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May 11, 2012 11:15 AM

Crock Pot versus Dutch Oven cooking

I have both of these vessels & I really am confused about both. Can a crock pot recipe be made in the Dutch oven & can a Dutch oven recipe be made in a crock pot?

What's your favorite dish to cook in either one of these cookers? Perhaps if I could begin to favor one over the other & give up one for much needed space? What I'm really try to say is, can one of these things do the job of both? There, I've finally spit it out.

Right now I am sitting on the fence & don't really know why I need both of these. I bought the 6 quart Dutch oven to bake bread in, but that is about it. I have used the crock pot for a few dishes, but they either came out too mushy, too runny or too dry. My stews usually come out more like soups in the crock pot.

To me crock pots still need tending & besides, I am a little nervous about leaving food cooking like that all day while I am gone. But that darn Dutch oven weighs a ton to lug around & maneuvering it to the oven is a battle. I am exhausted trying to sort the whole thing out. Somebody please help.

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  1. Simply put (perhaps even over simplified) a crock pot is a dutch oven with a temperature control. I can't think of anything you could cook in a crock pot that couldn't be cooked in a quality dutch oven. Dutch oven cooking is a bit more challenging on the stove top where the heat source is focused on a small portion of the vessel's exterior. They're even more fun (and more challenging) to use on a camp fire. Much easier to use in the oven than stove top or camp fire. If the weight of the dutch oven is a problem for you and you need to make a choice, I'd recommend the crock pot. A good quality crock pot is worth the cost. Learning to cook with either means understanding how liquids react in the vessel you choose, and how to control or contain evaporation.

    1. The difference is in evaporation--you don't get that in a Crockpot. You have to adjust the liquid which gives you a less flavorful broth/stock/stew. I like the crockpot because I feel better comfortable leaving it cooking. If I'll be home, I choose the dutch oven.

        1. "... a Crock Pot is a dutch oven with a temperature control."

          I don't think so. Low-end slow cookers do not have temperature control, as far as I have been able to determine. (I'm not going to take mine apart to find out,) All they have is a switch that selects one of (typically) three power settings (low, high, warm). The temperature stabilizes when it reaches the point where heat loss to the environment balances the power input. "Temperature control" is a misnomer for this type of cooker. The most expensive cookers may have thermostats built in, but it's hard to get wiring diagrams to prove it. These things are not intended to be repaired.

          A dutch oven is a pot used in a conventional oven. All ovens have temperature control, so can be limited to a temperature below what a slow cooker will reach, or can be set much higher.

          6 Replies
          1. re: GH1618

            "Power settings", "temperarture controls", what's the big deal. In the end, these "controls" limit the amount of heat applied over a given period of time. Get the picture?

            1. re: todao

              No, there is a significant difference. The problem with inexpensive slow cookers is that the temperature is not controlled, giving imprecise results. The "low" setting will reach approximately the same temperature as the "high" setting on most slow cookers, but will take longer to get there. Many users of these have complained that they reach too high a temperature, even on the "low" setting.

              The bottom line is that a slow cooker is (typically) a crude, inexpensive device which does not have the flexibility of an oven/dutch oven. They are convenient and more energy-efficient, but good for only a few things, in my opinion.

              1. re: GH1618

                I took a 1st generation crock pot (tm) apart years ago. It was just an earthenware pot with a few turns of resistance wire around the outside. It was 'a slow cooker' because it took for ever to warm up. Even a slightly more expensive model just had two sets of wires. Another from that era was an enameled steel pot on a low power hot plate. I ended up using the pot on the stove top (for pasta) and in the oven (for meat braises).

                Newer 'slow cookers' heat up faster, to satisfy food safety regulations, and MAY have some sort of thermostat.

                Conceptually there isn't anything that can be done in a slow cooker that can't also be done in any covered pot in a low oven. Long before crock pots cooks were using residual heat in a pit, or baker's oven to cook foods overnight.

                1. re: GH1618

                  I think you are right about slow cookers, they just don't have the flexibility that a dutch oven does, but so many folks are raving about their slow cookers, I thought I was just missing something.

                  Don't get me wrong, slow cookers are a great asset to busy families that need to have something ready to serve when they get home & a good ol crockpot will be there with the meal done. Still, I can only see soups & chili in there, the rest has only been hit & miss of what I expected the dish to be.

                  Everyone has their stand & maybe if I used my crock pot more often, I would begin to know how compensate for its shortcomings or just choose dishes like soups & stews.

                  Anyway, you all have some great points here, interesting conversation. Thanks.

                2. re: todao

                  Agreed, todao. In addition, if GH1618 wants to be picky about terminology, it should be pointed out that a Dutch oven can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, or both. For braising, most people prefer to sear on the stovetop, then cover and transfer to the oven. But my mother did her braising completely on the stovetop, and I generally do likewise.

                3. re: GH1618

                  Actually my crock pot does have temperature controls. It was a little more expensive than your typical three setting crock pot but well worth it.

                4. CI Dutch Oven everyday of the week and twice on Sunday over a Crock Pot for me. ~ Own several "Kitchen" ovens and even more "Camp" ovens. On the stove, in the oven, or over a camp fire...I prefer the CI Dutch oven hands down!! ~~ Used to own 3 Crock pots....Gave all of them to an enemy!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    Cast Iron Oven, you go Bubba!! Tell us more about your Kitchen ovens, are they all cast iron, cast iron enamel or what?

                    Any time someone starts talking about cast iron equipment, I get all fuzzy inside, only trouble is, they are getting heavier & heavier for me. I just chipped out a piece of my enamel kitchen sink a while back because the darn pot had a collision with the edge of the sink. Now I have a silver dollar black chink in the off white enamel...battle scar deluxe!

                    Those old pots can tell many stories of hungry meals around a midnight campfire or just a wonderful stew chuckling on the back kitchen burner, just waiting to bring pleasure to everyone around the table. They are downright poetic if you ask me - (you did ask, didn't you?)

                    1. re: cstout

                      All ovens are cast iron...Well except for one 12 in. aluminum "Camp" oven that's used for long, slow braises (soups, stews, chili, whatever) that may contain wines, tomatoes, or both. ~ No enameled ones in inventory. ~~~~ Yep, they do seem to gain weight as the years go by!! :))