“In a biological respect, a tortoise is a turtle, but not all turtles are tortoises.”
S. Mithra, wiseGEEK.com
In a cooking respect, a crock pot is a slow cooker, but not all slow cookers are crock pots.
So what’s the difference?
A crock pot is a small electrical kitchen appliance that uses moist heat over long periods of time to cook foods. Crock pots generally have three parts: a glass lid, a ceramic or porcelain round or oval pot, and a round or oval heating element that the pot fits snugly into. Crock pots come in a variety of sizes ranging from 16 oz. to 9 quarts or more, with the most common sizes being 5-6 quarts. They usually have two heat settings that offer continuous heat: high (approximately 300 degrees Fahrenheit) and low (approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit) and surround the pot by heating from the sides.
Slow cookers are also small electrical kitchen appliances that use moist heat over a long period of time to cook food. They also have three parts: a glass lid, a pot, and a heating element. So what’s the difference? Slow cookers generally describe a pot that sits on a hot plate and has many different temperature settings, usually notated by numbers one through five. The heat runs in cycles, rotating on and off. Because the heating element does not surround the pot and cook from the sides (and is not continuous), scorching food is more easily achieved with a slow cooker. But who wants to achieve that?
Sometimes crock pots are called slow cookers, but a true slow cooker (with the heating element underneath) is not called a crock pot. The terms crock pot and slow cooker are often interchangeable, but if a recipe states to be cooked on low or high, you can bet it’s meant for a crock pot.
To confuse you even further, what’s the difference between crock pot, crockpot, and Crock-Pot ®?
Crock-Pot® is a registered trademarked name owned by Rival Industries – notice the hyphen, capitalization, and registered symbol. Much like Kleenex ® has replaced facial tissue as a household name; Crock-Pot ® has become a household name as well. However, here’s where it gets grammatically technical. Without the hyphen, capitalization, and registered symbol, crock pot and crockpot are not owned by Rival, yet have the same meaning.
In the end, who really cares? If you’re purchasing one of these small electrical kitchen appliances, I would recommend buying a crock pot, not a slow cooker. In other words, get one with a heating element that surrounds the entire pot and heats continuously, not just heats from the bottom on cycles. The bottom line is they both offer the benefits of a quick and easy dinner preparation, convenience, and low cost healthy meals.
Perhaps we should just change the name to “The Greatest Small Kitchen Appliance Ever”. But then people might confuse it with their coffee pot. Or is it coffee maker?