuquerque.

    I have wanted a slow cooker for beans and the metal pots are not traditionally used for beans. So I have not purchased a metal slow cooker.

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