Dutch ovens and slow cookers are two kitchen staples that will result in tender meats and luscious flavors. If you are short on space or watching your budget, you may only need one or the other to add to your appliance collection. Recipes can often be adapted between the two, but read on to find out whether a Dutch oven or slow cooker will better suite your lifestyle and cooking goals. Plus, you could add either to your holiday wish list!
Low and slow versus sizzling and immediate, the slow cooker and Dutch oven function in two different ways. Slow cookers will do exactly what they say: cook ingredients at a low temperature and for several hours. Cooking on the stove with a Dutch oven means you can crank out a flavorful dish in a mere 30 minutes. If you want to set the timer, go to work and come back to a warm dinner, go with the slow cooker. If you want to make dinner on the spot, the Dutch oven is your winner.
The beauty of a slow cooker is that during the course of several hours of cooking, separate ingredients cozy up together and the flavors marry. These ingredients come together to form one. The Dutch oven, on the other hand, provides opportunities for different layers flavor because of cooking on the stove. Vegetables can be sautéed, onions can be caramelized, and the bottom of the pan can be deglazed to add extra dimension to your soups or stews.
Thinking of frying up some onion rings or braising meat? These are two things, among others, that a slow cooker cannot do. The Dutch oven has more versatility because of the things it can do on the stove. Versatility with a slow cooker is less about technique and more about the endless combinations of ways you can toss ingredients into the pot and hours later come back to a fully cooked meal.
One of my favorite things about my Dutch oven is it’s beautiful royal blue color. I don’t have to worry about storing it in my limited cabinet space because it serves as the accent color permanently sitting on my stovetop. My slow cooker on the other hand sits in my pantry since it’s not necessarily the prettiest item I want displayed and it’s rather large. If storage is tight, go for the Dutch oven.
This is where you will see a big difference between the two. A classic Le Creuset dutch oven runs around $200-300. You can find other brands between $40-$80, but these pots are definitely an investment. A simple slow cooker starts around $20 and can go to even $200 if you upgrade to one with a timers, feature, etc. If you are looking to start with something more affordable, the slow cooker is for you. I’ve pulled together a list of a few below, but honestly you can find any slow cooker on sale at Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond!
Meats will fall off the bone after a few hours in a slow cooker, but can be caramelized, seared, browned and braised in a Dutch oven. Soups and stews come together deliciously in either, but without much thought needed in a slow cooker. You could run a list of pros and cons for either, but both purchases are a win/win scenario. Regardless of which you decide to invest in, know that most recipes can be interchanged between a Dutch oven and slow-cooker. With conversation guides or simple research you can make most meals either. Both a slow cooker and Dutch oven are classic kitchen investments that you will wonder how you lived without once you get one!
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