When I hear the words “slow-cooked” I automatically think of hearty warm filling meals with soft easy to eat ingredients that require little effort to consume. There are many ways these meals can be prepared in traditional pots as well as electrically powered stand-alone appliances. I often see the question “can you substitute a Dutch oven for a slow cooker”? My answer is always very loud and clear.
Yes, you can use a Dutch oven as a slow cooker. That is because both of these world-renowned kitchen appliances are able to prepare and cook the same recipe in much the same way. The main difference is the heat source that is used, how fast the food can be cooked, and the fact that you cannot sear in a slow cooker.
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What Is The Difference Between a Slow Cooker and A Dutch Oven?
A slow cooker or crockpot has a built-in heat source it is enclosed in the outer casing of the appliance. In basic models, there are usually 3 settings low cook, high cook and keep warm. It has a removable pot inside where the dish is cooked.
Whereas the Dutch oven is more versatile as it can be used on many different heat sources as well as in a conventional oven. You will also be able to prepare a meal in one pot. The cast iron stays hot after cooking so the dish will keep warm for some time before serving.
Let’s look closer at the differences between a Dutch oven and a slow cooker as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both cooking appliances.
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE LIVE TASTE TEST – Same recipe 2 different cookers
Slow cooker recipes require less liquid than other types of cooking methods. So when converting recipes to use in a slow cooker you would probably need to reduce the amount of liquid required.
Slow cookers usually have around a 7-quart capacity. This size will feed a family of 4 with leftovers or a large number of people if there are other accompaniments such as vegetables, potatoes, or rice.
Due to the nature of the slow cook method inside a slow cooker liquid does not reduce as much as it should for most dishes.
To reduce the liquid you can place the contents of the slow cooker into a suitable pot and slowly reduce it on the stovetop. If your slow cooker insert can be used on a cooktop use it on the cooktop for reduction.
Alternatively, you can add a thickening agent to turn the slow cooker too high and let the juice thicken like gravy. Remember to stir occasionally.
When reduction has occurred you can return the insert to the slow cooker and utilize the “keep warm” feature.
Slow cookers are handy because they operate via a power cord and they can be plugged in anywhere there is an outlet. Take them to work, RV’s, holidays and you will always be able to prepare a home-cooked meal.
Quite awkward and bulky to store and if you do put them at the back of the cupboard or pantry you will not use them as much as you probably should.
If you are converting a slow cooker recipe to use it in a Dutch oven you will need to make certain there is enough liquid as the Dutch oven becomes much hotter and uses steam to cook its food.
Along with its versatility to be able to prepare many different types of meals Dutch ovens are available in a large range of sizes and shapes, from 1 quart to more than 13 quarts.
There are also two types of Dutch ovens. The traditional raw cast iron is ideal for campfires and the enamel-coated cast-iron Dutch oven is designed for everyday kitchen use.
The reduction of liquids occurs automatically inside a Dutch oven.
The various shapes and sizes available make preparing any kind of meal easy. If you have more than one Dutch oven you can prepare a meal in one and either an accompaniment or dessert in the other.
Handwash then dry thoroughly is what is required with Dutch ovens so they do not rust. They can then be stored stacked in your pot and pan cupboard or inside your conventional oven ready for the next use.
An article I wrote with great tips about the storage of cast iron you can see here.
Dutch Oven vs Slow Cooker Comparison Chart
A convenient quick breakdown of the differences between Dutch ovens and slow cookers or crackpots.
|Cast Iron||Slow Cookers & Crock Pots|
|Material Construction||Raw cast iron = 98% iron and 2% carbon. Also, cast iron with a virtuous enameled coating||Metal casing with stoneware or cast aluminum insert|
|Design||Dutch ovens, French ovens, and Cocotte sturdy cooking pots with heavy lids for use on most heat sources||Generally a lightweight electrical casing. Insert heavier with a vented glass lid. Manual, digital, programmed and wifi slow cookers are available|
|Shapes||Round and oval||Round, oval, rectangle, and square|
|Sizes||1-quart to a very large 14-quart Dutch oven in both seasoned and enameled cast iron||A mini slow cooker at 1-quart to the large slow cooker at 10-quart|
|Finish||Raw seasoned cast iron or a large range of shiny colored enamel coatings over raw cast iron with light or dark interiors||Limited colors or stainless steel outside with plastic contrasting trim, most lids are glass with a steam release vent|
|Heat Source||Seasoned Dutch ovens are suitable for all heat sources indoor and outdoor. Enamel Dutch ovens can be used naturally induction ready, ceramic, glass stovetop, gas, electric, or in the oven||Requires an electrical outlet and should be sitting on a flat non-combustible countertop|
|Temperature||Temperatures up to 500 °F depending upon the cookware quality and design (knobs and handles should be oven safe)||Cooks slowly at a low temperature, generally between 170 and 280 degrees F, over several hours|
|Versatility||Slow cook, sear, stew, boil, braise, and fry||Slow cook, braise, some units sear and sauté|
|Performance||Tight-fitting heavy lids promote the ultimate self-basting feature that results in a reduction in thick sauces and rich flavors||Slow cookers can achieve the fall of the bone types of dishes they are designed for. Unfortunately due to the cookers’ condensation, they cannot reduce liquids.|
|Everyday Use||Easy to use one-pot cooking that should not be left unattended||An easy-to-use appliance. A timer is used to cook your dish it will then revert to keep warm setting|
|Durability||Seasoned cast iron will last your lifetime and beyond. Enamel cast iron is not so long.||Inserts are not everlasting. An electrical appliance will last as long as it lasts. An electrical component may be required.|
|Clean Up||Seasoned cast iron wash by hand only. Enameled cast-iron Dutch ovens are dishwasher safe, but hand washing is advised||Some parts are dishwasher safe, hand washing is preferred|
|Maintenance||Season before first use, season regularly. Enamel Dutch ovens seasoning is not required||Electrical appliances, cords should be checked regularly, elements kept free of debris|
|CONS||Maintenance required, heavy, high-end brands expensive||Less durable, takes longer to cook the same dish as a Dutch oven. Restricted recipe making capabilities|
|Storage||Relatively compact Dutch ovens can be stored in cupboards and ovens with care||Slow cookers can be cumbersome to store|
|Price||Prices start at approximately $20||Prices start at approximately $20|
5 Helpful Tips for Using a Dutch Oven as a Slow Cooker
The recipes we like to prepare using the slow cook method whether in a slow cooker or other cooking pot are prepared in similar ways.
Slow Cooking Steps
- sauteing, braising, searing, or browning
- adding other ingredients followed by the required liquid
- bringing the pot to the simmer
- simmering until cooked
- then reducing or thickening the liquid
Tip 1 – Dutch Ovens and Convenient Heat Sources
Enamel cast-iron Dutch ovens can be used on various cooktops, like gas, electric, ceramic, glass, induction as well as in a conventional oven.
Traditional uncoated cast-iron pots can also be used over coals, briquettes, and open flames.
The heat source you choose depends upon the type of Dutch oven you are using as well as the dishes you want to prepare.
Tip 2 – Dutch Oven One Pot Cooking
This is my absolute favorite thing about Dutch oven cooking. The truth is you can cook a meal inside one pot.
Including traditional dishes like chicken and dumplings, chicken cacciatore, beef stew, lamb shanks in red wine, and pot roast.
Carry out the slow-cook steps above and you are done…
Tip 3 – Dutch Oven Sizes
Owning a couple of different size Dutch ovens is tip number 3.
Larger size ovens for big hearty meals and a lot of mouths to feed. Or large meals and plenty of leftovers.
Medium or smaller ovens are good for use in coordination with your large oven. Prepare rice (see my awesome recipe here), potatoes, pasta, desserts, or even bake bread to go with a stew or casserole.
Dutch Oven Sizes – my article dives into the various sizes, capacities, and shapes of Dutch ovens.
Tip 4 – Dutch Oven – Sealing Food
Due to the material (cast-iron) that a Dutch oven is made from sauteing, braising, searing or browning is quick and easy.
Just remember that the thick bottom of a cast-iron pot is hot hot hot and will cause food to stick if there is not enough oil in it or you are not moving the food around while sauteing so food does not get the chance to stick.
Tip 5 – Leftovers
If there are any leftovers and your Dutch oven is an enameled one just let the oven cool then put it in the refrigerator for storage.
To reheat pull the oven out of the refrigerator allow it to cool to room temperature and reheat your leftovers at very low heat. Be sure to add a little liquid if required, this will avoid sticking.
Live Taste Test – 1 Recipe – 2 Different Cookers
Dutch Oven and Slow Cooker Temperature Conversion Table
Use the easy-to-navigate conversion table below. With a little practice, you will get the idea of how to convert any recipe…
|Food Type||Dutch Oven||Slow Cooker||Slow Cooker|
|Chicken||1 to 1 1/2 hours||4 hours||2 hours|
|Meat (Cubed)||2 to 3 hours||4 to 6 hours||2 to 3 hours|
|Shanks||3 to 4 hours||8 hours||4+ hours|
|Meat – (Large Cuts)||3 to 4 hours||8 hours||4+ hours|
|Beans (Raw Soaked)||1 to 2 hours||4 to 6 hours||2 to 3 hours|
|Root Vegetables (Large 3-inch chunks)||1 to 1 1/2 hours||4 hours||2 hours|
What Can be Cooked in A Dutch Oven?
The list below will stimulate your desire to prepare a great meal in a Dutch oven.
- Breakfast – oats, eggs, omelets, bacon, scones, biscuits
- Dutch oven bread
- Lunch – soups, stews, casseroles
- Dinner – meat dishes, pot roast, pizza, pasta, risotto
- Dessert – upside-down cakes, cobblers
- Snacks – smores, popcorn, muffins, cakes
Dutch Oven Slow Cooker Recipes
You can find the ultimate slow cooker recipes for your Dutch oven here.
Can You Braise in a Slow Cooker?
The simple answer to this is yes! Providing the inner pot of the slow cooker is removable and can be used on the heat source you have available.
For example, some inner pots of slower cookers are ceramic and you definitely cannot put those on gas, electric, or another type of cook or stovetop. They are designed to so inside an oven and not to be heated up quickly or they will crack.
You would prepare foods such as lasagne, pies, casserole, stews, roasts, desserts, and baking. Any dish really that does not require being heated up on a cooktop to saute or braise then adding cold ingredients the changing to a hot surface again.
Another type of inner pot or slow cooker that is made today is aluminum and other composite materials that really do not perform well when changing from one high heat source to another.
I have written an article here that goes into great detail about Dutch ovens and other cooking appliances that should or should not be used on an electric stovetop.
Can You Use a Dutch Oven as a Slow Cooker? – Final Thoughts
You are probably thinking the owner of this website is going to say that Dutch ovens are the best choice of cooking appliance to use.
Truthfully I own both, actually a couple of each.
As you can see that the Dutch oven is a substitute for a slow cooker and vice versa.
You can prepare the same dishes in both appliances with the only exception being that the insert of the slow cooker needs to be able to be used on various heat sources.
I like to use the slow cooker when I am organized and have all the ingredients ready to pop in and start the low cooking early in the day.
When I am not organized I will always use my Dutch oven. It is always on hand as it lives in the conventional oven. My slow cooker lives at the back of the cupboard.
If you were to tell me that you wanted either a slow cooker or a Dutch oven and you wanted advice on which one to purchase.
I would say if you like to prepare a variety of dishes regularly that require more than slow cooking I would advise you to purchase a Dutch oven. It is more versatile therefore you would utilize it more than a slow cooker.
What Can I Use Instead of a Dutch Oven – 11 Alternatives – here
How to Use a Dutch Oven in a Conventional Oven – here
One-Pot Cooking Rocks