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shilolo's avatar

What is the difference between cooking in a crock pot and low temperature cooking in the oven?

Asked by shilolo (18075points) September 29th, 2008

My wife and I are busy (and lazy), but like to have home cooked meals. I’ve been thinking about buying and taking on the crock pot cooking lifestyle, but wasn’t sure if there really is a difference between say, cooking a roast in a crock pot all day versus a low temperature oven?

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28 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Crock pot isn’t a watched pot but it still boils. Pot in oven needs to be checked from time to time, due to nasty and unexpected surprises (like either liquid boiling over or evaporating.) If you are still eating meat, there are wonderful crock pot recipes. I use a 3.5 qt. and feel comfortable (after I tried it a few times and watched it almost constantly) leaving it for a day.

I have friends who let theirs cook overnight; I would be too nervous. Worth the $40 and won’t be one of those dust-gathering gadgets in the back of the closet.

poofandmook's avatar

@gail: the directions with my pot said specifically not to fill the pot to over 3/4 full. Mine was full to an inch below the surface and cooked for 10 hours while I was at work with no problems. But I was nervous at first too.

@Shilolo: The crock pot is well worth the money. I got my 6 quart digital one for $30 at Target.

shilolo's avatar

Thanks gail and poof (I hope you don’t mind my nickname for you…). You may or may not have noticed my tags, but cholent and hamin are old Jewish recipes for slow cooking food from Friday to Saturday night (for observant Jews) in the oven. I’ve tried them before, and the food does tend to be dry and mushy. Does the crock pot solve the problem of drying out by having a tightly sealed lid? Also, in buying a crock pot, is bigger necessarily better? (Waiting for the inevitable here…)

marissa's avatar

Here is what I know (or at least think I know ;0) ):
Crockpot is more energy efficient, because you are not heating an entire oven. It is also generally safer (however, I would recommend using the crockpot the first few times while you are home). Good crockpots have a better seal than most oven dishes which keeps moisture in, this helps keep the flavors in also. I would vote for getting a crock pot.
As for size, bigger isn’t better, it all depends on the quantity you will be cooking. You don’t want a lot of ‘extra’ room left in your crockpot once your food is all in it.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Crock pots usually have emergency cut off type things, so they are safer to leave at home all day. You don’t literally want to watch the thing cook all day and a crock pot promises: not to blow your house up or set it on fire while cooking all day. I think they are just safer for that kind of cooking.

princessvince's avatar

I’ve been trying to figure this out myself. If you’re talking about cooking in the oven at low temperature, I’m assuming you’re talking about cooking in a Dutch oven. From what I understand and what I’ve seen in my own experiments, cooking in a Dutch oven is preferable over a cooking in a crock pot because you can brown the meat over the stove, and deglaze the bottom of the pan, before sticking it all in the oven. Browning the meat beforehand makes a big difference in terms of the taste. However, you can’t beat the convenience of a crock pot. (Plus, I think it’s more energy efficient.) I’ve devised a method of first browning the meat at 400 degrees in the oven for about 15 minutes before putting it in the crock pot.

marissa's avatar

I brown meat on the stove top in a pan before I put it in the crock pot, this seals in the juices. Something else, you might want to consider, you can get a crockpot with a timer, so that it will turn on when you want it to, however, this would not be good with foods that can spoil (like meat).

shilolo's avatar

@Princessvince. Yeah, I understand your point. I just cooked a brisket last night in a Dutch oven following those basic principles. I am more interested in the “lazy” way of tossing the ingredients into the pot (or oven) in the morning, leaving for work, and then coming home to a nice hot meal (and not having to spend another 30–60 minutes making dinner when my wife and son are hungry…)

gailcalled's avatar

My friend up the road makes cholent all the time. I’ve watched him prep. Cut, toss, layer.
The browning requires an extra prep step that I am too lazy to bother with. (I’ll talk to him when I see him, probably next week-end. He uses a 3.5 for two male adults, with two days left-overs for his non-cooking and no-longer-working partner.)

gailcalled's avatar

And Shi; unbrowned brisket is also delicious, but I would not leave a Dutch oven unattended. 1000’s of slow cooker recipes here

poofandmook's avatar

@shilolo: No, I don’t mind :)

marissa's avatar

This maybe a little off topic, but if you are looking for quick meals that are good you might want to check out these cookbooks:
The Freezer Cooking Manual and any of the Saving Dinner cookbooks, I like the original and the vegetarian way ones. Saving Dinner recipes aren’t all ‘quick’ recipes, but many of them are and they also have some great crock pot recipes.

princessvince's avatar

@shilolo I hear ya. I don’t like the extra steps of browning, but it does make a difference. One thing to keep in mind with braises (because that is what you’re basically doing in the crock pot), they actually taste better the second day. You could consider doing this the night before—browning and then leaving the crock pot on overnight to cook til morning. And then you can reheat everything quickly when you get back from work.

princessvince's avatar

@shilolo Plus, giving it a day to cool down lets all the fat surface and solidify so it’s easier to discard.

jballou's avatar

To answer the original question of how they are different, the obvious difference comes from the size and energy. A crock pot is usually much smaller then an oven and is a more controlled environment. It uses way less heat and energy as well. There’s not nearly as much air inside, and the evaporation of liquid happens in a different way then an oven. You obviously cannot bake or broil in a crock pot- it’s much more similar to simmering on a low heat on a stove top then to cooking on a low temp in the oven.

Also- you should never EVER leave an oven on and leave your house. That’s just stupid.

whatthefluther's avatar

@gailcalled & @shilolo: I would give darn anything for a recipe (crock or not) for cholent that comes anywhere near that of my late grandmother (Transylvania, Romania born and raised, if there are regional variations). I inherited her perfect 1950 O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove and many of her pots and pans and I can cook and bake up a storm with them, but cholent ( a favorite of mine, but oddly, not my siblings or Mom) was always prepared in advance of my visits and I never actually saw or helped her prepare the dish. Perhaps you can help fill a big void in my memory and my stomach…I would be eternally grateful! Thanks… wtf

cooksalot's avatar

I found that the only way something in the oven cooks close to a crockpot is to use a heavy clay cooker or a cast iron pot.
OMG! Did that make sense? I think I do need that nap after all that potato gleaning.

shilolo's avatar

@WTF. My wife and I have this book, which is very detailed and has hundreds of Jewish recipes from all over the world. Here is Claudia Roden’s recipe for cholent (it is from her book, in fact.)

cooksalot's avatar

Interesting book I’ll have to get that one eventually. The inlaws don’t live near by any more so I don’t have to worry about Kosher meals any more. Tho’ it’s interesting to have my husbands stepfather describe the things his mother cooked and try to meet his standards. You know what I’m going for that nap I can’t type.

shilolo's avatar

Yeah, though, if you are looking for obscure recipes (like for schmaltz), it will be in Roden’s book.

whatthefluther's avatar

@shilolo…Outstanding! The ingredients are right including the marrow bones and even the preparation jogged some memory cells. I shall have a go at it. Thank you very, very much! See you around… wtf

gailcalled's avatar

The real problem is the ingredients that the Jewish immigrants used, first in their native countries (in my case, Lithuania, Russia and the Ukraine), and then in the US. Everyone had gardens and chickens, cows, goats, sheep, geese. No one sprayed, waste was recycled as compost, and eggs, butter, milk and cheese came from that nearby four-legged creature with his head in the top of the Dutch door. Chickens lived near the kitchen stove during the Russian winters.

In the Bronx, my mat. grandmother had an enormous garden until she was in her late 60’s, in the 1950’s. She canned and preserved, went to the kosher butcher, the kosher fishmonger, the baker for her daily bread and cooked on a wood-burning stove.

Schmaltz is easy. Get a wonderful, plump free-range organic chicken. Slaughter, pluck and clean it. Boil it (including feet) with carrots, celery, onions and turnips. Refrigerate. Skim off the golden fat and keep in a jar next to your statins.

Check out Both the DVD and the cookbook are authentic and hilarious.

From the blurb: “For the last four decades, Passover has been celebrated in Newburgh, New York.

Led by the three surviving sisters, Sophie Patasnik, Peppy Barer and Rosie Groman, traditional preparations were made for the Seder at Peppy’s home in Newburgh.

Six Weeks before the Seder they shopped and chopped, tasted and seasoned.

Using recipes nearly a century old, they began to put together the Gefilte Fish, Cholent, Horse Radish and Sponge Cake.”

(Me: There is also a Cholent cook-off between two of the sisters; one pot is baked, the other simmered on the stovetop.

It took two strong nephews to even lift the things. And raw fish in the bath tub – enough for Gefilte fish for 50.)

cooksalot's avatar

I agree Schmaltz is easy. I used to always keep some in the freezer ready for Herb’s requests. Imagine Herb the herb we called him because he’s a vegetarian insisted that I use Schmaltz to keep the recipes right with his mothers cooking. LOL!

charliecompany34's avatar

the heat is concentrated in a crock pot. ovens are not so cozy.

marinelife's avatar

Word of caution.

My sister had, until recently, an insanely long commute. She used a crock pot. When my brother moved in with her temporarily, she suggested he use it. He found that crock pot cooking requires specialized recipes. He had a lot of trouble simply trying to transfer things he normally made to the crock pot.

I had a wonderful crockpot spaghetti recipe and have also had very good luck with New England boiled dinner in a crockpot.

Have fun

gailcalled's avatar

@Marina; Very good point. Buy the appropriate cook book. Good heads-up from Marina.(And she didn’t even have to rush to Google.)

Starburst's avatar

the thing that comes to my mind is the fact that you are cooking in a clay pot…that makes a difference in the way the food turns out. I love my oven and my stove, but some things seem to come out better in the crockpot: meats are juicier and bean soups are just better. I would highly suggest you invest in one. They are inexpensive, last a long time, and if you are lazy, you will really enjoy and benefit from one. happy crocking.

john65pennington's avatar

Crock pot uses a lot less electricity and does not heat up the kitchen. a crock pot is easily accessible compared to reaching down into an oven.

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