History of the Slow Cooker / Crock-Pot
If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a slow cooker and Crock-Pot, the answer is–there isn’t any. Both are used on the countertop to simmer food at low temperatures, usually for a whole day. There’s something satisfying about throwing carrots, potatoes, chunks of beef, water, broth, vegetables, and spices into a pot, pressing a few buttons, leaving for the day, and coming back to freshly cooked beef stew.
The slow cooker was invented in 1936 by Irving Naxon in Chicago, inspired by a story of how his grandmother in Lithuania made a traditional Jewish stew called cholent by filling a big crock full of dried beans, root vegetables, meat and puttnig it in the oven all day. He patented the “Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker”. His patent was acquired by the Rival Company of Missouri in 1970 and reintroduced the cooker as Crock-Pot in 1971.
Can you get a Slow Cooker Not Made in China?
Unfortunately, Crock-Pots are almost exclusively made in China these days (they claim that they are made in both Mexico and China, but I have not been able to find a single model made in Mexico). The same is true of most other popular slow-cooker brands, including Hamilton Beach, Instant Pot, Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, and All-Clad. If you search the Web you’ll find sites that as recently as 2011 were claiming that brands like Fagor, Procer-Silex, Jarden, and Sunbeam were made in the USA. They’re not.
And of course, there are the fake brands like KOOC, AICOOK, CRUX popping up with their glowing Amazon reviews.
There seems to be one manufacturer who is hanging on, called 360 Cookware, who manufactures their products in West Bend, Wisconsin.
Can You Trust Slow Cookers Made in China?
Outsourcing to China had unintended consequences. In 2004, a reporter in Salt Lake City did an investigation and found that 20% of slow cookers were leaching lead into food. How did this happen?
You’ve probably noticed on your Crock-Pot that the pot itself is ceramic but glazed. And of course, when you outsource to the lowest bidder in a country where safety is not always a primary consideration, that leads to trouble. Specifically, when this glaze comes into contact with acidic ingredients like vinegar or tomatoes over hot temperatures and long periods of time, some of the lead compounds leach into the food. Ironically, the healthy food you thought you were eating could be causing lead poisoning over long periods of time.
Of course, this news was swept under the rug. Today, I want to believe that the glazes are lead-free, but after so many years of looking the other way, can we really trust them?
Incidentally, if you’re afraid that lead is leaching into your food, do this simple test. Purchase a lead test swab and swab your slow cooker crock and any glazed dishes you think came from China.
Or, buy the only reputable brand life that is made in the USA–and that uses stainless steel instead of glazed enamel.
Best Slow Cookers Not Made in China – Quick Ranking
|1||360 Stainless Steel Slow Cooker (6 quart)||4.5||View on Amazon or 360 Cookware|
|2||360 Stainless Steel Slow Cooker (4 quart)||4.5||View on Amazon or 360 Cookware|
|3||360 Stainless Steel Slow Cooker (2.3 quart)||4.5||View on Amazon or 360 Cookware|
1. 360 Stainless Steel Slow Cooker – Best Overall
1/3/22 Update: I’ve changed the links here from Amazon to 360 Cookware’s site directly so you don’t have to deal with counterfeiters and/or price gouging third party sellers. If you’d like to view the Amazon page, you can find it here.
I have to admit, I’m a bit biased towards the Crock Pot. I’ve had one for years and I’ve cooked pulled pork, soups, brisket, and of course lots of beef stew with it. And so when I first say this model, I winced. How can this be authentic if the pot is made of steel and not ceramic? What a crock!
But as I researched some more, I realized the benefits of steel. The most obvious one is that because the steel isn’t treated with a thick glaze, there’s absolutely no danger of anything leaching into your food.
In fact, 360 Cookware uses “surgical grade stainless steel”, meaning that this is the steel that’s used for surgical equipment and even medical implants. It’s made of strong alloys that resist corrosion and are perfectly safe for–and in–the human body. You probably won’t be swallowing your pots and pans, but it is reassuring to see the care that 360 Cookware has put into their product.
Specifically, the inner layer of steel that makes up the cooking surface is T-304 surgical grade stainless steel that’s made of 18% chromium and 10% nickel. The outer surface uses T-400 series stainless steel–its lower nickel content and high carbon steel content makes it a natural on induction style cooktops. In between is a layer of aluminum that provides superior heat conduction. A common complaint of steel is that it isn’t as efficient as ceramic at retaining heat. Overall, their cookware is 3X thicker than other cookware, which all but eliminates any perceived differences between ceramic cookware and theirs.
The more I read abut 360 Cookware, the more I’m convinced that they’re not just a consolation prize for not buying a crock pot from China, they’re the real deal. Their manufacturing process includes no harsh chemicals but a dry sanding process to produce a smooth finish. And not only are they manufactured in the United States, their customer service is also in the United States.
The slow cooker consists of two parts put together–the pot itself and the electric base, which heats the steel pot through induction (the latter which is also sold separately as the Hammer Stahl Multipurpose Electric Slow Cooker Base, should you wish to supply your own stock pot). Both are made in the USA. The base has a 2 year warranty, while the pot has a lifetime warranty.
The pot also stands on its own too, of course. It’s versatile, able to be used on the electric base as aa slow cooker, but also oven safe up to 500 degree and able to be used on the stovetop as well (unlike ceramics). And it’s dishwasher safe too and unbreakable (unlike ceramics). It’s available in 2.3 quart, 4 quart, and 6 quart sizes; for reference, the most popular Crock Pots are generally about 6 or 7 quarts.
- NOT made in China
- Lifetime warranty on pot, 2 year warranty on electric base
- Even heat distribution that matches or surpasses ceramic
- Eco-friendly manufacturing
- Completely safe and modern steel with no dangers of chemical leaching
- 2.3 and 4 quart sizes may be too small
- Must lift lid to see what’s inside
Do you have experience with 360 Cookware. Is there a slow cooker not made in China that I missed? Let us know in the comments below!