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Oven vs Slow Cooker

Meat on an electric slow cooker and garlic.

I love baking. Cookies, cakes and shortbread are part of my passion. This surely means an oven is the perfect cooking utensil for me. On the other hand, I also love stews and soups, especially when I can leave them to cook the whole day. Surely, then, a slow cooker is what I need.

Before going any further with what may (not) be the obvious choice, let’s unpack the differences and similarities between an oven and a slow cooker.

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What is an oven?

An oven with glowing rod and a rack.

An oven is an enclosed chamber that can produce or channel heat. It has one opening and is used for cooking. It may be part of a stove or kitchen range, or it may be mounted in the wall.

The front of the oven is a glass door that is hinged at the bottom. There are heating elements at the bottom and top of the oven, which give heat to the chamber, depending on the setting that is selected. Many ovens have a fan that distributes the heat evenly.

What is a slow cooker?

An electric slow cooker on a white background.

A slow cooker is a kitchen utensil that stands independently of any other feature in the kitchen. It is similar to a saucepan or pot. The cooker consists of an inner ceramic bowl and an outer metal casing.

When the slow cooker is plugged into the electricity, heat is distributed from a heating element at the bottom, up the sides between the two parts. The heat is gentle and the food is cooked over a long period of time.

Oven vs Slow cooker

Now we’ve got the formal part out of the way, let’s unpack some of the details, so we understand a little more about these two.

The essential similarities

The function of both an oven and a slow cooker is to cook. They both generate heat from within by using electricity, or possibly gas for the oven. The level of heat in both appliances can be controlled. They both have a cavity that is accessed by opening a lid or door.

The essential differences

The main differences between an oven and a slow cooker are the physical appearance, the degree of independence and the control of the heat.

An oven is usually built into a feature in the kitchen, such as the stove, counter or wall. It operates either via electricity, where the cable is installed in the wall, or gas, where the pipes are installed to access a gas cylinder. A slow cooker, on the other hand, is completely independent of anything else in the kitchen, except that it has to stand on a surface. It operates via electricity, where the plug is inserted into a wall socket.

When you look at an oven, it looks like a glass panel that is opened to reveal the cavity or ‘box’ that makes up the inside. A slow cooker looks like a saucepan or pot, with a dial on the front.

The heat in an oven can be controlled so that it goes from just warm to very, very hot. Heat can be generated from one or both of the elements. The heat in a slow cooker is fairly steady, with no great range of temperature.


What are they made from?

A dish with broccoli on a slow cooker.

An oven is made from metal, enamel and glass. The whole ‘box’ itself is made from stainless or galvanized steel, which is covered with acrylic enamel. The door to the oven is made from glass, so that you can see what is going on inside the oven. The controls for the oven are usually made from a hard plastic.

A slow cooker is made from ceramic and metal. The outside of the cooker is metal, most likely to be a stainless steel, while the inside ‘pot’ is made from ceramic that is glazed. The controls are usually made of a hard plastic.

How are they made?

The first part of an oven that is made is the outside frame. Presses in a factory create the bottom and sides of the oven. They are welded together to create a 5-sided metal box. The metal is washed down and then the inside is sprayed with an enamel finish. The completed cavity is then mounted in the frame that is the stove. When the whole stove has been put together, the door of the oven is mounted on the frame.

Design features


Oven with rack on a white background.

Any oven will have the basic chamber with an enamel coating, shelves, heating elements and a light. Beyond that, though, there are some features that put some ovens ahead of the rest.

A convection heating fan helps spread the heat more efficiently, which means it’ll cook more effectively. A timer on an oven is essential, while a feature that allows you to put off the start of the cooking makes planning meals easier. The Sabbath Mode in an oven allows you to keep food warm, rather than cooking it.

Slow cooker

One of the features to consider in a slow cooker is the shape, especially of the inner crock pot. An oval shape is more versatile than a round one. The lid is also important. It must close properly and a glass lid allows you to check on your food without having to open the pot.

If a slow cooker has a temperature probe, it helps you to keep track of the level of the heat and the cooking time. Perhaps most importantly, and practically, a slow cooker really should be easy to clean.


The length of time that either a slow cooker or oven will last is a little like trying to answer the question ‘How long is a piece of string?’ The answer is that it varies.

With a kitchen appliance, the durability depends a lot on how often it is used and how it is treated. Let us assume that we are looking at an oven or slow cooker that is used a number of times in the week and which is well looked after.

On average, a slow cooker will last between 7 and 10 years. However, it is possible for them to last for even 15 years. You may find that the electric cord gets damaged, or the cooker doesn’t heat up properly. In these cases, it may be time to get a new one. If a large gap between the inside pot and the outside casing begins to develop, the slow cooker is no longer working properly.

The average lifespan for an oven is about 15 years. If it is used two or three times every day, it will have a shorter life than if it’s only used once or twice a week. The signs of an oven aging include it not heating correctly, the interior enamel becoming caked with grime and even being scrubbed away to reveal some rust in the metal. If your oven starts making strange noises, it’s also a sign that it has reached its end.


An average eye-level oven that is mounted in the wall of the kitchen can cost between $300 and $3000. If you buy an oven that is part of a stove, the whole unit can cost somewhere between $150 and $5000.

A slow cooker will cost you between $30 and $100.


A woman with her children baking cookies.


An oven is very versatile when it comes to cooking. You can roast, bake and broil. This gives a whole range of options for cooking meat and dishes like lasagna. If you put the oven on a low heat, you can cook a casserole or stew slowly. This is quite costly on electricity, though.

Of course, an oven is used for baking, so you can produce sweet and savoury goodies. Because the temperature can be controlled quite easily, an oven offers a lot of options for cooking.

Slow cooker

A slow cooker is perfect for cooking casseroles, stews and soups. It provides enough heat to cook the meat and vegetables, which allows the meat to cook through and become soft and easy to eat. It also allows the flavours to meld perfectly.

For a busy person who works all day and is almost too exhausted to cook supper, the slow cooker is wonderful. The meal can be prepared the evening before, put in the pot in the morning and will cook throughout the day.

A Brief History

An outside oven made from concrete and brick.


In 1896, William Haday patented the electric stove, which included an oven. The stoves were easier to clean than gas stoves and became very popular. Before this, though, the practice of putting food into a chamber and closing it to keep it warm, or even to cook it, had existed for thousands of years.

The first cooking feature that is closest to the ovens we know today was built in 1490. Even prior to this, though, food was cooked in stone chambers heated by a fire many, many years ago.

Slow cooker

During the Nazi occupation of Europe, the Jews in Eastern Europe were not allowed to cook. They would bring stew in ceramic pots and put them into the cooling ovens of a bakery, so they could use what heat remained to cook slowly.

This idea of slow cooking in a ceramic bowl inspired Irving Nachumson to invent and patent the crock pot in 1940. The difference was that the slower cooker carried the heat source with it and was powered by electricity.


A man pulling bread out of the oven.

Ovens and slow cookers both have the primary function of cooking. An oven is a lot more versatile when it comes to the range of things you can cook and the temperature can be controlled quite easily. A slow cooker can cook a limited range of dishes, but is perfect for food that needs to cook for a long time, or for saving time in the long run and making your life easier.

In the end, I would opt for an oven if I had to choose, but both these appliances would suit me and my cooking lifestyle well.