Help Me, Kenji! Can you make Dutch oven recipes in a slow cooker?
Converting from Dutch oven to slow cooker is easy. If a recipe has any searing, sautéing, or deglazing steps— essential for optimum flavor—complete those in a pan on the stovetop. After adding the liquid, transfer everything to the slow cooker. For recipes that call for either stovetop simmering or an oven temperature above 300°, set your slow cooker to HIGH. For recipes under 300°, use the LOW setting. Slow cookers prevent liquid from evaporating, so sauces come out thinner than in a Dutch oven: A quick 10-minute stovetop simmer before serving works wonders for flavor and texture.
Want to go from slow cooker to Dutch oven? Also easy. First step: Set your oven to 225°. If the slow cooker recipe has you just dump everything into the pot and turn it on, you can do this, but your dish will fare better if you sear the meat over high heat in a little oil, remove it, then sweat any vegetables until tender, all while scraping up any browned bits. Next, add remaining ingredients and bring them to a simmer. If the recipe calls for LOW temp, place the Dutch oven in the oven with the lid slightly cracked (this allows for more evaporation). If the recipe calls for HIGH, place it in the oven with the lid fully closed. Follow the timing according to the recipe.
Final tip: Whether I'm using a Dutch oven or a slow cooker, I always like to finish my dishes with some fresh herbs and a splash of vinegar or lemon juice. You will be amazed at how much brighter and fresher your food will taste for it.
Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking.