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May 30, 2005 05:43 PM

Slow cooker vs. oven

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Instead of using a slow cooker, couldn't I just brown a roast -- say a chuck roast, add some onion and garlic and then some liquid, cover it, and cook it in a very slow oven for several hours? How would a slow cooker do a better job? Why even invest in one?

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  1. I have never seen the point of a slow cooker. I can brown in one of my Le Creuset Dutch Ovens and add the other ingredients and pop it all into my oven at 200 or 250 and come back hours later to perfectly done, braised whatever.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Candy
      ChowFun (derek)

      Maybe it has something to do with leaving an oven (gas) on all day???
      It certainly would seem an oven would create a more even heat...However, the slow cooker does come with a warm cycle which stops the cooking after a preset number of hours ( I guess some ovens do, but I never used that option) and browning in the same pan is always a help.

      1. re: Candy

        That's the equivalent of using the slow cooker on "high." I doubt very much one could an oven to the ~ 150F temp for "low" slow cooking, where you let it go all day or overnight. And even on the high setting, the temp is lower and steadier than many ovens can maintain (under 200F.) If you have a good oven that can maintain a steady, low heat and you don't want to do the all day version, I agree it makes more sense to stick with the oven, or indeed, stove top.

        The other thing is that I wouldn't be comfortable leaving a gas oven on all day when I'm at work. It's one thing to do it overnight, but I wouldn't want to do it knowing I'd be gone for 10 hours. Unless I had a really wonky, old electric oven, I wouldn't worry a whole lot about that.

        1. re: MikeG

          I have a gas cook top, but an electric oven.

        2. re: Candy

          i enjoy using my slow cooker because i can put everything in before i go to work and know that it will be done when i get home. so there isn't really a wait. slow cookers also make the most tender meat i've ever eaten.

        3. You're absolutely right. I braise in the oven all winter long - it's a gas oven with an electric timer. I have no problem sealing up a brisket, thick 7-bone chuck roast or short ribs in a deep pan with foil to cover in the am - having it start around 2pm and cook at 280 or so until I'm home at 6. Boil some potatoes to mash and steam some beans or whatever... a "cooked all day" dinner at 6:30 on a winter workday...

          For the brisket, I use carrots and garlic for flavoring, and use the water to make gravy. The short ribs get some canned tomatoes and onions, also some tomato paste. The 7-bone chuck is a little different, because we like it traditionally with the vegetables cooked in the braising liquid. If you put in carrots, onions and potatoes up front, they will be too mushy. Luckily, our son is old enough to be home from school, so at around 4:30, we have a bowl of veg's prepped, and he (carefully) picks up the foil, spreads the vegs all over the meat and pan, then closes it back up again. The veg's need the hour and a half because it's at 280.

          By the way - I don't bother browning. The "sealing in the juices" thing is an urban myth, and when braising that long, there's no advantage in trying to create a crust.

          I also have a slow cooker, but I primarily use it for serving at pot-lucks.

          One of these days, I guess I'll actually buy me a dutch oven... but so far, I just use these cheap $10 10x14 pans that are about 3" deep - you get them in the grocery store - they're non-stick and last for about 20 or so cookings before the non-stick stuff starts to come off. Then I chuck it and buy another. I use heavy duty foil to cover.

          This is a fall/winter thing for us because the kitchen does get hot during the summer if we do almost any cooking. We have our gas and charcoal grills, as well as a gas burner on the deck right outside the kitchen, and almost all our cooking is done outside once it gets hot. I suppose that we could use the slow cooker to braise during the summer, but nobody really feels like pot roast when it's 100 outside...

          2 Replies
          1. re: applehome

            The browning really adds character to a braise. the Maillard reactions that are set off by browing the meat is something that does not occur in nature. High heat changes and creates a host of secondary protien chains and flavors that simply do not exist without the intial browning.

            I believe that you get a very tasty pot roast without the browning. But to elevate the flavor try browning the meat first. At least on weekends when you have the time.

            1. re: applehome

              brown for flavor, not for seal or crust

            2. slow cookers use less energy than ovens. no need to keep a large mass of air at temperature. but will the cost of a slow cooker ever get recovered by lower energy bills?

              the other thing is that a quality slow cooker can hold a more even temperature.

              remember that these types of dishes originated from pots left by home cooks at the local baker to cook in the slowly cooling wood burning oven after the morning breads have finished baking. modern ovens don't insulate as well as a thick masonry oven.

              1. You wrote: "couldn't I just brown a roast -- say a chuck roast, add some onion and garlic and then some liquid, cover it, and cook it in a very slow oven for several hours?"

                Answer: Yes, yes, yes. I brown the meat in the oven on a rack, then put into a Le Creuset with beef broth, tomato paste and red wine, and braise at 250 farenheit.

                "How would a slow cooker do a better job?"

                Answer: it won't. A slow cooker takes MUCH longer to cook things and doesn't surround the pot with heat like the oven does.

                "Why even invest in one?"

                Because you shouldn't go off and leave your oven unattended but a slow cooker is safe to leave while you go to work or do other things outside the house.

                1. "Why even invest in one?"

                  We have three....they are (I think) in a cabinet in the top of my kitchen...Takes an 8' ladder to get to it......There they are probably collecting dust...Can't say for sure as I've not seen them in years.... HTH