Crockpot vs. Slow Cooker: Are These the Same Thing?

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One of my most used kitchen appliances is my crockpot. I especially love it in the fall and winter months for making soups, stews, pot roasts, etc.

Like many of you, probably, I had always assumed that a crockpot and a slow cooker were one and the same. It turns out, though, that while a crockpot is a type of slow cooker, not all slow cookers are crockpots.

There are plenty of similarities, of course, but there are also a few distinct differences that you might be interested to know.

Pork Roast with Vegetables in a Slow Cooker

Let’s take a closer look at the crockpot first. The first model was introduced to us in 1970 marketed strictly as a bean cooker.

Over time, the brand expanded its cooking repertoire to include many different types of dishes. The company then re-designed its bean cooker by reshaping it and adding handles and a glass lid.

Afterwards, the product was registered under the trade name of “Crock-Pot”, which is now sold under the Rival brand name. Now, of course, the word “crockpot” has become a generic term used to refer to any type of slow cooker.

Stainless steel crockpot; isolated background

Crock-Pot SCVT650-PS 6-1/2-Quart Programmable Touchscreen Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel

With a true crockpot, the crock itself is a container with heating elements all along the sides as well as on the bottom.

Technically this device is called an electric heating oven (no matter the brand) and features a ceramic or porcelain pot that fits snugly into the crock with a glass lid to trap the heat and moisture inside.

The device has two heat settings, high (typically 300°F) and low (200°F), with most models now coming with a “Keep Warm” setting. It cooks food slowly at a low temperature, with the heat surrounding the food and bringing it up to a safe temperature quickly.

Direct heat from the crock, a lengthy cooking period, and steam created in the tightly covered container all combine to destroy any bacteria, which makes this method of cooking a safe process.

Crockpot cooking is especially good for tenderizing cheaper (aka tougher) cuts of meat that typically require low and slow cooking.

 Figidaire Pro Slow cooker

the Frigidaire Professional Stainless 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker

Despite its name, the Frigidaire Professional Stainless 7-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is much more closely related to the crockpot.

Now we’ll switch over to the slow cooker. A true slow cooker consists of the same three components as a crockpot: glass lid, pot, and heating element.

However, instead of the ceramic or porcelain pot of the crockpot, slow cookers generally have a metal pot.

Additionally, instead of fitting inside of a container (or crock), the pot will sit on a base that houses the heating element. This means that a slow cooker lacks the heat going up the sides of the pot to surround it with even cooking temperatures.

The hot plate under the pot also will have more varied heat settings than a crockpot. These are typically numbered 1 through five.

These two big differences mean that food heats more slowly than in the crockpot, with the heat level higher on the bottom of the pot.

This causes two things, the first being that scorching can pose a problem with the heat being concentrated on the bottom.

Occasional stirring is often indicated on the recipe for slow cooker meals in order to prevent this occurrence, which means lifting the lid, which means adding about 20 minutes to the cooking time each time you stir.

Secondly, the rather uneven heating also has caused the USDA to recommend that slow cookers be used mainly for soups, stews, or other dishes where the contents are cut into smaller pieces.

The smaller pieces enable the food to more quickly come up to a safe temperature that will kill any bacteria.

West Bend 84905 5-Quart Oblong-Shaped Slow Cooker

It’s also worth mentioning that a slow cooker can serve more purposes than just slow cooking a meal.

Because a regular slow cooker consists of a cooking vessel sitting on top of a hot plate, that cooking vessel can also be removed and used to cook on your stovetop or in the oven such as the West Bend unit shown above.

If you were to look at additional product pictures, you would see that it has the ability to be used on directly on your range.

This is especially useful if you want to cook something “fast” and use your the slow cooker’s heating pads to keep it warm for a party or an event.

Likewise, with the pot removed, the hot plate can then be used as a griddle for cooking or heating up other foods.

These alternative uses for the slow cooker sort of make up for the drawbacks if you’re looking for a kitchen appliance that can serve more than one purpose.

Personally, I am typically against buying stuff for the kitchen that can only be used for one thing (like a “quesadilla maker”. I mean, really. I have one of those. It’s called a griddle).

The one exception I would make would be a waffle maker. I really want one of those things. I have so many waffle recipes pinned, and no way to make them.

But I digress. As I was saying, if you, like me, would rather your kitchen appliances be multi-purpose, an actual slow cooker may be more up your alley, especially if you plan on using it just for soups, stews, and the like.

There is really only several true slow cookers left on the market (although other “crock pot” like appliances may use the name) with West Bend being the primary manufacturer – Click here to read my review of the various West Bend Slow Cooker models.

Cuisinart 3-in-2 muilticooker; isolated background

Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker

Speaking of multi-purpose, this Cuisinart MSC-600 3-In-1 Cook Central 6-Quart Multi-Cooker shown above is a slow cooks, browns and sautes, and steams.

This saves you the need for extra appliances that take up space and in some cases the need to use extra pots and pans when preparing a meal and making for a whole lot less cleanup.

I have found, however, that my crockpot more than makes up for its one-trick-pony status with its usefulness.

You can seriously cook just about anything in it: pot roast, soups/stews, meatloaf, even bread and cake.

It’s crazy how many different ways it can be used. I guess, then, it’s not much of a one trick pony, is it?

And even though I love it most to make warm and comforting dishes when it’s cold outside, it’s great to use when it’s sweltering, too, since you can cook dinner without getting all hot slaving over the stove.

One of our favorite ways to use it is to cook pinto beans overnight.

We love the whole beans, with a little cooking liquid, served in a bowl and topped with eggs for breakfast (sounds a little weird, but, trust me, it’s so good), and then I make refried beans with the leftovers.

This method takes the soaking portion of cooking with dried beans out of the equation.

So, there you have it:

A slow cooker is not the same thing as a crockpot, though, like me, you have most likely been living under the assumption that they are different ways to say the same thing.

As far as which one is better, in my book, an actual crockpot is the way to go since you can use it to cook such a wide variety of dishes, as I mentioned above.

You make the call, though.

Hopefully, this little comparison will give you some information that you didn’t have before and help you make the right decision for your kitchen.

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About Ashley Martell

Ashley has enjoyed creative writing since she was six years old, when she wrote her first short story. She majored in English literature at the University of Montevallo. After years of professional work, she is now a stay-at-home mom of three, who uses her craft to write about her life and adventures in and out of the kitchen.

28 thoughts on “Crockpot vs. Slow Cooker: Are These the Same Thing?”

  1. Not only did I have no idea that they were different, I’ve never even *seen* a slow cooker with a metal pot. Hmph. You learn something new every day.

    I love my crock pot so much. Soups, beans, and ribs are what I make most often in mine. I love being able to get it all dumped in in the morning and have all the dinner prep dishes done hours and hours before dinner even happens!

    • “I’ve never even *seen* a slow cooker with a metal pot.” Haha, me too! I’m glad I’ve always had a proper crockpot though – slowcookers do not sound like a good idea. But it’s good to know, just in case I’m in the market for another one and a non-crockpot slow cooker turns up…

      As well as dinner, sometimes I make breakfast in my crockpot too! Rice porridge (congee) and chicken – the BEST smell to wake up to on a cold winter morning.

  2. I’ve always thought they were one in the same as well. Hmm, good to know. I have a crock pot, at least I think, so I need a slow cooker. I just thought they were different sizes and shapes…who knew?

  3. I had no idea they were different either. In fact I believed all along that ‘Crockpot’ was just a brand of slow cooker, and not an actual different thing in its own right. I’ve never seen a slow cooker with a metal pot either.

    Regardless of what they’re called, I love being able to batch cook in my crockpot, as well as pot-roasting, and even making my Christmas puddings in it!

  4. I have been using slow cooker and Crockpot interchangeably, so I am glad I now know the difference. I love learning interesting facts to share at the dinner table! I use my Crockpot almost every week to cook delicious meals, but I especially like not having to mess with it once it starts cooking, so I guess Crockpots are the best choice for me.

  5. I also believed that a crook pot and slower cooker were two different names for the same appliance! Crook pot meals are great, at first I had only used it for beans, my first crook pot was a very small one given to me as a gift. I have since bought a larger one and use it an average of three times a week. It is pretty much mistake proof in that there is no worry of food scorching or burning. The easy clean up is a plus as well.

  6. Oh wow, I just posted another comment about crockpots and slow cookers. I had no idea they were different. I guess if I’m gonna live the bachelor life, it seems like a crockpot is a better choice? I’d prefer something that I can just turn on and leave for a while so I can go to work!

  7. I have neither…but thanks to the article, i now know what to buy…or maybe i could just buy both..they just might come in handy for different cooking occasions 😉 …page bookmarked too..very important information within.

  8. Wow, I always thought they were the same thing!! We have a crockpot but we were thinking of getting a slow cooker thinking it would be better but based on your article, seems like a crockpot is much easier to use. I like how we can basically leave it pretty much unattended and just let it do it’s thing.

  9. I had no idea there was a difference. I figured it was mainly a brand name versus generic term, for the same thing. So, apparently I have a crock pot, and I agree, it is a great tool for accomplishing many tasks. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a slow cooker, after reading the description and seeing the pictures, which surprises me, since I love kitchen items. I’ve never actually cooked a cake or similar item in my crock pot, so now I have a new purpose in life. I will be searching for some new recipes to try.

  10. No metal pot for me. So, mine is a crock pot. Though I’ve been referring to it as a slow cooker since I bought it. Good to know! It’s one of my favourite ways to cook. Of course I tend to find ways to over complicate the process but I just call that adding flavour & texture.

  11. That’s interesting, I honestly never knew they were different. Now I’m not sure what I’d actually go for – more temperatures or a “crock” to heat up from more sides? It does sound safer and, no stirring. Well! Thank you for doing all that research for us! Really a good look at the choices!

  12. Wow! I really had no idea they weren’t one in the same! I have used both a crock-pot and slow cooker before, and didn’t even know I wasn’t using the same type of appliance. I had the pleasure of using the Cuisinart model you featured while visiting family. I felt so spoiled! I would love to splurge on something fancier, but for now our old school model is still getting the job done well. Maybe one day!

  13. I too had no idea that there was difference between them. I bought, and regularly use, a Crockpot because, well honestly, it’s what Dad used back in the day. There have been improvement, including the ability to remove the crock to allow for easy cleaning. It’s nice that slow cookers have other users, but I’ll stick my crock.

  14. I never knew there was a difference. I always thought the words were interchangeable.
    I also don’t want kitchen products that can only be used for one thing, I prefer buying something that can be used for multiple uses, but I would buy a waffle iron too-I simply love waffles and sometimes instead of pancakes you want waffles.

  15. I am truly intrigued by this post. Like many people who have posted comments, I had no idea that a crock-pot and a slow cooker were actually two different things. I use my crock-pot at least three times a week. In fact, I am using it as we speak to make steak sandwiches for the Super Bowl tonight. I love being able to get everything ready before I go to work in the morning. Since my wife doesn’t cook, its really nice to be able to sit down to a nice hot meal without slaving over a hot stove after a long day at work. I would be interested in using a traditional slow cooker for my beef stew to see the difference of the heating methods and make my own judgement.

  16. That is really interesting. I didn’t know slow cookers and crockpots were different, but the article covers the differences in a lot of detail. I’m not sure I’d got one, since I’m more the type to throw everything in a casserole dish and leave it to slow cook in the oven (mainly due to extreme lack of space). How do you use a crockpot to bake or make bread? I had honestly never realised they were that flexible.

  17. I have what I was told was a slow cooker. It has a crockery pot that sits in a heating base. The base comes slightly up the sides (not even halfway). I cook everything in it. Large meats and cut up meats. No need to stir. In fact stirring and even removing the lid is discouraged as it slows cooking. Everything comes out beautifully. I have even started cooking some of my stovetop favorites in my slow cooker.

  18. They are the same. Crock-pot is merely a brand, it’s like saying Dyson is not the same as a vacuum .. like many appliances out there .. there will be differences between the original product and it’s modern version.

  19. My daughters are amazing cooks, they live seperately sharing 1 Crock Pot. Shopping for a Crock Pot for Christmas I found many Slow Cookers. After photographing products w/ prices shown I’m pleased to find the differences in my research, thank you – a Crock Pot it is!

  20. I was looking for an answer to the question, “are they different utensils”. I came across a cook book that I bought because it had lots of different recipes that looked yummy. When I got it home and looked at the recipes more carefully, I found that they were including steps that my crock pot didn’t do. No problem these steps can be done in a frying pan on the stove top before putting the food in the crock pot as I do with many recipes already. Thanks for the clarification.

  21. Just bought a one quart slow cooker (that’s all I need) thinking that it could slowly cook all day and then a timer would shut it off.

    Realized this does not have that feature.
    Do Croc Pots have that ability?
    What is the smallest size available?

  22. I know this is an old article but I’m glad I found it. I was thinking maybe they were the same thing and thought to look it up after my friend sent me one and I was waiting for the first recipe to cook. I’m SO GLAD I have the crockpot version! I am not the best cook and having to be more careful as with a slow cooker may not turn out well!

    My first dish is good.

  23. Actually, I have a question. If I use a recipe that calls for a 3 1/2 to 4-quart slow cooker and I use a 6-quart Crock-Pot, does it make a difference in the outcome of the recipe? Could someone please answer my question? I need to know right away! Since the size of the container is different, will they cook the same?

    • Temperature settings may vary depending on the model, but the size of your cooker (as long as it’s bigger than what’s recommended rather than smaller) shouldn’t affect the outcome too much! To retain the proper amount of heat, Crock-Pots should usually be at least 2/3 full, and never filled above the “full” line. Add a little extra liquid if you have any concerns.

  24. Crockpot is a Slow Cooker. Crockpot is the company brand name. Most Slow cookers regardless brand Names, ie Ninja, Bella, Hamilton Beach ect I’ve only seen with ceramic inserts. Only metal ones I seen were older pressure cooker models. And the Original Crockpot was a big ceramic pot that was used to make Sauerkraut and coleslaw in and sometimes used as a butter churn, I still have one of them from my Great Grandparents.

  25. I have 2 different sizes ‘slow cookers’ and both have porcelain pots within the metal one. The one shown as metal Ona hot plate looks like it has come out of the ark! I use constantly without any problems. If I am out it goes on low, if at home It seems to be cooking too fast I put it on auto.

  26. thank you for telling me the difference between a crock pot and a slow cooker. Not much difference. I have just bought a large slow cooker, and am surprised to hear that the pot can be metal. Mine is ceramic. Also happy to know that I can use the pot in the oven and stove. Didnt think of that!

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