Slow cookers are handy when you want to prepare one dish meals, especially when you don't want to heat up the oven. However, they're called slow cookers for a reason -- it typically takes four times as long to cook a dish as it would in a conventional oven.
Slow Cooker Temperatures
Slow cookers have High to Low settings, but the difference is not really in the temperature -- it's in the speed that the cooker comes up to its "simmering" temperature. In the case of the Crock-Pot brand, the temperature is 100 degrees Celsius or about 340 degrees Fahrenheit. A low setting may take 7 to 8 hours to reach simmer, and a high setting will take half that time. Some brands only reach a maximum temperature of 212 F.
Converting Cooking Times
Roasting or braising the food in a preheated oven gives you a faster ramp-up time to the desired cooking temperature than cooking in a Crock-Pot. If you've decided to roast or braise at 325 F, you can get there in 10 to 15 minutes instead of 4 hours. And if you've been browning and sauteeing on the stove top first, your pan will already be heated through.
Because a conventional or convection oven heats to the cooking temperature much faster, a dish that may take 2 to 3 hours in the oven will take 8 hours on a low setting in a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker.
A general rule of thumb is that a dish that takes 1 to 2 hours at 325 F in the oven requires 4 hours in a slow cooker.
- Whole and quartered chicken times will be similar -- 1 to 1 ½ hours in a Dutch oven equals 2 hours on high in a slow cooker.
- Whole shanks or large cuts of meat will be approximately the same as well, 2 to 3 hours in either.
- Beans may only take 1 to 2 hours in a cast iron Dutch oven, but will require 2 to 3 hours in a slow cooker.
However, in some cases you want to cook food slower -- as in the case of coarse cuts of beef that require long, slow cooking to tenderize. To cook a dish on medium in a slow cooker, triple the time required for oven roasting. When cooking on a low setting, figure that the dish will take four times as long.