slow cooker vs dutch oven, low temp
Could someone explain to me the difference between a slow cooker, and using a Creuset ware dutch oven at very low oven temperatures? My husband has threatened "extreme prejudice" if I purchase yet another kitchen utensil!!!! (with good reason)
I was surprised at the difference between a slow cooker and a Dutch Oven in the oven. The cooker seals very tight so virtually all the moisture stays in. I used it to make chutney and couldn't get it to reduce because of that fact. You really need to adjust recipes from one to the other.
The dutch oven allows for some evaporation of water which allows for a richer flavor, imo. It also takes far less time. I use a slow cooker when I'm not going to be in the house and will be home near dinner time. I don't feel comfortable leaving something in the oven while I'm gone. Other than the convenience, I far prefer a dutch oven. That said, for the convenience alone, I love my slow cooker. I think it's worth having both. Another use for the crockpot is for moist cooking, like a bread pudding; or to keep food hot--great for hot apple cider,meatballs, etc. during a party. I think it would be an ideal way to make cheesecake but haven't tried it yet.
Oh, and a slower cooker isn't a short cut to a good meal. It's more time consuming, if anything, as prep goes because to get good results for most dishes, you need to sear the meat, sautee the vegetables first and that uses another pan.
A slow cooker rises to about 200* or so very, very slowly. That's why it takes all day, if you use it on low. On high, it will take half the time, usually.
When you use a Dutch oven in a conventional oven, generally the oven is preheated and the contents of the pot are already heated. Of course, depends on the recipe you're using. So it works more efficiently, in about half the time. Also depending on which slow cooker model you are comparing, I would say Le Creuset is a more efficient cooking vessel, since it retains heat and moisture extremely well.
Hope that helps!
Some considerations may be the level of attention you want to give to the recipe or time to watch over the duration of the cooking process. Slow cookers generally prepared in the morning with ingredients and you come home from work and your meal is done. Braising in the oven, you have more levels of process to prepare your meal in the form of browning your meats first and sauteing any vegetables first. Some things turn out very well in the slow cooker, but I prefer the oven myself.