Should I Buy a Slow Cooker?

Product & Shopping Questions

Q: After seeing your recipe for Slow-Cooker Beef Shanks, I've been thinking about buying a slow cooker. I have some questions, though.

Since the slow cooker uses electricity over such extended time (4 to 6 hours), do you know if using the oven or a slow cooker is more energy-efficient, or costly? Could I use the oven instead of the cooker? Would it have the same taste?

Sent by Angela

Editor: Although we're usually using the slow cooker for longer periods of time than our ovens or any other appliance, it doesn't use that much energy overall. It's a small appliance and maintains its heat fairly efficiently using low amounts of energy.

According to the California Energy Commission (and based on California energy costs), a slow cooker operating for seven hours uses about .7 kilowatt hours and costs $.06. An electric stove at 350°F operating for one hour uses about 2 kilowatt hours and costs about $.16. Exact usage will vary based on your model and prices will vary based on your location.

This said, you can most definitely prepare slow-cooker recipes in the oven! This is actually a very old technique called braising. Set the oven to around 325°F and cook the dish in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, like a dutch oven. Dishes will usually cook more quickly in the oven, so check it every hour.

Here is some more information about energy usage and slow cookers:

Stoves, Ranges, and Ovens from the California Energy CommissionCrockpot Meals: How to Braise in a Slow CookerWeekend Cooking: Break Out the Slow Cooker!Slow Good: 17 Incredible Recipes for the Slow CookerLove Me Tender: 15 Braises from The Kitchn

Readers, anything to add from your own experiences?


Related: How to Convert Dutch Oven Recipes to Your Slow Cooker

(Image: Williams-Sonoma )

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