Slow Cooker vs. Dutch Oven: A Conversion Guide

How-To, Learn, Primers, Tips & Techniques

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 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 325º to 350ºF.

Browning Meat in a Slow Cooker Insert

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

Braised Chicken in a Dutch Oven

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.

74 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
  2. 105 Favorite Healthy Slow-Cooker Recipes « WHOLE LIVING WEB MAGAZINE

  3. How to tell Scouts are coming for dinner | Millard Fillmore's Bathtub

  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
  5. Take a cue from Crock Spot food truck: Let a slow cooker do the job « Street Food Locator

  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
  16. Rubi

    Hi,
    I’m trying to adapt a slow-cooker seafood cioppino recipe to a dutch oven. The original recipe instructs to cook in a crock-pot, on low setting, for 10-12 hours. Could you please recommend cook time and oven temp. for a dutch oven? Thanks!

    Reply
  17. Elizabeth

    Thanksgiving is upon us and I’m hosting a feast with only one oven. (ugh) I’d love to cook a 5 lb Spice-
    Braised leg of lamb in a crock pot, to get it out of the way. The recipe (from Food & Wine) calls for 3 hours at 250f in a “flameproof casserole.” I assume they mean dutch oven.. I’ve never used a crock pot. Would you recommend cooking this on high or low setting, and for how long? Also, at the end, should I run it under the broiler to give it a crispy crust?

    Reply
  18. Barbara J Lucchesi

    My son put a cut up turkey about 13 pounds but without the back and inside things in a dutch oven and he wants to cook it at 250 degrees. How long should we cook it?

    Reply
  19. Mary Lou

    I am cooking about 4 lbs of pork tenderloin. The recipe calls for sliced Granny Smith apples and half cup of honey. That’s it for liquids. The recipe is for crockpot; 8 hours on low heat. I have a 6.5 at Le Creuset round pot. How do I convert this to my French oven cooking time?

    Reply
  20. Darren

    So if I have a Dutch oven already Do I really need a crockpot? The only real advantage I see would be automatically programming and scheduled cocking.

    Reply
  21. Chris

    I am planning on cooking boneless short ribs in a Dutch Oven rather than the Slow Cooker that the recipe called for. I see a lot of the comments here recommend cooking at 325 or 350 to substitute for the slow cooker. This sounds a bit high to achieve the fork tender slow and low cooking that is the result of slow cookers. Would cooking longer at 275 result in a more tender meat?

    Reply
  22. Winter Beef & Vegetable Cobbler with Sour Cream & Chive Biscuits | Karista's Kitchen

  23. Tyler

    I was wondering if it is possible to ground beef in a regular frying pan and then put the it in the slow cooker after its done. I’m going to make tamales tomorrow but don’t have a Dutch Oven.

    Place ground beef into a Dutch oven with onion and garlic, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is cooked through, about 2 hours.

    Is there anyway I can substitute?

    Reply
  24. Steve Davis

    When using the Dutch Oven as a replacement for the Crock, What temp do I set the Oven at for a Beef Burgundy Recipe??

    Reply
    1. Read the Article People

      The answers to your question can be found by reading one page of text at the top of the article:

      “Braise in the oven at 325 to 350 degrees F.”

      “Cubed meat (lamb, beef or pork): 2 to 3 hours in a Dutch oven; 2 to 3 hours high setting in slow cooker”

      As Melissa Stewart suggests, start off on the stove top to brown your beef.

      Reply
  25. Asher

    Hi,
    I see the times listed above, but what about the stove top settings( I.e. Low, medium, etc.)?
    Thanks

    Reply
  26. Nancy

    I have a shredded chicken tacos recipe that calls for a slow cooker. The cooking time is 8 hours on low. Also the liquid calls for 1 cup of chicken broth and a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes undrained. Using a Staub dutch oven how much will the time vary? Will I need to add more liquid using the dutch oven? What would be the correct oven temperature?

    Thanks!
    Nancy

    Reply
  27. Pot Roast Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  28. Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Spare Ribs – Stupid Easy Paleo

  29. Stewed Chicken Thighs Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  30. Shredded Beef & Onions Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  31. Smoky Beanless Chili Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  32. Crockpot Turkey Breast – Stupid Easy Paleo

  33. Paleo Slow Cooker Lamb Roast with Root Veggies Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  34. Slow Cooker Chocolate Chicken Mole Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  35. Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Golumbki) – Stupid Easy Paleo

  36. Aysha

    I have a recipe for pot roast using 2 lbs of chuck roast, but the recipes instructs me to use a Dutch oven and bake at 275F for 2.5 hours. What is the equivalent cooking time and level (low or medium) in a slow cooker?

    Reply
  37. Slow Cooker Mocha-Rubbed Pot Roast Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  38. Slow Cooker Caribbean Oxtails – Stupid Easy Paleo

  39. Slow Cooker Puerco Pibil – Stupid Easy Paleo

  40. Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs – Stupid Easy Paleo

  41. Judy Sowerby

    Hi,

    I am unhappy with the newer slow cookers because they get too hot too fast and finish cooking way before the supposed low temp time-setting of 8-10 hours. I understand this is due to new federal regulations designed to prevent food-borne illness. However, the main convenience of the crock pot for me was that it could be left for 10 hours while I’m at work. Is there a general rule of thumb for (a.) cooking time, and (b.)amount of liquid to use when converting crock pot recipes to the Dutch oven? I have a great gone-all-day stew recipe that works in the Dutch oven for 10 hours on 250 degrees. I’m looking for a similar way to cook other foods but don’t now how to estimate cooking time and needed liquid. Thank you.

    Reply
  42. azgemfoodie

    I have a recipe for slow cooker carne aside -recipe calls for 3lbs of flank steak. Ingredients – olive oil, orange juice, lime joule, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, chili powder, cumin and honey. Slow Cooker 7-9 hrs on low – what would the conversion be for Dutch Oven?

    And a recipe for slow cooker chicken tacos – recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast, Sriracha sauce, pineapple juice and lime juice. Slow cooker 6-8 hrs on low – what would the conversion be for Dutch Oven?

    Than you in advance!

    Reply
  43. Paleo Slow Cooker Lamb Roast with Root Veggies Recipe – Stupid Easy Paleo

  44. Slow Cooker Puerco Pibil – Stupid Easy Paleo

  45. Allison

    I often wondered why the waist with a recipe calls for foil under the cover. Can you explain?

    Reply
    1. Allison

      Sorry for the typo. I often wondered why the braised rib recipe calls for foil under the cover. Can you explain?

      Reply
  46. Rob Gardier

    What recipes are pictured at the top of the page (Le Creuset dutch oven on the left, All-Clad slow cooker on the right)? Both look very good. The one on the left looks like a beef stew, the one on the right has sausage and beans.

    Reply
  47. Mike Monahan

    When placing my Dutch oven in the oven – what temp do I use to get the same results / timing as LOW on a crock pot?

    Reply
  48. Emily Rose Yapp

    Hi! This info is so helpful, but i was wondering if you can confirm the conversions of a recipe for me.
    INGREDIENTS
    3 chicken breasts, diced
    Salt, to taste
    Pepper, to taste
    2 cups broccoli florets
    2 cups baby carrots, diced
    21.5 ounces condensed cream of chicken soup
    1 can refrigerated biscuits
    PREPARATION
    1. Place the chicken in a 7-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
    2. Add the veggies and condensed soup and mix thoroughly.
    3. Cook on high for 3 hours.
    4. Rip biscuit dough into small pieces and drop evenly over chicken. Cook an additional hour.
    5. Enjoy!

    –would i still cook this for the 2 hours (instead of the 3 in the slowcooker) plus the additional hour after adding the biscuits?

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank You
    Emily

    Reply
  49. High yield bonds

    Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same information you discuss and would love
    to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my audience would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e mail.

    Reply
  50. Nancy

    I have a stuffing recipe to be cooked in a slow cooker for four hours. How much time should it be if I use a Dutch oven instead.

    Reply
  51. Maria Aidonis

    Hi! I’m hoping to make an Israeli hamin stew in my dutch oven (usually using beef stew meat and a few marrow bones for flavor) which cooks in a slow cooker on low for 16 hours. Can this also be easily converted to a dutch oven in an oven? I know the factor that means the most may be that the traditional Sephardic recipes also include whole eggs that turn brown after being cooked so long. Thanks for your advice! Gorgeous site!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *