four plates of pot roast on marble table
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn
Recipe Review

We Tested 4 Famous Pot Roast Recipes and Found a Clear Winner

updated Dec 12, 2022
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Pot roast is as classic, comforting, and all-American as it gets. It’s the original one-pot meal, built on the stovetop and finished in the oven, where inexpensive cuts of beef like chuck or brisket cook low and slow until impossibly tender.

The very best pot roast recipes are low-effort and high-reward, yielding buttery, tender beef that practically falls apart at the touch of a fork. The veggies should melt in your mouth, and everything should be covered in a rich, meaty glaze. It’s an absolute showstopper, and it makes awesome leftovers to boot.

Pot roast is also steeped in nostalgia, and many people’s favorite recipe is the one they grew up eating every Sunday night. But if you’re looking for a new recipe, one to create your own traditions with, I cooked my way through four of the most popular ones to find the very best. After several hours of chopping, searing, braising, and tasting, I found the one that will never let you down.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Meet Our 4 Pot Roast Contenders

One of the joys of pot roast is how many ways there are to make it. There’s no shortage of Instant Pot and slow cooker recipes out there — including on Kitchn! But for consistency’s sake, I chose to focus on recipes made in a Dutch oven, which is the most classic preparation.

I started by looking at the most searched-for pot roast recipes on the Internet, which immediately pointed me towards The Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Her pot roast proved to be the most straightforward of the bunch, with no extra bells and whistles.

Ina Garten‘s recipe is also extremely popular, but took a vastly different approach. Ina’s recipe had the longest list of ingredients out of any of the ones I was considering, and while I know never to doubt Ina, I wondered if the payoff would be worth her more ambitious approach.

Taste of Home’s recipe also received glowing reviews from readers, and had a few intriguing ingredient upgrades. I was curious whether the addition of things like tomato paste and parsnips could significantly enhance the flavor. I was also keen to include it because it called for potatoes, which is a pot-roast must in my book.

Lastly, I chose to Alton Brown’s recipe as my wildcard. It was most certainly the outlier of the group, leaning on a slew of unexpected ingredients like raisins, cumin, and cocktail olives. My initial confusion quickly turned into curiosity, and I had to see if changing things up a bit was the way to make pot roast really shine. 

How I Tested the Pot Roast Recipes

Because I only own one Dutch oven, I was only able to test two recipes per day. I cooked through The Pioneer Woman’s and Taste of Home’s pot roast recipes on the same day, since they were the most similar, and tasted them side-by-side. The following day, I tested Ina Garten’s and Alton Brown’s recipes. I also warmed the leftovers from the first day so I could taste all four in one sitting.

Whenever a recipe called for red wine but gave the option of using broth as a substitute, I always used the wine. When given a range for the size of the roast, I chose the smaller size (since I was quite literally swimming in pot roast). I always checked the roast with the given timing, but continued braising if it wasn’t fork-tender. 

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

1. Easy But Unimpressive: The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast

This recipe has two things going for it: it’s quick to prep (you don’t even have to chop the onions!), and it’s easy to follow, thanks to a lot of visual cues. But this recipe really suffers in the flavor department. The chuck roast gets seasoned at the beginning, but that’s it — leaving you with a pretty flavorless pot roast and even blander veggies. The broth is also too watery, and could benefit from being reduced on the stovetop before serving.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

2. Untraditional but Surprisingly Delicious: Alton Brown’s Pot Roast 

From dry searing the roast, adding olives and raisins to the braising liquid, and spiking the sauce with vinegar and tomato juice, everything about this recipe breaks from tradition. But as I learned after tasting it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing! This recipe packs a flavorful punch, thanks to the assortment of umami-packed ingredients.

The only real downside of this recipe was the excessive amount of aluminum foil needed to create the braising pouch. I also had to braise my roast for much longer than the recipe called for. But with a few tweaks, this recipe is great — especially if you’re looking to switch things up.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

3. The Upgraded Classic: Taste of Home’s Ultimate Pot Roast

This is what I want pot roast to taste like. This recipe has all the expected ingredients like carrots, onions, red wine, and beef broth, but takes it up a notch with a handful of others that really make it shine. Parsnips and potatoes round out the vegetable portion of the roast, while the addition of garlic, tomato paste, and vinegar in the sauce add an incredible depth of flavor. While this recipe was slightly more involved, the payoff at the end was well-worth it. This came in a very close second.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Brett Regot

4. The Best Pot Roast I’ve Ever Had: Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast

I’ve made dozens of Ina Garten recipes, all to great success, and this pot roast recipe is no different. Sweeping declarations aside, this is truly the best pot roast I’ve ever had. I stood over the Dutch oven scraping up every last bit of sauce with a spatula. That’s how good it was. I’d implore you to not take any shortcuts here, as the lengthy ingredient list and few extra steps really do result in a more flavorful, succulent pot roast.