Slow cooking without a slow cooker is easy to do in an oven or on a stovetop. Because these cooking methods require less time, they're options to consider when you don't have time to wait for a slow cooker.
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To slow cook in the oven, first sear the meat in a skillet on the stove. Then put it in a heavy pot with spices and enough liquid, and cook it in an oven preheated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slow Cooking in an Oven
In an interview with LIVESTRONG.com, Chef Palak Patel of the Institute of Culinary Education explains how to slow cook in an oven. She says another term for the process is "lower heat cooking," which is a beneficial technique for cooking food overnight or for lengthy time periods. "This method does not require any supervision and can be lengthened significantly without fear of overcooking."
An advantage of slow cooking in the oven is that it retains moisture when braising, simmering and stewing. "A low temperature between 200 to 250 degrees avoids dehydration and possible toughness, so the meat remains juicy and tender. Lowering the heat increases the amount of time that you have to cook the meat," Patel notes.
She recommends using a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven because it tends to keep moisture locked in and distributes heat evenly. "If you don't have a Dutch oven, use the heaviest pot available, cover the top with aluminum foil and then cover with a lid."
Meat is a typical option for slow cooking. Keep in mind that red meat has more saturated fat than chicken and fish, according to the American Heart Association. Enjoy red meat occasionally and balance your diet with other proteins, such as fish, beans and chicken.
When starting the dish, always sear the meat in a hot skillet on the stove to lock in juices, Patel advises. "A good slow-cooking temperature is 200 degrees, but remember to preheat your oven before placing the pot inside," she says. "Put your meat on the rack inside your roasting pan and place the roasting pan on the center oven rack."
Always rely on a proper meat thermometer to check the internal temperature and ensure the meat is safe to eat. "The cooking time will vary, depending on the toughness of the meat," says Patel.
Slow Cooking vs. Pressure Cooking
The term "slow cooking" doesn't necessarily mean cooking in a slow cooker. It could mean slow cooking on the stove or in the oven. "While slow cooking in the oven involves a steady temperature for a lengthy time, cooking in a pressure cooker builds a tremendous amount of heat and pressure in a fraction of the time," Patel explains.
Slow cookers and pressure cookers provide heat in fundamentally different ways, which can affect the outcome. "Pressure cookers heat from the bottom and retain all the moisture, but Dutch ovens are surrounded by heat and involve some evaporation of moisture," Patel says. "In addition, food breaks down at record speed in a pressure cooker: They're convenient because the sauteing and searing can happen in the same vessel."
According to Patel, the only drawbacks to pressure cookers are that they're expensive and bulky. Some people may not have room in their kitchens for storing an additional large cooking device.
Slow Cooker to Oven Conversion
If a slow-cooker recipe can be roasted in an oven, it's easy to convert, notes Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. A key thing to remember when altering a recipe is to add a third to a half more liquid to prevent burning. (When food is prepared in a slow cooker, it makes some of its own liquid, so less is needed.)
Pillsbury explains how to make a slow cooker to Dutch oven conversion. A low setting on a slow cooker equates to 200 F in an oven, while a high setting on a slow cooker is equivalent to 300 F. Cooking on a high slow-cooker setting for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours is comparable to cooking on a low slow-cooker setting for four to six hours; this is equivalent to cooking 15 to 30 minutes in a traditional oven.
Recipes that call for a high slow-cooker setting for three to four hours equate to using a low slow-cooker setting for six to eight hours; this converts to 35 to 45 minutes in an oven. Using a high slow-cooker setting for four to six hours is equivalent to using a low slow-cooker setting for eight to 10 hours; this is comparable to cooking 50 minutes to three hours in an oven.
- Institute of Culinary Education: "Palak Patel"
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: "Slow Cooker – Converting Recipes"
- Pillsbury: "Cooking Conversions for Slow Cookers"
- Institute of Culinary Education: "Homepage"
- American Heart Association: "Why Chicken Fish and Beans Are Better for You Than Red Meat"