The Dutch Oven vs. Slow Cooker Challenge: Which Performs Better?

When it comes to cooking with a dutch oven vs a slow cooker, we often hear the same questions:

Which is better for making chilis and stews?

Can I make a roast taste as good in a slow cooker?

What really is even the difference between the two?

People love their slow cookers for the convenience and ease of use. Just dump in ingredients in the morning and forget about it until the evening. But what are you sacrificing by taking the easy route? Is a slow cooker even that much more convenient than a dutch oven? We put your questions to the test with a batch of White Chicken Chili to see which cooking device wins each of our three challenges: The Appearance Test, Taste Test and finally, the Convenience test.

Challenge 1: The Appearance Test

One of the most noticeable differences when cooking chilis and sauces in a dutch oven vs slow cooker is appearance and texture of the food. When liquids reduce and thicken (evaporate), flavors marry and deepen. When you slowly simmer chili on the stove, you can produce the right consistency due to heat distribution and the ability for excess liquid to evaporate and thicken. The slow cooker struggles in this area due to the tight seal on the lid, causing steam to drip back in, instead of evaporating out leaving  watery consistency of the finished product.

Winner: Dutch Oven

Challenge 2: The Taste Test

One of the biggest factors that affects taste, texture and overall appearance when cooking with a dutch oven vs a slow cooker is temperature control. Because a slow cooker cooks, well, slowly, it simply cannot achieve the same results as the dutch oven.  Meats do not sear, meaning undeveloped flavors, and since starches and gelatins can not get hot enough to activate, you get thinner and less flavorful results. The little extra effort over controlling the temperature through the cooking process, seems to make the biggest difference in overall taste.   

We cooked up batches of White Chicken Chili in both the dutch oven and the slow cooker and gave a blind taste taste to our staff to get unbiased results. 

Winner: Dutch Oven

Challenge 3: The Convenience Test

Alright so there is no denying that a crock-pot is more convenient if you are going to be gone all day and want to come home to a ready-to-eat meal.  In this case, the crock-pot always wins. But, if you are home, in most situations, it is just as convenient to place the ingredients in a dutch oven and let it simmer for a few hours in either the oven or on the stove top. It’s win-win on both taste and time. Overall the convenience test depends on your situation and on the recipe.

Winner: ?

Overall, the dutch oven wins when it comes to taste and appearance. However, when time allows, consider the audience and recipe.  

Cooking a roast for family and friends? Use a Dutch Oven.

Need to come home from work and have pulled pork sandwiches ready before little league? Use the slow cooker.

What do you love to cook in your Dutch Oven?  Tell us in the comments.

Want the Recipe to our White Chicken Chili?  Check out the Dutch Oven White Chicken Chili Recipe here

Get your Dutch Oven for only $89.95--Click to see our most popular dutch oven colors.

December 08, 2018 — EriK Feeley

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