The difference between a crockpot and a slow cooker

Updated April 17, 2017

A crock pot and a slow cooker perform the same function, yet there are differences. Using electricity and moist heat, they are both excellent for stewing tough meat until tender. They also marry flavours more deeply than short-term hob cooking. Both can be left cooking all day while the cook is away at work. But, there are differences between a crock pot and slow cooker that need to be considered.


A crock pot is a type of slow cooker, but not all slow cookers are crock pots. A crock pot is a type of slow cooker with a stoneware pot that sits inside a surrounding heating element. A slow cooker is a pot, usually made of metal, which sits atop a heating surface. With this type of slow cooker, sometimes the pot can be removed and the heating surface itself used to fry foods.


The history of slow cookers started with a bean cooker in 1970. The brand expanded its cookbook to include many dishes. The company redesigned its bean cooker by reshaping it, adding handles and a glass lid. It was given the registered trade name, “Crockpot,” which is now sold under the “Rival” brand name. Over the years, “crock pot” became a generic term often used when referring to any type of slow cooker.


Crockpots and slow cookers both have three parts--a pot, a lid, and a heating element. However, a crock pot has only two cook settings, “Low” and “High.” There may also be a “Keep Warm” setting to allow the pot to warm before serving. The temperature at these settings remains constant. A slow cooker has a number of different settings, usually numbered one to five. The heating element on a slow cooker usually cycles on and off. Some slow cookers have a timer that can be set to cook for a number of hours.


Crockpots and slow cookers come in various sizes to suit family size and specific purposes. However, crock pots are generally heavier than metal slow cookers, and may be more difficult to manipulate when washing. Since crock pots are made of stoneware, they also break more easily when dropped. Since slow cookers sit atop a heating element that cycles on and off, it’s possible for food to be scorched when using a slow cooker.


Slow cooker recipes often say to brown meat before adding to the slow cooker, but this usually isn’t necessary, though it gives meat a nice colour. If you add butter and paprika to chicken before putting it in the slow cooker, a brown colour is created while cooking. Flour meat before adding to a slow cooker to keep it moist and thicken sauce. Don’t lift lid while cooking, or the food will take longer to cook.

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About the Author

Lisa Weinstein is an award-winning, California-based journalist specializing in education. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications. She holds a California English teaching credential and uses her classroom experience to add depth to her writing.