According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a slow cooker is "an electric cooking pot that is used especially for cooking foods at a relatively low temperature over a long period of time." While the term Crock-Pot is sometimes used to describe any kitchen small appliance with this functionality, that is not correct. While Crock-Pots are indeed slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock-Pots.
The Crock-Pot Brand
Crock-Pot® is a brand name for a specific slow cooker introduced by The Rival Company in 1971 and produced today by Newell Brands. According to Funding Universe, this small appliance provided a "revolutionary method of cooking" and "redefined how many Americans cooked their meals." The appeal of having an appliance that "cooks all day while the cook's away" (as Crock-Pot advertisements stated in the 70s) led to widespread product adoption and brand recognition.
The product quickly caught on and experienced skyrocketing sales in the first few years it was available. In the 70s, Crock-Pot owned the slow cooker market, so the brand name became synonymous with this type of cooking. The New Yorker describes Crock-Pot as "by far the most recognized maker of slow cookers."
Other Slow Cooker Products
As tends to occur with any popular products that consumers love, competitors began to enter the market. In 2011, Consumer Reports found 83 percent of U.S. households own at least one slow cooker, with many people using this type of appliance to prepare meals on a regular basis.
While many of these households have true Crock-Pots, many instead own similar products made by other companies and marketed under other brand names. Other well-known slow cooker brands include Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, All-Clad, and more. Regardless of the brand, the functionality is basically the same for any kitchen small appliances that offer the convenience of cooking food using a fairly low temperature over an extended period.
Telling Slow Cooker Brands Apart
The best way to tell what kind of slow cooker you are looking at it is to check for the brand insignia. True Crock-Pots are clearly marked with the brand name on the front of the appliance. Other slow cooker brands are also designated with their brand names. To be accurate, you should really only use the term Crock-Pot to describe appliances that bear that brand name. Otherwise, the correct terminology is slow cooker. Either way, you can make a variety of simple and affordable recipes using this kind of appliance!