Are Crock Pots Better than Dutch Ovens?
Crock pots and Dutch ovens are similar in shape and function, and they often achieve the same results. There are, however, both pros and cons to each device. Let's compare the two and discover which one comes out on top:
Pros and Cons of Crock Pots
By far, the best feature of the crock pot is itís ability to cook a full meal in such a little space. Unlike oven and ranges, crock pots are portable enough to set in a corner and create great meals on its own, without even being noticed.
Cooking meals and side dishes in a crock pot also frees up your oven and other cookers for the rest of your cooking needs. Surely, youíve cooked a large meal before that required a little shuffling of dishes between the few burners and little oven space you had? With a crock pot, convenience is king.
Crock pots allow you to use the 'set it and forget it' method that frees you from the burden of watching, stirring, and keeping your food from burning. Itís low cooking temperature keeps dishes simmering for hours so you don't have to constantly check the dish as itís cooking. Itís refreshing to take the guess work out of your cooking and enjoy the freedom of letting the pot do all the work.
Crock pot meals are also more economical, saving a considerable amount of energy in the process. A crock pot may be on for hours, but still takes less energy than heating up the oven or letting burners stay on for a long time. Heating elements in crock pots are designed to heat only the internal surface area where the food is. You wonít be spending money to heat larger spaces or letting heat escape around the kitchen.
There are, however, some meals and ingredients that just donít work well in crock pots. Dairy products are a good example. Dishes that require a cream or milk base are a little more complicated in a slow cooker, since youíll have to monitor the meal to make sure you donít curdle the milk.
Youíll need to be careful to cut up your foods into manageable pieces as well, so that they donít undercook or overcook. Many cooks are used to coarse cutting stew vegetables, for example, but vegetables will cook slower in a crock pot and will either need to be cut finer or allowed to cooked for a longer time. Meats cook faster than vegetables in a crock pot, so the right size ingredients make a big difference.
Use fresh meats and vegetables for crock pot meals for best results. If you rely on canned foods for ingredients, the texture and flavor wonít be the same. Canned foods are already processed, so theyíll likely get soft and mushy in a crock pot.
Imagine cooking a can of peas for 8 hours, even on low heat. You can add canned veggies at the last minute, but this will defeat the purpose and convenience of a slow cooker meal that needs to be ready when you come home.
Pros And Cons of Dutch Ovens
Long ago, Dutch ovens were a staple of many kitchens. The sturdy pots were tools of the trade for cowboys circled around an open pit for some hearty, fresh stew. Dutch ovens provide reliable, even heating like no other cooking vessel. You probably first saw a Dutch oven at your grandparentsí house, when grandma nurtured a home-made stew on the stove or basted a pot roast in the oven.
A Dutch oven can used to prepare a wide variety of meals, and they often serve a dual purpose. For one, you can brown meat right on the stove with it. Then, you can add vegetables and seasonings, put a cover on it, and pop it in the oven to finish cooking. Or, for meals like chili, you can do everything right on the stove top.
Dutch ovens are convenient, but there are a few drawbacks. Youíll need to watch what youíre cooking in them, stirring occasionally to avoid burning or allowing the food to stick to the bottom of the pot.
A Dutch oven also takes up a considerable amount of space on the stove. If youíre making homemade bread to go with a pot roast, you'll have to coordinate the cooking time in the oven or adjust the temperature to make sure theyíre both done at the same time.
Dutch ovens conduct heat well, meaning slight adjustments in temperature, both in the oven and on the stove, will have a dramatic effect. If your oven runs hot, you could easily burn or dry out the meal before its finished cooking.
Obviously, a Dutch oven also requires an external heat source, which could mean burning more energy to heat a large oven enough to cook what's in your five-quart pot. Whatís more, youíll be heating the room youíre in as well.
Dutch ovens are heavy, and they retain heat well. This could create a challenge for some people when pulling food out of the oven or off the stove. Youíll want to keep children away from the pot long after its done cooking. The extra weight is an advantage for retaining heat when youíre cooking, but makes it harder to handle when finished.
Which Oneís Better?
Dutch ovens score points for versatility, but crock pots are a better choice for several reasons. Crock pots are small and portable, which frees up cooking space for other chores. The compact size also means youíll use less energy, which saves money on electricity.
Crock pots are great time-savers in the kitchen, because you can add ingredients and walk away. Prep time is considerably less than with Dutch ovens, giving you the freedom to do other things or leave the house if you need to.
Crock pots are also much safer than Dutch ovens. Newer models have built in timers to shut off the pot when your meal is done, and use materials that are cool to the touch. You wonít have to open an oven or lift a heavy lid to check on your meals or stir its contents. Once itís in the crock pot, you may not pick up the lid up again until dinner is ready.
Dutch ovens have a place in the hearts of many seasoned cooks at home, but they canít do what crock pots can. They can be conveniently located on your counter top to offer more convenient options than the space required to make meals in Dutch ovens.