Slow Cooker vs. Dutch Oven: A Conversion Guide

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Most recipes calling for a slow cooker or Dutch oven start out the same way: brown the protein, saute the vegetables, add the liquid and cook. In a slow cooker, you select a high or low setting and let the machine do the work, while a Dutch oven braises on a stovetop or in an oven.

 

Because the two methods are so similar, they’re easily interchangeable. As we turn to cozy, hearty stews and braises during the chilly fall months, we’ve had plenty of requests from customers wanting to try our slow cooker recipes in their Dutch ovens (or vice versa) so we tapped our Test Kitchen cook Melissa Stewart for advice. Read on for her tips and guidelines!

 

Method

 

A Dutch oven has the advantage of using one pot from start to finish — you can sear proteins in the same pan you use to braise. When using a Dutch oven, you can braise on the stovetop or in the oven. If you choose the stovetop, be mindful — you will need to stir occasionally and check the heat under the burner to make sure the bottom of the pan isn’t burning or sticking. For that reason, Melissa tends to prefer braising in the oven at 325 to 350 degrees F.

 

Many slow cookers lack the ability to brown meat, requiring you to use a separate pan for the initial stage and then add everything back into the machine. Look for a slow cooker with an insert that can be used on the stovetop, too. From there, the difference between the two methods is just a question of cook times.

 

Timing

 

Every recipe is different, so cooking times will vary — especially when you’re using a different vessel than the one called for. Be sure to check on the dishes as they cook to be sure you have plenty of liquid. Here are some average cook times for proteins:

  • Chicken: 1 to 1 1/2 hours in a Dutch oven; 2 hours high setting in slow cooker
  • Cubed meat (lamb, beef or pork): 2 to 3 hours in a Dutch oven; 2 to 3 hours high setting in slow cooker
  • Whole shanks or larger cuts: 3 to 4 hours in Dutch oven; 4+ hours high setting in slow cooker (the larger the cut, the more time required)
  • Beans: Soak in cold water overnight. Cook 1 to 2 hours in Dutch oven; 2 to 3 hours high setting in slow cooker

Note: To use a slow cooker’s more gentle low setting, cook for about twice the amount of time you would on high.

 

For large cuts, try this trick: place a piece of foil under the lid of the Dutch oven so that the liquid doesn’t over-reduce. Consider turning large roasts about 2/3 through the cooking time to make sure both sides are equally tender. Check the meat as it cooks; add more liquid if needed. Or, add  more water at the beginning of cooking, and you can reduce it in the oven or on the stovetop once the protein is done.

 

As for vegetables, tough roots such as turnips and carrots can take a considerable amount of time. Melissa recommends adding any large chunks of vegetables at the same time you add the protein to a braise.

 

Pros & Cons

 

Reduction: A slow cooker doesn’t reduce liquid the same way a Dutch oven does, so the resulting braises and stews may be thinner. However, you can still reduce the dish yourself — just remove the contents (or slow cooker insert) from the machine and reduce on the stovetop.

 

Space & Convenience: A slow cooker doesn’t require an oven, so cooks have the flexibility to use burners and ovens for other dishes. Also, you can use slow cookers to keep finished dishes warm, like your Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.

 

Capacity: Most slow cookers have a large capacity — around 7 quarts — so they can accommodate plenty of servings and easily feed a crowd. Dutch ovens come in a range of sizes, from 1 quart to more than 13.

32 comments about “Slow Cooker vs. Dutch Oven: A Conversion Guide

  1. Elizabeth Towns

    I have often wondered about the pros and cons of slow cookers vs dutch ovens. I love my dutch oven and use it faithfully and have also started using a slow cooker for the utility of scheduling timed meal preparation for a busy family. Thanks for a great post.

    Reply
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  4. Sandy

    Specifically I’m trying to take a slow cooker recipe at LOW 7-9 hours, including pork roast, yams, carrots, onions, apples and cider and spices to a disposable covered casserole oven baked meal. PLEASE advise ASAP! Thanks.. Sandy

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Sandy, can you tell us the size and cut of the pork roast? Is it a loin roast, a shoulder roast? Bone-in or boneless? That will affect cooking time as it’s either a true roast or a braise. Then we’ll try to answer your question as best we can. Thanks!

      Reply
      1. KiKi

        I have the same question, and my cut of pork is a shoulder roast 3-5 lbs. (How much difference for bone-in?) The recipe I have calls for 8 hours in a slow-cooker with turnips carrots and onions, plus 1 cup of chicken broth. *Thank you*

        Reply
        1. Williams-Sonoma

          Hi Kiki, we’d recommend braising the pork for 4 to 5 hours at 325 degrees F in a Dutch oven (it may take a little longer for a bone-in cut vs. boneless). You may want to add the sturdy vegetables like carrots and turnips in the last hour of cooking. Good luck!

          Reply
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  6. Katie

    Hi I have a recipe for short ribs that is supposed to be 4 pounds bone in meat cut into small pieces in the crock pot for 8 hours on low, can you help me convert that to a dutch oven? Thanks I really appreciate it! from your post above it seems like in the oven for 6 hours?

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Katie, since the meat is cubed (in smaller pieces instead of a whole cut) we would recommend cooking it in a Dutch oven for about 3-4 hours. Good luck!

      Reply
  7. Judy Holt

    I want to make a turkey stew out of my leftover turkey. I don’t have a crock pot but have a dutch oven. Is a 250 degree oven hot enough to cook it? Do I have to simmer it before I put it in the oven? I can only find recipes that cook meat not stews. Can anyone help me?

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Judy,

      If you are making a stew from your leftover cooked turkey meat, you can just cook the base of the stew — with beans, root vegetables, or whatever ingredients you’re using — and stir in the shredded cooked turkey meat at the end. This recipe is a good example: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/chipotle-tortilla-soup-with-turkey-and-lime.html. Since you are simply reheating the turkey meat (not cooking it from start to finish), you can keep the Dutch oven on the stovetop instead of placing it in the oven.

      If you are working with raw turkey meat, we’d recommend browning the turkey meat (ideally legs and thighs), then simmering it in stock/liquid in a 325-degree oven for about 2 hours. It is best to bring the contents of the Dutch oven to a boil on the stovetop before placing the pot in the oven to make sure it reaches the desired temperature. If the other ingredients in the stew need to be simmered as well (i.e. root vegetables), you can add them to the pot before the turkey is finished cooking, allowing as much time as they need to reach tenderness. At the end of the cooking time, you can remove the turkey from the pot, let it cool until it’s able to be handled, shred the meat from the bones, and add the meat back to the pot.

      Hope this helps — good luck!

      Reply
  8. Mary CURRAN

    Using slow cooker recipe (on HIGH) but using a Dutch Oven in my oven. What should the temperature of my oven be set at and should the length of time be cut in half?

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Mary, our test kitchen cooks recommend braising in a Dutch oven in a 325 to 350-degree oven. As for the length of time, it depends on the proteins/ingredients in the recipe — you can use the instructions above under “Timing” to estimate. Good luck!

      Reply
  9. Kenny

    Making a pulled pork recipe with a whole boneless 2.4 lb shoulder. It calls for 7-8 hour on low(or 4-5 on high) in a slow cooker. I was thinking about doing it in my Dutch oven in the oven. At what temperature and about how long should I put it on? Also it doesn’t say to give the meat a sear. Should I do that anyway? Also it probably doesn’t matter but i am using one of those Campbell’s slow cooker sauces.

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Kenny, our Test Kitchen recommends braising at 325-350 degrees F. For a large cut like that one, you will likely need to cook it for about 4 hours, checking periodically to track progress. As for searing — not all recipes call for browning the meat, but doing so will cause the exterior to caramelize and help develop flavor. Really, it’s up to you whether you’d prefer to do it or not. Hope this helps!

      Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Helen, we would recommend using the guidelines under “Timing” above. If you are cooking the cut whole, you may want to braise it in a Dutch oven for 3-4 hours; if you are cooking it in cubes, it will take about 2-3 hours. It really depends on the size of the cut. In general, tri tip is best for roasting whole, or cutting into steaks and broiling or grilling. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  10. Cris

    I have been wondering about the dutch oven and slow cooker for cooking dishes like beef bourguignon or korean beef stew. Thanks for this information! I hope that you have more in-store events for moms and teens/kids. I would love to get the kids interested in cooking and baking.

    Reply
  11. abigail deardorff

    I’m going to make a broccoli cheese soup and it calls for 3-4 hours on low in the crock pot. Can I do this in my dutch oven and if so what woukd I do for the temperature and how long in the oven? Thank you in advance for your help.

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi abigail, it’s tough to say exactly without seeing your recipe, but you can probably make it in a Dutch oven instead. In fact, with a vegetable-based soup like this one, we’d recommend cooking it on the stovetop instead of in a preheated oven. The broccoli needs to simmer for about 20-25 minutes to become tender. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  12. Danielle

    Hello, I am making a recipe from your one pot of the day book (page 91). I am using two lamb shoulder chops. It calls for cooking on high for 3-4 hours, or low 6-8 hours.
    You recommend cooking in the oven at 325 – 350, but why can’t I use the same timing as the slow cooker in the oven at a lower temperature? So for this recipe it would be a dutch oven in the oven at 300F for 3-4 hours, or at 200F for 6-8 hours.
    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Danielle, you could certainly reduce the cooking time to 200 degrees F and cook it for a longer time (as you described). Hope you enjoy!

      Reply
  13. Sean Mick

    Hi, I’m converting a slow cooker corned beef recipe to the Dutch Oven. It’s a 4 lb brisket. Seared in olive oil and garlic first, then added potatoes, carrots and Guinness/beef stock. Based on what I am reading above, I should place it int eh oven at 325F for 4 hours? Is this your recommendation? What happens if I cook at a lower ten, like 250F (plus more time)? Will it be more tender? Or just take longer? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Sean, yes, we’d recommend braising the brisket for 4 hours at 325 degrees F. If you lower the temperature, it will take longer to cook; however, it should be perfectly tender cooked at 325. Enjoy!

      Reply
  14. Diana Aschenbrenner

    I’ve cooked a 4 lb corned beef brisket in the slow cooker on low for 6 hours using the seasoning pack included in the meat package, adding juist enough liquid to barely cover. I then spread 1 large sliced white onion over the top of meat (I prefer the white to yellow for milder, sweeter flavor). Added “baby” carrots when the meat started to simmer, then added cubed small new red potatoes after three hours (avoids getting mushy). Continue cooking for about 3-4 more hours. We also enjoy cabbage with this dish but don’t add until the last 2 hours so it’s not mushy. The combined flavors are fantastic, and the meat is fork tender. If time is more important, the potatoes can be added with the carrots, but scrub and leave whole and unpeeled. Including cabbage is personal preference.

    Reply
  15. Jacki

    Hi, I’m interested in cooking a roast in the oven instead of the Crock Pot. The recipe has no liquid. It calls for a stick of butter, au jus packet, and a ranch packet oh and some peperoncini. Any advice?

    Reply
    1. Williams-Sonoma

      Hi Jacki, without having tested this recipe, we can’t say for sure. However, we’d suggest adding 1/2 cup to 1 cup water to the Dutch oven and then checking on it periodically while it’s in the oven to make sure it’s not scorching and adding more liquid if necessary. Good luck!

      Reply

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