You are probably wondering right now whether a slow cooker is worth the money. Why should you buy a slow cooker if you already have a Dutch oven that you can use pretty much for the same thing? See the pros and cons of each cooking appliance below to determine whether you need a slow cooker or Dutch oven.
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About the Slow Cooker
A slow cooker is an electrical cooking appliance designed to simmer a food at a lower temperature than other cooking methods so that the food can be cooked for a longer period of time without getting overcooked or burnt. It enables safe unattended cooking, so you can just leave it while you are sleeping or working.There are at least two heat settings on a crock pot which are low and high (see also: Slow Cooker High vs Low).
Slow cookers are also often called crock pots. This is actually a trademark that belongs to Sunbeam Products, but it has been used generically to refer to slow cookers in general due to its popularity. A slow cooker can be used to cook meals that are normally boiled, such as soups, stews, and pot roasts. You can also use a slow cooker to make dips, desserts, bread, and beverages.
To use a slow cooker, you need to put the food inside the cooking pot along with some liquid, such as water, stock, or wine, depending on the recipe. Close the lid, then set the suitable heat and time settings. The recipe may have specific requirements for the heat and time settings. Turn the slow cooker on.
Once turned on, the heating elements in the slow cooker emit heat at a steady temperature. While the most basic models need to be turned off manually, many modern models nowadays can switch automatically from cooking to warming. More advanced models can be programmed to delay the cooking start or to perform different operations.
Advantages of a Slow Cooker
Of course, the very first advantage of a slow cooker vs oven is that it allows safe unattended cooking. A slow cooker is powered by electricity, not a stove. Hence, unattended cooking with a slow cooker is relatively safer than leaving a stove turned on for a long period of time.
This is very convenient for busy people. You can start cooking at night, go to sleep, and have your meal ready for breakfast by the morning. Or, you can start cooking before you go to work and have the meal ready by the evening.
The second advantage of a slow cooker is that it is very effective for cooking meats, herbs, and spices. Slow cooking can make a large piece of meat softer and tenderer without getting overcooked or burnt. It can also make flavors richer, as it extracts the herbs and spices for a longer time.
Disadvantages of a Slow Cooker
During a slow cooking, vegetables may lose their vitamins and other trace nutrients. This is because the low heat is not able to stop the vegetables’ enzymes quickly enough before the enzymes are activated. One solution for this issue is by blanching the vegetables prior to cooking them in a slow cooker. The blanching process can render most of the enzymes largely ineffective.
Slow cookers are especially susceptible to power outage. Imagine that you go to work while leaving your slow cooker cooking your dinner. Then, without your knowledge, a power outage affects your home for several hours. The slow cooker won’t cook the food. So, slow cookers are not suitable for places with unreliable power supply.
About the Dutch Oven
A Dutch oven is a thick-walled cooking pot that features a tight-fitting lid. The most common models are made of seasoned cast iron, but more modern model may be made of cast aluminum or ceramic. People around the world have used Dutch ovens as cooking vessels for hundreds of years. According to Wikipedia, Dutch ovens are also called casserole dishes in English-speaking countries other than the United States.
Dutch ovens are suitable for long, slow cooking. You can use a Dutch oven for making stews, pot roasts, and casseroles. When cooking on a campfire, you can use a cast-iron Dutch oven like a true baking oven – you can prepare cakes, breads, biscuits, pies, and even pizzas. Basically, a recipe that is normally cooked by a conventional oven can be cooked in a Dutch oven as well.
Interestingly, you can stack multiple Dutch ovens on the top of each other. This is to cook more foods at once and to conserve the heat. The stacks can be as high as 5 – 6 pots.
Advantages of a Dutch Oven
Many experienced cooks, including both home cooks and professional cooks, say that a Dutch oven can give better cooking results than a slow cooker. This is because, with a Dutch oven, you are able to control the heat more precisely. You may cook at a lower temperature than a slow cooker. The construction of the pot also allows the heat to be distributed more evenly. Finally, you can get even softer meats and richer flavors.
The second advantage of a Dutch oven is that it is more affordable than a slow cooker. It is a simple cooking appliance. It is also easy to clean and maintain. Third, it does not get affected by power outage at all, unless you are using an electrical stove at your home.
Disadvantages of a Dutch Oven
Of course, the disadvantage of a Dutch oven is that you can’t really leave it while it is cooking. It is not safe to leave a stove being turned on unattended. This is not a problem if you can dedicate some time for cooking, but this is a major problem for busy people.
The second disadvantage of a Dutch oven is that it may consume a significant amount of gas if you are using a gas stove. Of course, the total gas consumption depends on the duration of the cooking. Some recipes may take multiple hours of slow cooking on a Dutch oven.
Slow Cooker vs Oven
|Slow Cooker||Dutch Oven|
|- Electric cooking appliance designed to simmer foods||- A thick-walled cooking pot with a tight-fitting lid for cooking on a stove or campfire|
|- Suitable for cooking foods that are normally boiled, dips, desserts, bread, and beverages||- Suitable for foods that require long, slow cooking and any recipe that is normally cooked by an oven|
|- Allows simple and convenient unattended cooking||- Not suitable for unattended cooking|
|- Generally good cooking results||- Allows more precise heat control for even better cooking results|
|- Susceptible to power outage||- Doesn’t get affected by power outage if the stove is gas-powered|
Slow cookers vs oven have distinctive advantages and disadvantages. A slow cooker is great for simple unattended cooking, but this cooking appliance is especially susceptible to power outage. Nevertheless, if you are very busy, a slow cooker can help you a lot. However, if you are a dedicated cook, a Dutch oven may be better. It allows you to control the heat more precisely, and it can give even better cooking results.