Best slow cooker for tailgating

Rachel Pintarelli

The wattage on a slow cooker will affect how quickly it heats up. A higher wattage will provide a quicker cook time.

Best slow cooker for tailgating

Outdoor adventures like tailgating and camping can often mean whipping up small but convenient dishes to enjoy while out in the elements. Slow cookers are an ideal option for stews, soups and even dips. The best part? They come in convenient mini 1.5- and 3-quart sizes, which work best for easy travel and the simple set-up required by tailgating. These models tend to be a bit more rugged and are usually constructed with stainless exteriors that are typically rust-resistant. A popular choice is the Hamilton Beach 3-Quart Slow Cooker, ideal for couples who want to enjoy a hot meal while tailgating in the brisk outdoors.

Considerations when buying a slow cooker for tailgating 


Tailgating usually means enjoying the great outdoors, which translates to selecting a slow cooker that can withstand travel and the elements. It should be rugged, long-lasting and easy to clean. A slow cooker for tailgating should have a rust-resistant exterior like stainless steel. The inserts of most slow cookers are made with stoneware, which is easy to clean and often dishwasher safe.

Construction elements

There are a few essential construction elements to be aware of when purchasing the ideal slow cooker for tailgating. Many slow cookers feature rubber feet, which can provide added stability when placed on a portable surface. The slow cooker’s handles should be strong and secured to the body of the cooker. Cool-touch handles are a bonus and an excellent safety measure to consider. Lastly, a see-through lid formed with tempered glass allows you to keep an eye on your favorite stew while it simmers to perfection.


Slow cookers come in various sizes, but when it comes to tailgating or outdoor adventures, a mini slow cooker is the best way to go. They typically hold up to a maximum of four quarts and are convenient to transport and set up. Slow cookers with a 3- or 4-quart capacity contain enough food for two to three people, while a 1.5-quart capacity slow cooker works best for one to two people.

Slow cooker for tailgating features

Slow cookers that are mini in size have similar features to those that are full size. These features are worth considering before you set out on your next tailgating adventure.

Cooking levels

The majority of slow cookers feature various cooking levels, including low, medium and high, and warming options. If you are looking for flexibility in preparing your meal, seek slow cookers that offer a wide array of levels to choose from. The warm level is an added bonus since it can make the slow cooker double as a chafing dish.

Cooking controls

Cooking levels are typically controlled through the use of a knob. However, some slow cookers also offer a touchpad option for controlling cooking levels. When outside, whether tailgating or camping, easy-clean features are a big consideration. Look for slow cookers with touchpad controls versus knob controls to minimize cleaning time, as they can quickly be wiped clean.

Advanced features

Mini slow cookers for tailgating typically have standard features. However, some slow cookers do go above and beyond. A timer allows you to set your cooking time which frees you to indulge in tailgate celebrations without the fear of overcooking your dish. The switch will typically flip to warming and keep your dish toasty until mealtime. Other slow cookers offer the option of steaming vegetables, cooking rice, etc., which lends itself to an Instant Pot.

Slow cooker for tailgating costs

Slow cookers for tailgating start at around $20 and max out near $70. The majority hover between $20-$40, although those above this range tend to offer advanced features with various cooking modes.

Best slow cooker for tailgating

Best of the best

Hamilton Beach 3-Quart Slow Cooker: available at Amazon

Our take: This well-made slow 3-quart slow cooker is oval in shape and is big enough to accommodate meals for two people or decent sized dips for a tailgate.

What we like: You’ll be able to keep your meals warm with this cooker’s popular keep-warm function. Thanks to the oval shape, vegetables and long cuts of meat easily fit inside, and its stoneware crock works in both conventional and microwave ovens.

What we dislike: Although it is a 3-quart slow cooker, the actual capacity may be less.

Best bang for the buck

Elite Gourmet 1.5-Quart Slow Cooker: available at Amazon

Our take: Ideal for one to two people, this mini slow cooker is 1.5 quarts and is ideal for whipping up party dip.

What we like: Small and simple, this round slow cooker has a keep-warm function which maintains meal temps without the risk of overcooking. It has a removable ceramic crock on the interior, which is dishwasher safe.

What we dislike: Some consumers have mentioned the lack of a sealing gasket.

Best for bonus features

Instant Pot Mini Duo 7-in-1: available at Amazon

Our take: Packed with features, this well-known brand offers an automated pressure cooker that slowly cooks food.

What we like: With over seven cooking methods available, this 3-quart multi cooker offers a quick-heat function that browns and sears foods before slow-cooking it. It is flexible in that it can move from slow cooking to pressure cooking and back to slow cooking.

What we dislike: Although packed with multiple features and functions, the learning curve to use this can be steep.

Best for soups and stews

Crock-Pot 3-Quart Manual Slow Cooker: available at Amazon

Our take: Tailgating meals are made easy with this trusted brand’s manual slow cooker, ideal for stews and soups.

What we like: Capable of cooking up stews, soups and braises thanks to its 3-quart size, you’ll also find a warming function. The interior stoneware crock is dishwasher safe and is easy to clean.

What we dislike: The exterior can be hot to the touch.

Best for one- to two- people

Nesco 1.5-Quart Slow Cooker: available at Amazon

Our take: Petite in size, this small oval model is ideal for one to two-person dishes and works well for party settings.

What we like: The removable stoneware crock is oven- and dishwasher-safe, and can be safely transferred to the refrigerator. It is oval in shape and accommodates elongated foods well despite its smaller quart size. The exterior is offered in a variety of fun colors. 

What we dislike:  Some feel the settings run too hot.

Rachel Pintarelli is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.