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Can an oven's slow-cook mode do as good a job as a slow cooker?

Consumer Reports News: November 19, 2008 12:09 AM

A new oven I'm considering has a slow-cook mode. Is this feature better than my trusty Crock-Pot?

To see how well the slow-cook mode on an oven or range compares to slow cookers, as part of our latest report on slow cookers we pitted the GE Profile PB975SM electric smoothtop range with dual ovens (one of which has a slow-cook mode), $1,950, against 15 electronic and mechanically controlled electric slow cookers.

For this test, we slow-cooked chicken wings, pulled pork, spare ribs, orange chicken, and apple brown Betty in the lower oven of the 30-inch PB975SM (shown) and in each slow cooker. Here's what we found:

• Instructions for the oven recommend using the beef setting whenever you don’t know the cooking time for a given dish. But with the beef setting for an apple brown Betty, the dessert was overdone after 2¾ hours, much longer than the 4 hours it needs in a typical countertop slow cooker. So you’d have to adjust cooking times and recipes to prevent overcooking and burning.

• Overall, the oven cooked much more quickly than any slow cooker, though that’s not necessarily an advantage when slowness is the goal. In fact, some chicken wings got burned when we cooked them for the time indicated in the recipe. Still, the pulled pork from the oven was tender and flavorful and the spare ribs were falling-off-the-bone tender.

• Like the slow cookers in our ratings, the GE Profile’s slow-cook feature goes into warm mode automatically once the cooking time has elapsed. The oven has programs for slow-cooking beef, poultry, pork, and stew, settings not found on most of the slow cookers.

Regarding energy usage, the slow cooker comes out ahead. (Energy use was calculated based on running an average slower cooker and the oven for 1 hour.) A typical slow cooker will use less energy than the slow-cook mode on the GE range. Note that for a dish that’s done in less than four hours using the oven’s slow-cook mode, the energy use might be identical to that of a slow cooker.—Ed Perratore

Essential information:
See our ratings of slow cookers (available to subscribers) to find the best model for your home.

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