Did you know that there's not much difference between braising in a Dutch oven and a slow cooker? They're both essentially vessels to cook food, low and slow, and since the basic principles of each are about the same, recipes written for one can be adapted easily to the other. Here are five things to keep in mind when making a Dutch oven recipe in a slow cooker.
1. Use less liquid.
Use 1/2 to 1 cup less liquid than called for in a Dutch oven recipe since a slow cooker is a closed cooking environment. Using the full amount of liquid means that the final sauce will be thinner, so start with less knowing that you can add more liquid toward the end as needed.
2. Add vegetables like potatoes later.
Slow-cooking chunks of potatoes, carrots, broccoli or other vegetables for a long period of time will turn them to an unpleasant mush. If your Dutch oven recipe calls for adding certain vegetables later in the cooking time, do the same thing with the slow cooker and add it halfway or two-thirds into the cooking time.
3. Brown, sear and sauté separately first.
Unless you have a slow cooker with a sear setting, follow the Dutch oven recipe and brown, sear or sauté meat and vegetables in a frying pan on the stove and deglaze first before transferring everything into the slow cooker. This extra cooking adds deeper flavors that just throwing all the ingredients into the slow cooker uncooked won't produce.
4. Cut into larger pieces.
The convenience of slow cookers stems from the fact that food can be cooking all day long while you're at work. But small pieces of meat or vegetables can end up overcooking if it's in the slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours, so consider cutting them into larger pieces than what the original Dutch oven recipe calls for.
5. Pick the right slow cooker setting.
Not sure if you should turn the slow cooker onto high or low? Look at the temperature called for in the Dutch oven recipe: if it's an oven temperature over 300°F or just simmered on the stove, use the high setting on the slow cooker and check it after 4 1/2 to 5 hours. If it's an oven temperature of 300°F or lower, use the low setting and check it after 6 hours.