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Nov 1, 2007 05:22 PM

Slow Cooker vs Dutch Oven

My grandmother used her Dutch Oven all the time for stews, sauces, roasts, etc. Many of the things I tend to use my slow cooker for. Is one inherently better for some things than the other? Do I need both? Should I want both? (I don't really have room for both, but when did that every stop anyone?)

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  1. A slow cooker is, for all intents and purposes, a dutch oven with its own heat source. The only disadvantage is that the heat options are limited to low, extra-low, and off. So you can't, for example, brown ingredients. But you can always do that in another pot, then deglaze and dump everything into the slow cooker.

    A dutch oven (or three) is a wonderful thing to have. They can serve as slow cookers, saucepans, roasting pans, and can be part of a steaming rig or a double boiler. But unless we're talking about campfire cooking--where your dutch oven has a wire handle to hang from a tripod and legs to hold it up over the coals--they're not indispensible.

    1. I wouldn't call the slow cooker temperatures a disadvantage as alan says. They are intentially very low so that you can cook your meal unattended without worrying about the house burning down. It takes longer, but you don't have to watch your stove or oven. Many people, myself included, reach for the slow cooker when we are going to be busy or have to leave to go to work. You can come home to a cooked meal held at warming temperatures without worry. That said, I think your choices of dishes that can work well in the slow cooker tend to be limited to the stew and braise type with lots of liquid. I love my LeCreuset Dutch ovens and swear by them, but I have to be at home for three hours to make a pot roast. The slow cooker allows me to cheat. The Dutch oven is more versatile. Except for the searing and browning part, the slow cooker will perform about as well as the Dutch oven for many stews and braises. You may have to brown in another pan before putting it into the slow cooker if that is what you need to do.

      1 Reply
      1. re: RGC1982

        Didn't mean to imply that the low heat is itself a disadvantage. There are times when that's just what you need. The disadvantage--such as it is--is lack of versatility. Your LC dutch oven can cook as slowly as the lowest setting on your oven will allow (which works great for pot roast while you're out of the house), but it's also useful for browning meat, cooking rice, making pan sauces, and frying chicken. None of which the slow cooker can do.

      2. A dutch oven beats the slow cooker I got. I bought one which is essentially a hot plate with a removable pot. This works great when I want to get a pot of beans going on the stove and then leave them to finish on the counter. That is all it does though. The temperature settings are not exact enough and all other recipes cook too fast. CI/ATK/Cook's Country likes the All-Clad model slow cooker for $150.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Romanmk

          I use a Rival that costs about $49 new. Maybe 4 or 5 quarts, and it used at least twice a month in cold weather and once a month in hot. It cooks just fine -- but you need to learn to select which recipes are best adapted to it and try it out a few times to get a feel for it. Mine has two temp. settings plus warming, and I can set the time at 4, 6, 8 and 10 hours before it switches to warming. You may just have a really basic model. I don't think you need to spring for the All Clad unless you are really into it. The higher end Rivals cook very well. It's just up to the cook to learn how to use it, and that would be the case for any brand or model.

          1. re: RGC1982

            Dutch ovens are more versatile, allowing browning, lid basting (some), and overall even heating in an oven. The crock pots seem to apply heat from the mid section, but some from the bottom.

            1. re: RGC1982

              rgc... i think i have the same model as you do. the one big disadvantage is that you can't connect it to a timer to turn on when you aren't home as it has to be powered up to select the settings. I know people say the old pots were better because they had lower temperatures, but apparently too low to insure prevention of food borne illness. thanks for the input (and to the rest of you as well). I suppose I will succumb to temptation and get a dutch oven eventually as well. I'm never happy browning something then leaving all that fond in the bottom of the pot after I tranfer the food.

          2. I have found an enameled roaster to be an excellent compromise betw a dutch oven and a crock pot. They have temperature dials from 175-450 degrees so you have a lot more control over the cooking process. I have a 6 quart unit. For single servings I heat in my little rice cooker.