The 10 Best Crockpots
Crockpots Versus Slow-Cookers: Why The Confusion?
Both Crockpots and slow-cookers run on electric power, and typically feature three standard parts–a ceramic base insert, a glass lid, and a heating element–, but they are not one in the same. You see, all Crockpots are slow-cookers, but not all slow-cookers are Crockpots. Actually, the term Crockpot is a brand name, like Band-Aids are to bandages.
The number one difference between the two boils down, pun intended, to heat distribution. Slow-cookers generally have one heating element running along the base of the unit, whereas Crockpots have multiple heating elements on the bottom and the sides.
This may not seem like a huge difference, but when it comes to slow-cooking larger cuts of meat, Crockpots are the clear winner, as they evenly distribute heat all around the meat, lessening the chance of improperly cooked meals that may lead to food-borne illnesses.
Though slow-cookers lack additional heating elements, they offer a broader range of temperatures at which to cook. This may be a better option for some, but they commonly require more babysitting than Crockpots to prevent burning and scorching.
The Science Behind Crockpots
Why do people like tender meat so much? Why does it taste so much better when it's "falling off the bone"?
We cannot actually answer those questions, but our guess is it has to do with the fat meat contains; since our bodies and brains are wired to consume fat to create energy. Not to mention its great for skin and hair health. Besides, it just tastes so darn delicious.
Which brings us to our next question: What makes meat so juicy and tender?
Believe it or not, there's an actual science behind slow-cooking meats.
Some crockpot enthusiasts swear up and down that searing meat before placing it into the crockpot will either make, or break your meal. This step isn't necessary, but absolutely worth the effort. Why is that?
Searing meat at a high temperature, a technique called browning, aka the Maillard reaction, caramelizes the surface of the meat, creating all those phenomenal flavors we know and love; not to mention, this step also kills bacteria. But like we said, this isn't necessary, if you're into boring foods.
What does this all have to do with crockpots? This is where the science comes in.
At 160-degrees, collagen within the meat begins to breakdown, which may sound disgusting but it's actually building even more flavors. This is referred to as a kinetic process, or rate of reaction in a chemical process. This is where temperature and length of cooking time make all the difference.
In order to liquify the collagen, the duration of cooking has to be increased, while the cooking temperature needs to be decreased. Not only that, but the steam created and captured within the crockpot is continuously adding moisture to the meat, greatly reducing its risk of drying out.
Now you understand why they're also called slow-cookers?
Furthermore, crockpots are huge time savers. In a world where everyone always seems so busy with life's responsibilities, though we've had it easy when compared to our ancestors, crockpots are an economical way to make sure there's food on the table.
Our last question: What's not to love about them?!
The Slow-Cooked History of the Crock-Pot
The first crockpots introduced to consumers were produced solely for the sake of making beans, hence their first name: the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker. This was in 1936.
All the credit goes to Chicagoan, Irving Naxon, leading the Naxon Utilities Corporation. This guy was a pretty big deal in his time; some say he invented a precursor to the modern fax machine we still use today.
In 1970, the Rival Company bought Irving out, and put these devices on the market one year later, under the Crock-Pot name. Rival also published several crockpot cookbooks, but it was the inspiring author of Mable Hoffman's "Crockery Cookery" in 1975 who got the ball rolling with crockpot cooking.
It also helped that by this time in the mid-1970s, more women were leaving households to work than ever before. The two ideas finally came hand in hand, and the market had to catch up with demands.
Since then, crockpot designs have changed drastically, into more efficient, high-tech devices, but the same concept still remains. Sales go through the roof in winter, when cold temperatures conjure up images of a hot, slow-cooked meal just waiting for you to sink your teeth into it.