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Dutch oven vs. Slow cooker

I have been reading (on another site) about loads of delicious-sounding slow cooker or crockpot recipes.
I do not own a slow cooker, and live in an apartment with a not-at-all- spacious kitchen (read NYC apartment!!) so to buy and store another appliance is something I need to weigh. I've been wondering what I could do with a slow cooker, that I cannot do with my dutch oven.
Can slow-cooker recipes easily be converted to dutch oven cooking? Is the advantage of the slow cooker that you can leave it on all day and then come home to a finished meal?
I am asking for help in deciding whether or not I should bite the bullet and get a slow cooker, or if I can do basically the same recipes with the dutch oven?
Also, if you REALLY think a slow cooker is indispensible, can you suggest a brand and features that I should look for?

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  1. The advantage is what you mentioned - walking away from the appliance. I personally love my slowcookers as do many people. There are many that don't care for them, which is also fine.

    Yes, you can convert the recipes to a dutch oven. There are charts to do this online.

    My suggestion is that if you think you would like a slowcooker but are worried, wait until Black Friday when they are often on ridiculously low special for the day. Get one for next to nothing and try it out. Similarly try borrowing one for a couple of weeks from a friend (don't forget to share what you make with them!) and give it a try. You don't needfeatures though, just low, high and off. Warm is nice to have though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Astur

      Eh, mines also has a timer for both high and low, once time is reached it automatically switches to warm. I bought it on sale a few years ago and haven't seen it since.

      I love that little feature since I don't have anyone at home to turn down the slow cookers when I'm at work.

      1. Thanks, Astur, for the suggestions and the rave about slowcookers. I certainly CAN wait until Black Friday!!
        And thank you, lwhit for the link. That was great!!

        1. We have a slow cooker that was used twice and end then boxed up and put into storage. Other than being able to walk away from it, I found no advantages to using a dutch oven. What really turned me off was a recipe for a roast where you first had to brown the meat in a dutch oven and then put it into the slow cooker and add the other ingredients. If I've got it in the dutch oven already, what is the slow cooker doing for me? I'm not one much for dumping in a bunch of things in the morning and coming home from work to a pot of some bubbling mass with a slick of grease on top. If you want one, you can have mine.

          ETA: Anything that can be made in a slow cooker can be made better in a dutch oven.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Bkeats

            "... Anything that can be made in a slow cooker can be made better in a dutch oven."

            Ditto - if not better, at least as good.

            1. re: Bkeats

              To each his/her own. I find it invaluable for making chicken stock (just did this weekend), and it's great for beef stews and similar meals. Which are not laden with a slick of grease on top. ::::shrug:::

              1. re: LindaWhit

                Why was it invaluable for making stock? I just made stock last night, in a small dutch oven on the stove top.

                1. re: paulj

                  Because I can start it at any time (including 8pm, which I've done in the past) and let it go for 18-24 hours without having to be there - or be awake.

              2. re: Bkeats

                I agree with you about 95%. I do find that legumes like chickpeas and navy beans do awfully well in the slow cooker. But mostly I prefer my Dutch oven. My cooker is newer and I find it disconcertint to walk in hours later and find it bubbling away when it's on low. I know the newer ones are set to run warmer, but....

                1. re: lemons

                  Yup. I suppose if my current (very old) crock pot decides to go to appliance heaven, I'll either not get a new one that cooks at a much higher temp, or search yard sales for another old one.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Usually Salvation Army Stores and Goodwill Stores have crockpots that have rarely, if ever, been used for a minimal amount of money.

                    1. re: Wtg2Retire

                      Yes, but most often they'll be the newer models. I think they switch to the higher temp models happened about 10-12 years ago, so they'd have to be older than that. Other than the designs on the sides of the heating element, I'm not sure how I'd be able to determine an older model anyway. Which is why I baby my current one. :-)

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        If it has mushrooms on it or small gold, brownish flowers, it's an older one. :)

              3. In the summertime, using a slow cooker greatly reduces heat in the kitchen. Personally, I love to cook in the slow cooker.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Wtg2Retire

                  This is the one clear advantage slow cookers have. However, I usually don't find myself wanting stews, braised meats, chili, etc. during the summer. I think of them as cooler weather dishes which then mitigates the advantage.

                  As the OP has a NYC sized kitchen like me, I don't think there is any particular reason to get a slow cooker. I look for multi-function which applies to a dutch oven. Adding a slow cooker won't allow her to do anything she can't currently do. It takes up a lot of space in a small kitchen. For those of you who have not experienced a NYC style kitchen, it will surprise you how little space you have to work with. Its not at all like those apartments you saw in Friends.

                2. I'm hard pressed to see the advantage of the slow cooker, but as with all things, your circumstances may be different enough from mine that there is an advantage. With the electronics in many new ovens, you can set a start cooking time, you can ramp up temperatures, you can set a stop cooking time, you can cook to a temperature, etc. Now if you have a completely manual oven, then perhaps those are not options that would provide an easy work around a slow cooker. The dutch oven just provides such a level of versatility in the way in which it can be utilized, if one is picking one or the other, the choice seems obvious.

                  1. I got to be honest, you don't need a slow cooker. You can make it in your dutch oven. It just won't have some of the perks of it. Like being able to walk away from it for extended periods of time, reduce the heat produced in the kitchen, and the biggie for me, having an instrument to keep food hot when I'm not near a stove.

                    The whole reason why I bought a slow cookers was because I wanted to make spinach artichoke dip for a party at work and there was no oven around. That was several years ago and I use it about as much as I use my dutch oven.

                    The thing is I use the dutch oven when I want a browned product or will be roasting something. Soups and stews that I want super moist and tender in the slow cooker. And if I just don't have time, I move to the pressure cooker. While these are very different pieces of equipment they have some cross overs functionality and different capabilities.

                    1. I'm a lover of gadgets and considered the same question. I, too, live in an apartment and space is a concern.

                      if I were you, I'd got for a good dutch oven. I'm not a fan of single-use items, and I feel a dutch oven is more versatile. You can deep fry with it, make soups, full meals (stove-top to oven), bake bread, etc with a dutch oven.

                      A huge case against a slow cooker for me is I doubt I'd ever start a meal in the AM and leave it to cook all day. Just not my thing. If I were to get a slow cooker because I'm a gadget freak, I'd get the All-Clad.

                      But I'm holding out for a Le Creuset dutch oven... or 2.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: nikkib99

                        I have never had a slow cooker and have never wanted one EXCEPT for holiday meals or parties when you want to keep food warm for a long period of time - no more cold mashed potatoes.

                        1. re: SmartCookie

                          That is also the only reason I have a slow cooker.

                          I HATE actually cooking in the thing. Give me a dutch oven any day. I use my LC oven constantly.

                      2. You really have to decide what kind of cooking you want to do. I love my slow cooker, because I can leave it in the morning, and have dinner ready when I get home. But I do the prep the night before, including browning the vegetables and meat, if that's what the recipe calls for. Mine also doesn't have a timer, so I've attached a timer to it, which will turn it on at the proper time. Some dishes cook for 10 hours, so just five.

                        I also love my dutch oven. I can do a lot of things with it. But braises that take four hours, well, it's not often that I'm home early enough in the day to be able to eat that for dinner on the same night. So that leave weekend cooking for the dishes that take 4 hours in the dutch oven.

                        Ultimately, I use both for their individual strengths. I do have enough room for the extra appliance, and it makes weeknight meals much less problematic. I also can make an easy chicken stock, and I only have to be there to put the ingredients in, and then remove them when the stock is ready.

                        My recommendation is to buy something inexpensive, learn that particular appliance's strengths and weaknesses, and then have fun with it!

                        1. Unless you need the convenience of having a meal cook while you are away, by all means get a Dutch oven. I know others will disagree (and perhaps the newer ones are better), but I bought one of the original Rival slow cookers many many years ago...used it frequently for about 3-4 months (I was working then)...and then gave it to Goodwill because everything coming out of the pot had a similar bland taste and also consistency issues. For stews, the vegetables were terribly overcooked by the time the meat was tender. I know that you can put different ingredients into the slow cooker at different times, but then really see no advantage of this kind of cooking. I invested in 2 different sized Le Creuset Dutch ovens at the time (>20 years ago) use one or the other at least weekly, and wouldn't part with them!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: josephnl

                            Well, since I don't cook the veggies with the stewing meat, I'm good on that one. But yes, I agree - they would cook way faster and turn to absolute mush, no matter the size.

                          2. Thank you all for the interesting discussion and thoughts.
                            At this point, I think I'll stick with my Dutch Oven, and maybe re-visit the slow cooker idea when I see what Black Friday sales are offering.
                            Again, Lindawhit, the link you provided is very helpful and I feel that I can convert slow cooker recipes (some of which sound delicious) to my tried-and-true dutch oven

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: bxgirl

                                You are quite welcome. I'm actually hoping to use my slow cooker for short ribs this weekend, although I could probably do the same thing with my Le Creuset.

                              2. I love my slow cooker. I use it on the weekends when I'm in and around the house doing chores. Chop up a bunch of stuff and throw it in and do something else

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: paulpaul

                                  I did the same thing today with my dutch oven. Beef Bourginon -- yum! I wouldn't leave it alone all day, but really, cast iron on very low heat can be left alone for a few hours without a problem.