F&W tested the latest models, then asked cookbook author and slow-cooker expert Beth Hensperger for smart and unexpected ways to use them.

Marathon Cooker

All-Clad’s Slow Cooker can be programmed for up to 26 hours of continual cooking—the longest of all the ones we tested—making it especially well suited for tough cuts of meat that require slow, steady heat. Because the machine also seals in moisture while cooking—this model had the least evaporation in our test—the meat won’t dry out. $150; 877-812-6235 or williams-sonoma.com.

3 More Standouts

Easy-to-use Cooker

Bargain Buy Cuisinart’s dependable CSC-650 takes the guesswork out of slow cooking: When you use the timer it always starts on high, ensuring that food reaches the temperature recommended by the USDA within two hours, before automatically switching to low. The dials appeal to the digital-shy, and this model is a third less expensive than others we tested. $100; 800-211-9604 or cuisinartwebstore.com.

Powerhouse Cooker

Smart Sensor KitchenAid’s 400-watt Slow Cooker is the most powerful of the models we tested, which means food reaches the USDA-recommended safe temperature range faster. If the temperature drops too low, an electronic sensor beeps. Plus, the machine’s "reserve power" feature helps stabilize temperatures when the lid is lifted. $150; 800-541-6390 or shopkitchenaid.com.

Healthy Cooker

Preset Recipes New Age guru Dr. Andrew Weil’s Healthy Kitchen Slow Cooker—part of his first line of cookware, developed in collaboration with Waterford Wedgwood—comes preprogrammed with temperature settings and cooking times for 40 recipes from his cookbook, The Healthy Kitchen. Other recipes require additional programming. $150; 866-593-2540 or bloomingdales.com.