Slow cookers and crock-pots are words often used interchangeably to describe the same utensil. The purpose of either is the same – cooking food slowly for a long period (in contrast to pressure cookers). And both have three basic components:
In reality, they’re different.
To start, Crock-Pot is a slow cooker brand that introduced a type of slow cooker that was so famous that it became a generic name for a slow cooker. So, every Crock-Pot is a slow cooker, but every slow cooker isn’t a crock-pot. So, technically we can divide slow cookers into two groups: Commercial-style slow cookers and Crock-Pot-like slow cookers.
1. Commercial-style Slow Cookers
This type of slow cookers does not copy Crock-Pots. A slow cooker is an appliance while a Crock-Pot is a commercial brand. So, other types of slow cookers may have features that Crock-Pots and crock-pot-style slow cookers don’t share.
Construction: Construction wise, commercial slow cookers often consist of a metal pot that rests on the heating base. That’s unlike Crock-Pots in which the pot sits inside the heating unit. So, the pot gets heat from the bottom. There are some weaknesses in this setup.
• Since the heat enters from the bottom, it takes more time to cook the food. Moreover, the bottom layer of ingredients may be overcooked while that on the top remains undercooked.
• To avoid the imbalance, the food needs to be stirred time and again. The more you stir, the more you remove the lid, and the heat will be released. So, it not only increases the cooking time, but it also requires your physical presence and monitoring.
More Heat Settings: Commercial-style slow cookers offer more heat setting options compared to Crock-Pots. While Crock-Pots and Crock-Pot-Style models generally offer low, high and warm features, commercial models will have an additional simmering feature. In fact, most models offer as many as five settings.
Difference in Cooking Process: As the heat enters the pot from the bottom, commercial slow cookers tend to work in cycles to keep the internal temperature of the ingredients in balance. To do this, they turn themselves on and off, many times throughout the cooking process. Best programmable slow cookers have a timer, allowing the food to be cooked for a certain period of time.
2. Crock-Pots And Other Similar Slow Cookers
In 1970, Crock-Pot was launched as a bean cooker. It went through multiple redesigns, and after some time, it became what we now recognize it for – the slow cooker. The model was a hit and soon followed by many manufacturers. Crock-Pots, as well as Crock-Pot-style models, have been quite popular in the United States. Their popularity is significantly due to its ease of use.
Makers and manufacturers: As said, a Crock-Pot is a slow cooker brand, and it was introduced by Rival Manufacturing Company. Soon, other manufacturers came up with similar designs, and Crock-Pot-style slow cookers secured their place in the market. Today, prominent names manufacturing these models include KitchenAid, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Bella and more.
Concept of three-dimensional heating: Crock-Pot design features an inner pot made of porcelain or ceramic. It is placed inside the heating unit. Most of these models feature heating units that provide heat from the bottom as well as from the walls. There is no need for stirring and monitoring, which is why, these slow cookers allow you to set the temperature and cooking time, and forget about the food. The pot comes in different sizes, and its shape can be oval or round.
Heat settings: These models typically consist of only two settings – Low or High. The low setting delivers temperature up to 200F, while the high setting can attain up to 300F. Nowadays, most models have a third heating option – a keep warm feature with lower-wattage.
Cooking process: Unlike commercial slow cookers, these models offer continuous cooking. Additionally, some models feature a timer allowing you to set the cooking time for a specific time period.