When cooking in cast iron, most people think of skillets because of their accessibility and ease of use. But what about slow cooking? For this method, many use a crock-pot. What about cooking in a cast iron crock-pot? Do these exist, and are they better than their ceramic counterpart? Yes, cast iron crock-pots do exist and they are called Dutch ovens. Let’s explore the pros and cons and see which is better.
The original slow cooker is the cast iron Dutch oven, whose name came from an English industrialist who discovered a pot in the Netherlands made from sand molds. He named it the Dutch oven in homage to the Dutch. These 5-7 quart pots were the only slow cooking oven until the 1970s when crock-pots were invented based on the Dutch oven as a way to cook food while the cook was away.
What Is The Difference Between a Dutch Oven And a Crock-Pot?
The key difference between Dutch ovens and crock-pots is the heating elements. Dutch ovens are designed for a stove top or oven while crock-pots are electrical and set on a countertop. The crock-pot frees up the necessary space in the oven for cooking other dishes. The Dutch oven cooks faster and is ideal for moist cooking methods like stewing and braising although, with the lid off, it is also ideal for deep frying foods.
The choice between a crock-pot and a Dutch oven is a matter of convenience. Dutch ovens are more durable but require more space and a separate cooking medium. The electrical crock-pot is preferred for a larger crowd and to keep food warm for an extended period of time. However, it is hard to beat the flavor and durability that cast iron provides.
Is Cast Iron Good For Slow Cooking?
Cast iron is great for slow cooking. As a porous material, when cast iron heats up, the pores open and impart a special flavor to the food being cooked. The even heating and heat retention in cast iron is impeccable. Dutch ovens also slow-cook foods faster than crock-pots for this reason without sacrificing flavor or tenderness. Another advantage to a Dutch oven is that they reduce sauces better than crock-pots. The lower cooking temperature of a crock-pot doesn’t allow them to reduce as well as a Dutch oven.
Converting a crock-pot recipe to a Dutch oven is simple. Just reduce the cooking time in half and use the lid. This lid keeps the food moist and is great for reduction. For instance, if you are slow-cooking a stew, braise the meat at 225℉ until the meat is done, add your stock, bring to a boil, reduce the temperature, and slow cook the stew to perfection. Your stew will be fork tender every time.
Is A Regular Crock-Pot Made Of Cast Iron?
A regular crock-pot is usually made of ceramic, due to its ability to evenly distribute heat and retain the heat once the crock-pot is on a lower heat setting. They can also be constructed from stainless steel or non-stick aluminum. There are now cast iron crock-pots that do not plug into the wall. Essentially, these are dutch ovens with a porcelain coating. One of the best features of these crock-pots is the self-basting lids. The lid is designed to allow continuous basting during the cooking process.
As for regular crock-pots, the material you purchase will be based on personal preference and the food you are cooking. There are also two sizes to consider, round or oval. Round crock-pots are best for soups and casseroles and the oval option is best for larger pieces of meat. The ceramic crock-pot has the best heating potential. The downside is that they may crack.
Ceramic crock-pots cannot be used to reheat food in a gas oven. Another slight danger is that they may contain lead. If purchasing a ceramic crock-pot, look for a lead-free version. Overall, they are the best option.
Metal crock-pots do not have the even heat distribution that a ceramic crock-pot or cast iron Dutch oven does. Both of the metal options can be used in the oven or on the stovetop to reheat food. Between the two metal crock-pots, stainless steel is the better option. An aluminum surface is not the best or safest medium to cook on.
The aluminum crock-pot is the most expensive crock-pot, yet the most versatile. They can even be used as a cooking pan in the oven. Aluminum is a great heat conductor but it has a chemical reaction to acidic foods that can cause the aluminum to bleed into the food being cooked on its surface. However, all this can also be done in a Dutch oven. All these choices lead to the question: how many cooking appliances does a kitchen need to perform the same duties as a singular piece of cast iron?
Is Le Creuset a Crock-Pot?
The Le Creuset is a Dutch oven, not a crock-pot. Both crock-pots and Dutch ovens are slow cookers, a Dutch oven is used on the stovetop or in the oven while a crock-pot is an electrical appliance. The Le Creuset Dutch oven is popular among foodies and home chefs for its remarkable versatility and cooking potential. It is a superior French cooking ware and can cook virtually any dish.
This durable pot can braise meat, cook stews, and even cook bread. Le Creusets are made from a secret recipe of metals that include pure pig iron, stainless steel, and iron. These pots last years, are easy to clean and are a must-have in any kitchen.
Is Pot Roast Better In A Crock-Pot Or Dutch Oven?
Pot roast is best cooked in a Dutch oven. The reason is the even heat distribution and retention, and the flavor that the Dutch oven adds to the pot roast. Pot roasts are cooked low and slow (lower heat and a longer time period). Although a crock-pot is capable of cooking a pot roast, the additional flavor from cooking a pot roast in a dutch oven is hard to top.
Another advantage the Dutch oven has is its superb ability to braise the roast before the cooking is done. The beauty of a Dutch oven, beyond its one-meal capabilities, is that you can brown the meat in the Dutch oven and deglaze it. Then, add your stock and other ingredients, close the Dutch oven lid, and let it go.
Deglazing is the process of scraping the bits of food (fond) off the bottom of the pot. Deglazing adds wonderful flavor to any dish and can also be used as gravy. Deglazing the fond from a Dutch oven and then using the same pot to cook your roast in, brings the roast to another level. Plus, the hotter the Dutch oven is, the more the pores open, which allows the seasoning flavors to marry with your pot roast.
My name is Jason Phillips and I cooked for many years, primarily aboard Merchant Marine vessels and in fast-paced commercial kitchens. My passion for culinary arts led me to attend a culinary arts academy in 2019 where the instructor piqued my interest in food and beverage writing.