Can I Substitute a Dutch Oven for a Crock Pot?
I got this question in my inbox a few days ago. I think it's a pretty good question. The beauty of a crock pot is that the heat comes from the bottom and the sides and is kept low and consistent with a thermostat.
The heavy lid locks in moisture, so you can set it and forget it. Just walk away for a few hours and return to a beautiful braise, stew, or chili.
I am a big proponent of the crock pot for braising. But maybe you have limited space. Or maybe you have cats that might jump up on the counter and burn themselves on a hot crock pot while you're away at work.
Regardless, the short answer to the question of substituting a Dutch oven for a crock pot is "yes."
After all, the crock pot was designed to replace a Dutch oven in the first place, so cooks wouldn't have to heat up their oven to cook a meal. Temperature regulation is the main concern in adapting a crock pot recipe for a Dutch oven. Most crock pots have two heat settings: low and high.
Depending on the source, these could convert to about 175°F and 195°F, respectively, or it could refer to low and high wattage and not temperature.
Since there is no Low or High setting on an oven thermostat, we kind of have to take a guess. One thing about cooking in a Dutch oven inside a conventional oven is that cooking is usually a bit faster than using a Crock Pot.
If a crock pot recipe calls for 8-10 hours of cooking, you can complete the cooking in the oven in about 3 ½-4 hours. That doesn't mean, however, that you'll have the temperature twice as high in the oven.
When using a Dutch oven, I generally heat all the ingredients on the stovetop until they reach a boil and then put them in a preheated 210-225° F oven. This very low oven temperature will ensure that your food reaches a safe temperature but will cook proteins gently to stay moist and tender.
While I have seen braising temperature recommendations as high as 325°F, I maintain that braising should be done slowly and at a low temperature.
I would use a Dutch oven instead of a crock pot if needed and keep the oven set no higher than 225 degrees F. I would cook the meat until fork tender, which I generally find takes between 3-4 hours.
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