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What temperature is best for slow cooking in the oven?

Slow cooking is a great way to make tender, flavorful meals with minimal effort. By cooking foods at low temperatures over an extended period of time, the ingredients break down and develop deep, complex flavors. Slow cooking can be done in a slow cooker, but your oven can also be used for slow cooking a variety of dishes.

What is slow cooking?

Slow cooking is a moist-heat cooking method that uses low temperatures (usually below 300°F) and long cooking times (typically 4-10 hours) to gently break down foods. The low, steady heat helps tenderize cuts of meat, draw out flavors from aromatics, and meld ingredients together into cohesive, delicious dishes. Crockpots and slow cookers are designed for slow cooking, but your oven can also be used. The key is maintaining a consistent low temperature over time.

Benefits of slow cooking

There are several benefits that make slow cooking a popular cooking method:

  • Convenient – Food can be prepped in advance and left to cook unattended for hours.
  • Tender and juicy results – The collagen in meats breaks down over time, resulting in very tender and moist food.
  • Full flavor development – Ingredients meld together as their flavors mingle and intensify.
  • Energy efficient – Ovens use less energy when run at lower temperatures for longer periods.
  • Versatile – Slow cooking works for roasts, stews, chilis, baked goods, and more.
  • Nutrient retention – Food cooked slowly retains more vitamins and minerals.

For these reasons, slow cooking is great for cheaper cuts of meat that become succulent and delicious after hours of gentle simmering. It’s also an easy way to make hearty soups, stews, and chilis that improve in flavor the longer they cook.

Best oven temperature for slow cooking

When slow cooking in the oven, temperatures between 200-325°F are typically used. The optimal temperature range depends on the specific recipe and ingredients being cooked.

225-275°F for most slow cooking

For most slow cooking recipes like stews, soups, roasts, and chili, cooking between 225-275°F produces the best results. This relatively low temperature range allows meats to break down and vegetables to soften thoroughly after several hours in the oven.

Within this range:

  • 225-250°F is ideal for recipes with a higher liquid content like soups, chilis, and stews. The lower end keeps liquids at a low simmer.
  • 250-275°F works well for drier dishes like roasted meats and meatloaves. The slightly higher temperature helps drier items cook through fully.

So a good standard oven temperature for basic slow cooking is 250°F. This allows sufficient cooking without drying out meats or scorching ingredients.

200-225°F for delicate dishes

For dishes with more delicate ingredients like seafood or dairy that can separate or curdle at higher heats, cook at the lower end of the temperature range from 200-225°F. Fish, eggs, and cheese dishes with creamy sauces will cook more gently at these lower oven temps.

275-325°F to finish/brown foods

The end of the slow cooking time can be finished off at a hotter 275-325°F oven temperature. This helps roasted meats and vegetables develop a nice browned exterior.

Cook chili, stew, or soup at 225-250°F for several hours until the inside is cooked through. Then blast it at 300+°F for the last 30-60 minutes to create a nice caramelization on meats and veggies.

Tips for slow cooking in the oven

Follow these tips to effectively use your oven for slow cooking:

  • Use an oven-safe pot or dutch oven. Choose a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid to retain moisture.
  • Bring liquid to a simmer on the stovetop before placing in the oven.
  • Keep the oven door closed and don’t peek. Opening the oven drops the temperature.
  • Add veggies on top or around roasts and meats so they don’t burn.
  • Baste meats and stir liquid dishes occasionally for even cooking.
  • Add broth or water if liquid reduces too much.
  • Let dishes rest before serving for easier portioning.

Food safety

When slow cooking, food should reach safe internal temperatures to destroy harmful bacteria.

Food Safe Internal Temperature
Beef, pork, lamb, veal roasts 145°F
Beef, pork, lamb, veal chops/steaks 145°F
Poultry (whole, pieces, or ground) 165°F
Fin fish 145°F
Shrimp, lobster, crab Cook until opaque and firm
Scallops Cook until opaque and firm
Egg dishes 160°F
Leftovers 165°F

Use a food thermometer to check temperatures in multiple spots. If cooking large cuts of meat like roasts or whole chickens, allow the safe internal temperature to be reached and then cook for an additional 15 minutes before removing from the oven.

Oven slow cooking times

Cooking times can vary based on the temperature used, the size and quantity of food, and the specific oven. Use these cooking time ranges as general guidelines:

  • Chili, stew, and soup – 4-6 hours
  • Tough meat roasts and braises – 6-8 hours
  • Whole chickens – 4-6 hours
  • Boneless chicken pieces – 3-4 hours
  • Pork tenderloin – 2-3 hours
  • Meatloaf – 3-4 hours
  • Cheesecake and custards – 2+ hours
  • Casseroles – 3-4 hours

Get to know your oven’s performance at low temps. Check doneness early and continue cooking if needed until safe internal temperatures are reached and the dish is cooked through.

Should the oven door be open or closed?

For optimal slow oven cooking, keep the oven door completely closed throughout the cooking time. Opening the door frequently causes the oven temperature to drop, which hinders the slow cooking process.

A closed oven door allows for:

  • Consistent heat circulation
  • Prevention of moisture loss
  • Accurate cooking times
  • Energy efficiency

If food needs to be basted or stirred, open the oven door briefly but keep it closed at all other times. For dishes that need a sauce reduced or need browning at the end, leave door closed until the last 20-30 minutes.

What containers work best?

Choose oven-safe pots, pans, and dishes that retain heat well when slow cooking. Good options include:

  • Dutch ovens – Excellent for braises, stews, roasts
  • Cast iron pots – Heats evenly, retains heat
  • Ceramic casserole dishes – Withstand oven temp, don’t leach chemicals
  • Metal cake and loaf pans – Effective for meatloaves, breads
  • Glass baking dishes – Ideal for casseroles and gratins

Avoid plastic containers and materials not rated for oven use. Make sure any ceramic or stoneware dishes are oven-safe. For food safety, do not slow cook in containers with lead glazes or cracks.

Prevent burning and drying out

The difference between slow cooked excellence and disastrous drying or burning is all about moisture control. Here are tips to prevent food from drying out or burning:

  • Use a liquid like broth, water, or sauce.
  • Keep pan covered to circulate moisture.
  • Baste meats and stir dishes periodically.
  • Place veggies on top of or around meats.
  • Lay parchment paper on pan bottom if needed.
  • Add more liquid if necessary.

Monitor oven temps with a thermometer. Cook at the low end of the temperature range for the dish. Resist opening the oven door frequently so moisture stays locked in.

How to adjust time for larger or smaller quantities

Cooking time often needs to be adjusted when changing the quantity you are slow cooking:

  • Smaller amounts typically require slightly less time.
  • Larger quantities usually need more time.

As a general guideline when adjusting slow cooking times:

  • Halve the quantity = reduce time by 1/3
  • Double the quantity = increase time by 1/3

For example, if a recipe calls for cooking a 4-lb roast for 5 hours:

  • A 2-lb roast would take around 3 1/3 hours
  • An 8-lb roast would need around 6 2/3 hours

Get to know your oven’s low temp sweet spots. Check for doneness early when adjusting quantities, and continue cooking if needed until the dish is fully cooked through. Use a meat thermometer to confirm safe internal temperatures.

Common oven slow cooking mistakes

Watch out for these common oven slow cooking errors:

  • Cooking at too high of a temperature
  • Not using a thermometer and over or undercooking
  • Letting the oven door open frequently
  • Not checking for doneness at the minimum time
  • Forgetting to add liquid to dishes
  • Not using oven-safe cookware
  • Not preheating oven before inserting food
  • Neglecting to stir or baste during cooking
  • Using too much or too little liquid
  • Not allowing dishes to rest before serving

Be vigilant about moisture levels, accurate oven temps, and food safety. Cook times are a rough guide – always check for doneness before serving.


Your oven can be used very effectively for slow cooking at temperatures between 200-325°F. For most dishes, cook in the 225-275°F range until fully cooked through and tender. Higher 275-325°F temperatures are good for finishing and browning dishes at the end. Monitor doneness closely and adjust cook times as needed based on quantity, oven variances, and the specific recipe. Slow oven cooking takes some trial and error but results in fabulous home cooked meals with depth of flavor.