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!
I say this in a well meaning way.
You say that surgical grade stainless steel containing 10% nickle is “perfectly safe for–and in–the human body”, but this is not true as far as I’m aware of.
Stainless steel cookware, from my understanding, leaches small amounts of nickle into the food while it cooks. Most people may be able to tolerate nickle in small amounts better than others, but it’s still not good for the body, especially for those who have a nickle allergy.
I think I’m allergic to it myself and have been searching for nickle free stainless steel cookware, among other safer cooking options out there in general to replace what I already have.
I just want to be healier and avoid what any long term exposures to heavy metals and harsh toxins can do. I get weary though. It can feel like an endless sesrch. I’ll find blogs, such as this one, promising safer options, when they’re not necessarily so. I began to think the saying is true. We practically have to “choose our poison”.
But the brands I trust the most so far are Anchor Hocking and Pyrex glass cookware. According to what I’ve read, they are free of lead among other toxins I’d like to avoid.
Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comment. It’s always good to hear from different perspectives.
It’s true that humans are so different that what’s safe for some people may not be for others. In the case of cookware, I’m mostly speaking of the relative safety of stainless steel cookware to, say, glazed ceramic that can leach lead or worse, Teflon that can release PFOA into the bloodstream. Those chemicals are nasty, and universally harmful.
From my understanding, 360 Cookware uses “non-leaching 18/8 stainless steel” (https://www.360cookware.com/pages/cookware-comparison) for the layer that comes into contact with food.
I’m not a scientist, so I can’t vouch for the claims that 18/8 is “non-leaching”. But I do know that it is far less likely to leach than the more common 18/10 grade. 18/8 is the grade used in surgical implants, and I doubt it’d be approved for that use if it was prone to leaching. A comment on this page (https://www.finishing.com/478/92.shtml) suggested that “anything fit for human consumption” would not be capable of leaching the nickel out of 18/8 grade stainless steel.
But do your own homework, especially if you have an allergy. You’ll probably want to find 18/0 stainless steel (which only contains trace amounts of nickel but rusts very easily) or as you’ve done already, switch exclusively to another material like glass or cast iron (which itself can be harmful or helpful depending on your iron intake needs).
I think the one thing that’s universally true is to steer clear of China. There have been far, far too many examples in the past of how manufacturers have cheated to achieve the low bid, and how American manufacturers look the other way in testing and how American consumers don’t think critically about it when they see the (literal) bright shiny objects they just purchased on the cheap. I wish all consumers would do their homework like you do!
Thank you for your kind response. I still have more research to do myself definitely. I’m not a scientist either and could always be wrong in my findings and personal train of thought and I haven’t been on this search with stainless steel for very long actually, I just know it’s probably not for me to be on the safe side with my allergy.
I agree, we are all different with different needs and should do the research to find what works best for us.
360 west bend Wisconsin is a amazing slow cooker
We made a roast beef and finished eating
The taste was amazing seasoning the roast well
Cooking temperature we chose was #2
Thanks for your review. I suspected that all modern slow cookers were made in China but came here hoping I would find a good one made somewhere else. The Americraft model you have here is interesting but there are a few things they could make better for it to appeal to the masses. A lid that I can’t see through is a total deal breaker for me. I like to see if the cooker is doing what it’s supposed to do with the cooker at either high or low temps. Here, how do i know if the thing is even turned on ? It doesn’t even have a power light (if it does I can’t see it in the pictures). It doesn’t have a timer either. At the price I have to pay for it which at present in my area is about 4-5 times the price of a reputable name stoneware slow cooker of same capacity, they could at least add those needed features. Also, I’m not so sure that stainless steel that is exposed to high levels of heated acidic content for 8-10 hours (as in tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, etc.) won’t leach a certain amount of heavy metals like nickel or chromium in the food. I’d like like this scientifically proven by measuring amounts of nickel and chromium before and after cooking. Regardless of the chromium and nickel tests, I would be interested in one only if they made a glass cover. I wish we had more choices for non China made slow cookers.
Holy crap, I want to be healthy but no way can I afford their cookware! $359. for a 4 quart craockpot? It’s a darn shame.
Holy crap, I want to be healthy but no way can I afford their cookware! $359. for a 4 quart crockpot? It’s a darn shame.
I know where you’re coming from. On the other hand, over the past few years I’ve learned the adage “you get what you pay for” is true.
I got a Crock Pot for sale years ago for probably around $100. But I haven’t touched it since I heard horror stories of how the crock leached enamel into food. What’s ironic is that this report came out over a decade ago from a small local TV station, and we never heard anything about it again, other than proclamations from slow cooker manufacturers of how safe their products are. Every time I want to take my old slow cooker out, I ask myself a question: has this product really gotten safer, or have the slow cooker manufacturers just gotten much better are hiding the truth?
With 360 Cookware’s product, “surgical grade stainless steel” isn’t just a marketing ploy. It’s literally the same kind of metal they put inside implants—meaning there’s nothing safer to cook by.
Aside from safety, the other thing to consider is the “real” cost and the “real” return you’re getting with a higher priced product.
I eat rice a lot, and years ago I’d probably go through a rice cooker every 2-3 years before it’d fall apart. One year, I decided to bite the bullet and get a $600 Zojirushi model. Not only did it make the best rice I’ve had in my life (perfect amount of fluffiness and “bite”) it’s still doing so today, almost 10 years later. So ironically, instead of buying and throwing out a $150 rice cooker every 2 years, I got one that’s going to last for years, supported workers in a free country, and has given me 10 years of reliable service. I believe the same to be true of 360 Cookware’s product.
Your mileage may vary, of course. But thanks for stopping by!