Who Invented the Crock Pot (Slow Cooker) and When? History & Present
The crock pot is one of the most ubiquitous kitchen appliances on the market today. Slow cookers have exploded in popularity since they came onto the market over 50 years ago. There are entire blogs and industries that are focused on tailoring easy-to-cook meals made explicitly for slow cookers. But who invented the crock pot, and when was this popular kitchen appliance invented?
The original slow cooker was patented by a man named Irving Nachumsohn. Nachumsohn filed for his patent for the first slow cooker in 1936 and was awarded the patent in 1940. But the slow cooking craze did not take off until the 1950s, and the name crock pot wasn’t put into the modern lexicon in the 1970s.
This is a brief but comprehensive overview of the history of the slow cooker.
Prelude, 19th Century
When Irving Nachumsohn came up with the idea for a slow cooker, it was based on an ancient tradition that originated in eastern Europe. During the 19th century, the village of Vilna (in modern-day Lithuania) was home to a thriving Jewish community. Jews from all over the region chose to settle in Vilna. The local Jews had a tradition of cooking their food in old-fashioned crocks.
They would take their crocks into town and ask the local bakers if they could let their food simmer overnight. The bakers had warm ovens that cooled down after dark, and the people would put their crocks into the cooling ovens and leave them overnight. By morning, the mixture of meat and beans would be perfectly cooked and ready to eat.
Nachumsohn learned this cooking technique from his family and applied the concept to the idea of a slow cooker later in life.
From Patent to Prime Time, 20th Century
In 1936, Irving Nachumsohn applied for his patent for a slow cooker. He wanted to create an electric cooking device that mimicked the old cooking techniques learned from his older relatives. Despite being awarded the patent in 1940, he didn’t market his device for many years to come. Nachumsohn was a prolific inventor, and he invented things on the side. Over the years, he came up with many interesting ideas, including an electric skillet and a digital sign.
In the 1950s, demand for slow cookers exploded. The explosion in popularity was fueled by men coming home from World War II and settling down. Families were growing, and people were looking for ways to save time on cooking. Women were also entering the workforce in larger numbers than before and also wanted a way to start a meal in the morning, go to work, and then come home to a fully cooked meal. Irving Nachumsohn marketed his slow cooker as the Naxom Beanery. (Irving Nachumsohn changed his name to Naxom after the war to escape anti-German sentiment in the United States.)
The Naxom Beanery did well for a while, and Irving retired in 1970. When he decided to retire, he sold his invention to a company called Rival Manufacturing. Rival Manufacturing rebranded the beanery into the Crock-Pot and made history.
Sales of the Crock-Pot exploded in the 1970s. Sales rocketed from a couple of million dollars in 1972 to nearly a hundred million dollars by the end of the decade. Crock-Pots made their way into almost every home, and the name became synonymous with the slow cooker.
The Slow Cooker Today
Today, the slow cooker market is worth over $1.7 billion. The market for slow cookers is supposed to reach $2.8 billion by 2027. Modern sales of the slow cooker were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw demand skyrocket. Crock-Pots are not as popular as they once were. One of the most popular slow cookers available today is Instant Pot. Instant Pots are very much the modern equivalent of the 1970s Crock-Pot. Instant Pots have grown to dominate the current slow cooker market.
Crock-Pot is still a company today that is now in direct competition with Instant Pot. The two brands make up a large portion of the slow cooker market share in the United States.
Crock Pots vs. Slow Cookers
The terms crock pot (or crockpot) and slow cooker are used interchangeably. Crock pot started as a brand name. The term crock pot was trademarked and was the official name of Rival Manufacturing’s slow cooker. Crock pot ended up being a colloquial term for all slow cookers. This is a familiar phenomenon. Other examples of this phenomenon include Band-aid (single-use bandages), Kleenex (tissues), and Coke (soda). When you hear the term crock pot, most people are simply referring to a generic slow cooker, but it could also refer to a brand-named Crock-Pot.
The slow cooker started as a nifty new kitchen appliance based on old European cooking methods. It took off with the domestic boom that took place in the 1950s. The invention of new powered devices, the explosion of the middle class, and women entering the workforce drove demand for slow cookers from 1950 until 1970. In 1972, the Crock-Pot was born and transformed our modern language and kitchen counters around the world. All of that was thanks to a man named Irving Nachumsohn, who tinkered with the idea in the 1930s and ultimately held the original slow cooker patent.
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