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Crock Pot versus Dutch Oven cooking

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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. http://www.chow.com/search?query=dutc...

        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.

          5 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.

              2. 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!! :))

                2. Two big differences: Temperature range and browning. The crockpot loses in both of these categories.

                  1. Few recipes that call for a 'dutch oven' really require a heavy enameled cast iron pot in designer colors that costs an arm and two legs. The heavy cast iron might even out the heat when used on the stove top, but it is not needed in a modern oven. Any covered pot will work. Restaurants (as seen on DDD) may use a hotel pan with aluminum foil cover for braising. The famous Good Eats chuck roast episode wraps the meat entirely in aluminum foil.

                    While I have a fairly heavy cast iron 'chicken fryer' with glass lid, more often I use an enamel steel 'dutch oven' (5qt), cast aluminum dutch oven (camp oven style actually), 3qt stainless 'dutch oven' (e.g.2 handle 'sauce pan'), or Chinese sandpot, when braising meat or a slow covered roast.

                    1. I can use the dutch oven on any heat setting. I can sweat, brown, boil, etc. in it. I can fry in it. I can use it over or in a campfire. Definitely not interchangeable with the crock pot.
                      Favorite dish in the DO? Chili. Chuck steaks put on the smoker for an hour or two, not to cook, but just to get some smoke. Cube, then brown in the DO. Add other ingredients, including a GOOD chili powder, or better yet, freshly ground dried chiles. No beans, of course!

                      Can't think of a favorite in the crock pot, but it does get used, and won't be going anywhere.

                      1. My shiny crock pot is a piece of junk that consistently boils whatever is in it, even when set on "low." In contrast, my Dutch oven is 30-years-old and has the scars to prove it. My children will no doubt fight over it when I am gone...

                        Though when I want to do a lengthy slow cooking, I typically chose my All-Clad brasier, as it has a lip that prevents most vapor loss. I can put it in a very slow oven for many hours and will consistently get results that put my crock pot to shame.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bitchincook

                          I thought I was the only one feeling so badly toward my crockpot...kept thinking to myself,"am I the only one who cannot cook anything decent in that ol thing or what?"

                          Yep, I think I know which pot your kids are going to fight over!

                        2. I really liked this video about re-wiring a slow cooker to a set temperature:

                          http://www.chow.com/food-news/64330/h...

                          I do not like my newer slow cookers at all! They get too hot, too soon. They should re-name them "Boil-O-Matics".

                          That said, I have harvested a couple of old crockpots from thrift stores because I like the traditional "cook for 8 hours" recipes. The old ones with heavy crocks and heavy glass lids do the best job.

                          The crock pot is awesome for very simple recipes that can tolerate over-cooking: soups, stews, pot roasts, etc. A couple other plus-es: you can take the darned things outside if you don't want your house to smell like baked beans, cabbage, or kidney pie, etc. They keep foods like mashed potatoes or cheese sauce nicely warm for holiday meals and parties.

                          For something a little more fiddly, like pulled pork, Spanish rice, etc, then the dutch oven in the real oven is the way to go. You pay a bit more in electricity or natural gas to keep the oven on for several hours in return for a more constant temperature.

                          Good thread!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: applgrl

                            I got rid of my old crock (the heavy kind) because I broke the lid & never could find one at the thrift store to fit it exactly, so I hauled it along with about 5 lids that did not work.

                            Bought an oblong crockpot that goes from stove top to its cooking base if needed. Well, it is very flimsy, can't get anything to brown in it & the darn thing heats WAYYYYY too high for me to go out & leave it on.

                            Right now I am just lugging out the big red dutch oven that weighs a ton. But the old heavy crockpot had issues too. It was bulky to clean & I just could not see buying "crockpot liners" & using those every time.

                            Guess I will purchase a small dutch oven & see how that goes. Jeez..this is getting complicated!

                            Hey everyone, thanks for expressing your opinions...that's what always makes Chowhound so much fun.

                          2. A dutch oven is much more versatile than a crock pot. You can use it to cook just about anything. A crock pot is useful for slow cooking which can also be done easily in a dutch oven as well. Personally, I've found crock pots more hassle than they are worth.

                            Cooking in a crock pot involves considerable planning in order to time it correctly and often requires additional steps like browning or sauteeing something separately then adding it to the slow cooker. Once I discovered how much more easily I could do all of these things in a pressure cooker and attain the same type of results quickly, I've never had a need to pull out my slow cooker again. Even things I commonly used my slow cooker for like making stocks and cooking dried beans could be done much faster in the PS.

                            1. To repeat what others have said, a dutch oven can be used to cook just about anything, I use mine on the stove top much more than in the oven, although I do put it in the oven for things like beef burgundy. You can make soup, fry, whatever. the heaviness makes you much less likely to burn the bottom of things.

                              On a scale of 1-10, a dutch oven is a 10 and a crock pot is a 1. I find the crock pot useful for pulled pork and large quantities of grits. That's about it. oh yeah, I served hot chocolate at a brunch once from the cp.

                              1. Crockpots are essentially electric dutch ovens. Crockpots were originally developed to enable working home cooks to prep a meal and turn it on and go to work and come back 10 hours later and be able to serve dinner. There are several problems with the concept.
                                1. Evaporation - Something braising that long will lose liquid if the lid doesn't seal very well. It is mandatory to have a crockpot with a glass lid. Even then, you could lose some moisture.

                                2. Braising something for 10 hours is going to over cook most foods. The way a crockpot used to try to deal with this is to take several hours to get up to temperature. Unfortunately, it still resulted in most foods being over cooked.

                                3. The original crockpots would braise at about 220°F. Unfortunately, dangerous bacteria grows rapidly at temperatures between 50° - 160°F. It really needed to get above 160° F in an hour or less. To avoid lawsuits, crockpot manufacturers set their crockpots to cook at near 300 ° F and to get above 160° F in 60 minutes or so. With modern crockpots, the difference between low and high is about 25° and about 30 minutes in how long it takes to reach temperature. Now, you are really overcooking at that temperature.

                                With a cast iron dutch oven, you can control the temperature with your oven much more precisely. The cast iron dutch oven seals much better than a crockpot.

                                In conclusion, there are only a few things that crockpots cook well. They are great at making stocks because they will suck every ounce of flavor out of the bones and meat over several hours. Beans cook well in them because they can tolerate being cooked for several hours especially if you don't pre-soak. Pulled pork seems to work well even though the pork is probably over cooked. It still tastes great.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  I disagree w/ #1. The rule of thumb when cooking with a slow cooker is to reduce the liquids because it forms a tighter barrier that doesn't allow for evaporation. When you've cooked meat/vegetables in the slow cooker, you can end up w/ more liquid than you start with, depending on the cut of meat and the vegetables.

                                  http://allrecipes.com/howto/slow-cook...
                                  http://busycooks.about.com/od/slowcoo...
                                  http://www.crock-pot.com/CustomerServ...
                                  http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content...

                                  I think a timer is important with a slow cooker. I would never buy one that didn't turn to warm because of the overcooking probability. I don't think a slow cooker is preferable to a dutch oven but for people who come home late and want a dinner ready to go, it's the best alternative. Between that and my rice cooker (which I also use for potatoes), dinners are easy when we get home at 8.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    This might be helpful for the OP, on subbing a dutch oven for the slow cooker:

                                    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/20...

                                  2. re: Hank Hanover

                                    In general you got it right. A couple of minor points. Boiling water (at sea level) is 212F. Target temperatures like 300F would apply to the metal of a pot, or interior of an oven, or when cooking with oil. 140F is considered a safe holding temperature, 160F (or is it 165?) is set as a target for food handlers as it kills all bacteria right a way.

                                    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/...

                                    slow cooker guidelines
                                    http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/...

                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                      Crockpots do not get to 300 °F because the water limits the temperature to 212.

                                    2. I don't like to leave any appliance on when I am not home so I use my dutch oven most often. I use the crock pot sometimes if I need an extra pot or I want to keep something constantly warm when I have guest over.

                                      1. There are advantages to both, but if you can have only one, get a nice quality slow cooker crock pot. For the modern home cook an electric crock pot is a virtual necessity. A Dutch oven is a nice luxury.
                                        I use a Dutch oven for searing, for cooking large batches of ground beef, or for baking soda breads. I use a slow cooker for large roasts, or for many things that I may be transporting to a covered dish dinner.

                                        1. I have 3 ways to braise. A Le Creuset dutch oven (8 quarts), an All-Clad "casserole" (6 quarts), and a ceramic slow cooker (2, 4, 6 quarts). I find uses for all of them, but couldn't live without the All Clad. If I had to downsize my kitchen, I would keep that and ditch the others.

                                          The Le Creuset is beautiful, but very very heavy. I also don't really like browning in enameled cast iron as much as plain cast iron. Best dish so far: beef stew

                                          The slow cooker is one of the modern ones, and I have had poor luck with unattended cooking. It tends to come to a hard boil (eventually) and overcook. But, if I can pay attention to it, have had successes. Best dish so far: polenta

                                          The All-Clad is a great size for my family, light even when full, and very versatile. Great for browning. Nice for all kinds of hot dishes. Okay for braising. Probably use it at least twice a week, every week of the year. Not a beautiful as the Le Creuset, but I can still put it on the table without being ashamed.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: dkenworthy

                                            Yes, plain cast iron is really the best way to cook - gets the toughest cuts of meat fork tender if cooked slowly with a lid on. Pot roasts are to die for in an iron pot, but that weight is getting harder to contend with. If there is a strong arm in the house, then you are in luck.

                                            All-Clad - wish I had a couple of pots, but I am maxed out for space. Something will have to go in order for something else to come into my kitchen.

                                            Thanks for the comparison of pots - something out there for everyone!

                                          2. The crock pot cooks the food slowly and a dutch oven can do the same. However, it would be more economical to run a crock pot than it is to run an oven for the same period of time. I have the same struggle as you for the crock pot the end result is not always what I want it to be. One item that I have had great success with the crock pot is the baked bean recipe in the America's test kitchen cookbook, perfect results everytime.

                                            13 Replies
                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                              Baked beans in a crock pot, will have to see if I can find the America's test kitchen version. Nice to know when you are cooking serveral things & need everybit of oven & stove top space.

                                              1. re: cstout

                                                The recipe is called Boston Baked Beans and is found in the The Cook's Country Cookbook. I have tried to find the link but am not able to. They advise to soak the beans overnight, parboil them for 15 minutes the next day, and an important ingredient, 1/2 tsp baking soda to the mixture in the crock pot. The beans have to be covered with tin foil in the crock pot which helps to soften them. I would provide the entire recipe but not sure if I would be infringing on copyrights of authors.

                                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                                  Boston Baked Beans - I am sure if I searched the net long enough I will come up with the recipe. Thanks so much for bringing this recipe to my attention. I just picked up about 10 Cook's Country magazines at the library's "free" cart, so maybe I will be lucky & find the recipe there.

                                                2. re: cstout

                                                  I have found the link for you.

                                                  http://www.cookscountry.com/recipes/Q...

                                                  It does not mention the crock pot but my recipe book they use a crock pot and the recipe is almost the same except it uses 2 cups of water to commence. As well they cover the beans in the crockpot with aluminum foil. Cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
                                                  My recipe book, The Cook`s Country Cookbook. Hope this helps.

                                                  1. re: Ruthie789

                                                    Ruthie789- I pulled out the old crock pot & have some Boston baked beans cooking in there. Now I need to get a pork roast going & some cole slaw & sit back & relax.

                                                    Wish I would have had enough sense to put some No Knead Bread dough in the fridge yesterday. Oh well, maybe I can come across a No Knead Quicker Bread or something!

                                                    Thanks so much for the link, you are a dear!

                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                      Here's a quicker no-knead bread. I've made it, and it was good!

                                                      http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...

                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                        quicker no-knead bread recipe - my lucky day! Thanks so much. Wish I could invite everyone over for some pulled pork, slaw & NK bread, & Boston Baked Beans right around 6pm this evening.

                                                        More realistically, go make yourself this meal & then sit back & be thankful for all the great folks on Chowhound. I know I sure am thankful for you all.

                                                        1. re: cstout

                                                          Hope it all works out! It's under 100 today which in Phoenix is "cool" for this time of year. I finished up a batch of plum jam, have milk culturing into yogurt, and have stock simmering in the slow cooker for soup tonight!

                                                          1. re: Jen76

                                                            Life is good isn't Jen76. Boy, that plum jam will be delicious on some biscuits soon.

                                                      2. re: cstout

                                                        I also have them in the pot. It is not very warm in Montreal today, and you can feel fall in the air, a perfect day for the crock pot and baked beans. No Knead bread sounds good.

                                                        1. re: cstout

                                                          How did the beans turn out? Mine were good.

                                                          1. re: Ruthie789

                                                            Beans were absolutely delicious. Now have a couple of baggies of beans in the freezer for a meatless day - just beans, cornbread & slang jang.

                                                            1. re: cstout

                                                              Glad that it worked out, great to freeze for a later date!

                                                  2. I use my slow cooker mostly for making stock. It does a really good job at that task and keeps my house from getting even hotter in the summers (in Phoenix!). It's also my rice cooker, so it's not a single-tasker at least. On occasion, I also use it for other things, but usually when I'm home. Pulled pork works well in it but only takes a few hours.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Jen76

                                                      Slow cooker - great idea for making stock!! Thanks.

                                                    2. I much prefer a dutch oven, either on top of the stove or in the oven, to a crock pot; if I'm at home all day. Probably due to false reasoning I don't worry about the crock pot burning my house down if it's on while I'm away.