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How To Convert Crock-Pot Cooking to Dutch Oven Perfection

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By: Rick Mansfield

Slow cookers are wonderful things. Of course where I grew up, we simply called them “Crock Pots.” But since that’s a trademarked brand name, they are usually referred to as “slow cookers” when speaking of the devices generically. They are great for cooking an entire meal by planning a few hours ahead. Just throw in the ingredients, set the temperature, and let it go. However, as any cast iron aficionado will understand, sometimes you just prefer to break out the black iron.

And as any experienced cast iron cook knows, you don’t really need special cookbooks geared to cast iron cookware–although they are certainly nice to have. In reality, most recipes (with a few exceptions) can be cooked in cast iron. This is especially true of slow cooker recipes since a slow cooker is really nothing more than an electric dutch oven if you think about it. However, some conversion of cooking time is required.

Last summer, Kathleen Purvis of The Charlotte Observer wrote an article (no direct link remaining to my knowledge) on this exact subject that I saw reprinted in a number of papers around the country. To convert from cooking times from a slow cooker to a dutch oven, she offered this basic principle:

A recipe that is cooked on the low setting in your slow cooker will take about a quarter as long in a Dutch oven in a 325-degree oven (if it cooks for 8 hours on low, it will take two to three hours in the Dutch oven). A recipe that is cooked on high setting will take about half as long. But remember, that’s only an estimate, so leave yourself a little extra time.

Although the math is pretty straightforward, I thought that some of you might appreciate a quick cheat sheet, so I created one based upon Kathleen Purvis’ suggestions:

SLOW COOKERDUTCH OVEN
12 hours/Low
3 hours/325° F
10 hours/Low
2 1/2 hours/325° F
8 hours/Low
2 hours/325° F
6 hours/Low
1 1/2 hours/325° F
5 hours/Low
1 hour, 15 min./325° F
4 hours/Low
1 hour/325° F
4 hours/High
2 hours/325° F
3 hours/Low
45 min./325° F
3 hours/High
1 1/2 hours/325° F
2 hours/Low
30 min./325° F
2 hours/High
1 hour/325° F
1 hour/Low
15 min./325° F
1 hour/High
30 min./325° F

None of the above times will be exact, so pay attention to the food cooking in your dutch oven that you don’t undercook it or overcook it. Kathleen Purvis also suggests adding more liquid to food cooked in dutch ovens because she says that more steam escapes from them than from a slow cooker. However, my experience has been just the opposite–the heavy lid of a dutch oven will sometimes hold in too much moisture. But your experience may vary, so be sure to watch out for this.

Finally, what about the obvious advantage that slow cookers have over dutch ovens when it comes to portability? Taking food in a dutch oven to the church potluck may not stay warm as long without the added heating element. Well, there is a solution for this; you can simply use a portable single burner such as the one from GE pictured below:

Portable single burner

These single burners run a little less than $20 and can be used in the kitchen as an extra burner or even while camping (assuming you have access to electricity). Don’t expect them to get as hot as a burner on a stove, but they function well to keep things warm to hot, much like a slow cooker.

Earlier this week, we had about 15 people over to the house for dinner, and I needed to make room on the stove. As part of the meal, we were having Taco Soup. I had made it in advance, and it would have been very appropriate simply to transfer it to a slow cooker since I needed the space on my stovetop. However, I kept the soup in my new red enameled dutch oven I cooked it in, and simply moved it to the counter, sitting it on top of the single burner.


This worked out perfectly, and demonstrates quite well what you can do if you want to show off your cast iron at the next potluck, but keep it warm, too. In fact, as we were getting ready to eat the other night, one of our guests looked at my dutch oven sitting on top of the single burner and asked, “Is that some kind of new fancy Crock Pot?”

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7 Comments

  1. Latest cooking devices

    September 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Don’t expect them to get as hot as a burner on a stove, but they function well to keep things warm to hot, much like a slow cooker.

  2. penelope pitstop

    November 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    how do you know how much coals to add and how much to take away to get the correct temp?

    • prepperjournal

      November 5, 2013 at 8:28 am

      That’s a great question Penelope but there isn’t an easy answer. Cooking over a fire is one of those things that take a little practice and tending or at least that is what i found. You have to know how your fire is doing and monitor it while you are cooking. Cooking outdoors isn’t as easy as an oven where we can set the temp and the timer and run off somewhere else to do something.

      Pat

    • Patrick Ward

      November 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      A rule of thumb, if you are using charcoal is 1 1/2 times the number of pieces of charcoal to the size of the pot. In other words, if you have a 10″ dutch oven, you would use 15 pieces of charcoal.
      Also, there is a pattern to use depending on if you are cooking or baking.
      If cooking with a 10″, you put 5 pieces on top, and 10 pieces underneath.
      If you are baking in a 10″, it’s just opposite, 10 pieces on top, 5 pieces on bottom.
      Note, this is just a rule of thumb, if it’s windy, you may want to use a bit more. Remember, you can always cook something a little longer if you have too.
      We use this method at the camp almost every weekend.
      Good luck.

      • prepperjournal

        November 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

        Thank you Patrick!

        I learned something new today.

        Pat

        • Patrick Ward

          November 7, 2013 at 12:52 am

          No problem, but thank you. I enjoy all of your posts. We all need to at the very minimum, have a leg up on hard times. Even if it’s just having the necessities to get through a few days after a bad storm is well worth doing, just to keep your sanity. As soon as this happens, you realize that you need to be prepared for the next one that might be quite a bit longer than a few days. Your posts and articles help to enlighten me as to either easier or better ways of doing things or teaching me something completely new.
          Back to the dutch oven ::: Just remember that this is based on a couple of things, one in which I said, (little to no wind), but the other one is (based on using good charcoal such as Kingsford)
          It’s all just a rule of thumb, but the main reason I responded was that most all people use entirely too much charcoal and like I said, you can always cook it longer, but you can’t un-cook it if it is burnt.
          I hope you all have a wonderful day.
          Stay safe and stay prepared!!

  3. Pingback: How To Convert Crock-Pot Cooking to Dutch Oven Perfection - SHTF Preparedness

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