Slow cooker vs. dutch oven.
dutch oven made of metal vs. enamel vs. earthenware
pretty much interchangeable? one of these is enough?
I have all three. If I had to choose one, I'd choose my enameled cast iron dutch oven. You can use it on top of the stove for browning vegetables (unlike the slow cooker) & it holds heat really well (unlike the stainless dutch oven). But I do like my stainless dutch oven for boiling pasta and corn. I don't use my slow cooker much, but I could see using it to make soup or stew during the day while I'm at work. I just end up using the enameled one because it's more versatile. I hope this helps!
I agree with drbabs - the enameled cast iron is a work horse. The slow cooker is fun once in a while but not as versatile. Likewise, I love my Piral, but it's also more of a once in a while pot.
If that's the only choice I would go with the enameled iron but, AND THIS IS A BIG OLD BUT, I love earthenware. I will swear on Christine O'Donnell's knickers that things taste different when cooked in earthenware. The in-between choice would be the Emile-Henry "Flame" series. It seasons with use and you can use it on gas flame. Paula Wolfert has a whole book devoted to earthenware cooking. But it's not the same thing as a crock pot.
I agree, earthenware lends a certain taste and even more a texture all its own.
Some time ago I had a conversation with Russ Parsons, food editor for the LA Times on the subject of earthenware cooking and why, for slow cooked foods it is such great material. My theory was that the clay"breathes", the Russ theory was that over time it get's seasoned and flavors absorb into the material. In the end we agree that we were both right. Call it witchcraft.
Makes sense, it breathes and the witch gets enough air to really cook!
Ok but what about longevity? I have had a Le Cruset enameled dutch oven for twenty four years that gets used at least once a week for eight months out of the year and still has years of service left. How does earthenware hold up? I wouldn't know I never had the pleasure of owning one.
Very good point- my earthenware lasted a long time, but nothing like your Le Cruset, and I didn't use is once a week either.
To answer Donny's question; I don't know. Is that an answer? The Emile-Henry series is relatively new to the market. But I do have inexpensive earthenware cazuelas which have never cracked or broken---and I wish I could say that for pizza stones. But I do have some earthenware pieces that are in fact 20 years old. In the end it's about the flavor you manufacture
Well this discusion alone has me looking for some earthenware! Gotta try it! Thanks guys!