Chili in a Dutch oven.

Long before the Instant Pot came on the scene with promises of multitasking, there was the simple Dutch oven. With the exception of pressure cooking, a Dutch oven can do everything a multi-cooker can do and then some: brown, boil, braise, bake, and deep-fry.

“A cast-iron Dutch oven will give you better results than an Instant Pot any day,” says Lance Nitahara, an assistant professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. In fact, this one pan can replace your slow cooker, stock pot, pasta pot, loaf pan, and deep fryer.

Lewis and Clark carried Dutch ovens on their journey across the American West in the early 1800s, and you can still buy reproductions of the three-legged ovens they used. Today’s Dutch ovens look a lot nicer, though; most are enameled cast iron and come in a variety of colors. But they’re just as multifunctional, and they're a good choice for simple tasks and more complicated recipes like braising meat, baking bread, cooking soups and stews, and deep-frying chicken.

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These pots are ovenproof, so you can start cooking your meal on the stovetop and move it straight to the oven to finish. And because they're so attractive, some cooks move the pot right to the table, on a trivet, of course, to serve.

In CR’s Dutch oven tests, we braise brisket, brown scallops, simmer sauces, and bake loaves of bread. We also note how fast it takes to bring room-temperature water to a near-boil. Five of the Dutch ovens in our tests earn an overall score of Very Good or Excellent, and they're great all-around choices. But a few are a bit better at certain tasks than others. Here are the standouts for browning, baking, braising, simmering sauces, and boiling water. For more on Dutch ovens, read our cookware buying guide and full cookware ratings.

Best Dutch Oven for Braising

Braising, in which you cook meat or vegetables partly submerged in liquid in a covered pot, is a good way to turn a tough cut of meat into a tender, delicious meal. In our braising tests, we cook brisket in the Dutch oven for 3½ hours. All eight models perform well on this test. “We didn’t see major differences,” says Cindy Fisher, who oversees our cookware tests. In addition to being great for braising, the Lodge below is one of the most affordable of the Dutch ovens we've tested—and it's among the easiest to clean—so it clinches this spot.

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Lodge Dutch Oven

Price: $60

Bread baking
Browning
Ease of cleaning
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Best Dutch Oven for Browning

You might think you need a skillet to brown meat and fish, but a Dutch oven is perfectly up to the task and perhaps even better because the high sides prevent splattering. In our tests, we brown scallops, and there are some real differences in how each Dutch oven performs here, ranging from evenly caramelized scallops to pale, unevenly cooked ones. The best of the lot is Le Creuset, featured below, which earns the only Excellent rating for browning. It’s a cinch to clean, too.

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Le Creuset Signature Dutch Oven

Price: $340

Browning
Speed of heating
Ease of cleaning
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Best Dutch Oven for Simmering Sauces

Our simmering test, during which we assess how well a pot can hold tomato sauce at a low simmer, proves to be a challenge for some models. Our lowest-rated model, the Tramontina, earns a Poor rating on this test because it didn't heat the sauce evenly. None of the pots ace this test, and only one model, the Anolon Vesta featured below, earns a rating of Very Good. However, it's a bit tricky to clean, which hurt its Overall Score.

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Anolon Vesta Dutch Oven

Price: $80

Sauce simmer
Browning
Speed of heating
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Best Dutch Oven for Baking

In this test we bake loaves of white bread made from frozen dough. (At home, you may prefer to make your own dough, but we use store-bought for the sake of consistency.) The best breads from our tests have a crusty exterior and are nice and soft inside. The worst have a dense, heavy texture. We got impressive results from half of the Dutch ovens, including the Vremi baking champ below, which earns an Excellent rating.

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Vremi Dutch Oven

Price: $45

Bread baking
Sauce simmer
Speed of heating
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Quickest Dutch Oven at Boiling Water

All but one of the Dutch ovens are able to quickly heat 4 quarts of room-temperature water to a near-boil, earning scores of Very Good to Excellent on this test. The best heat water in less than 10 minutes, but even the slowest accomplish it in 12. So you can skip getting out a pasta pot and use a Dutch oven instead. The Ayesha Curry model below is one of the top performers in this test, and one of the easiest to clean.

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Ayesha Curry Covered Dutch Oven

Price: $70

Speed of heating
Bread baking
Ease of cleaning
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