Buying Guide: The Best Roasting Pans For You

Understanding the Different Types of Roasting Pans

Roasting Pan

It wouldn't be the holidays without a beautifully browned bird at the dinner table, and the roasting pan you choose to cook it in can make all the difference in the world. Learning how to choose a roasting pan involves a few different variables. Roasting pans come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, and some even come with added accessories to make cooking easier. Since holidays like Thanksgiving only roll around once each year, choose a roasting pan that does double duty so you can use it to make lasagna, roasted vegetables and your signature macaroni and cheese all year round.

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Important Considerations When Choosing a Roasting Pan

The first thing to learn about how to buy a roasting pan is that there's no right or wrong choice when making selections to complement all types of cookware sets. The size of the roasts you cook, how often you cook them and the types of foods you cook most frequently will all play a role in your decision. Roasting pan uses include baking fish, braising meat, roasting meat or vegetables or making casseroles. Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you evaluate the options available.

Weight

Pay attention to the weight and heft as you consider the various types of roasting pans, as the last thing you want to have happen is for your pan to warp, twist or bend when you're moving it from a hot oven to your counter or table. On the other hand, you don't want it so heavy that it's difficult to lift when filled with a multi-pound roast. If you plan to cook mainly smaller roasts and birds, ceramic or cast iron may be good options, but they are probably not the best choice if you plan to use the pan to cook a 20-pound turkey.

Size

Nonstick Rectangular Roasting Pan

A roasting pan's size does have an impact on how your roasts cook. No matter what types of roasting pans you consider, the one you choose should be large enough to fit the largest roast you plan to cook with plenty of room on all sides for hot air to circulate. A pan that's too small might not results in even browning, but one that's too big may let the juices that render from the roast spread out too thin, and then burn before the roast is done. As you learn how to choose a roasting pan, know that a 16-inch pan is just the right size for a 17-pound turkey, and it's also big enough to span two burners on the stove, so you can cook flavorful gravies and sauces in the same dish. Choose a pan with sides that are roughly 3 to 4 inches tall so the hot juices or gravy won't slosh out when you move it, and so that you have plenty of room to cook mounds of delicious root veggies with your roast.

Shape

Rectangular types of roasting pans offer the most versatility, but opt for rounded rather than squared corners so that you easily reach all spots in the pan to stir gravies and sauces. Some roasting pans come with ridged bottoms or troughs that run along the edges of the pan. They are ideal if you don't use a rack to hold your meat when roasting, but are not the best choice if you make plan to make gravies or sauces right in the pan or if you'll use it to sear meat.

Materials

Stainless Steel Roasting Pan

Choosing the right material is key when choosing any type of specialty cookware, but it's a particularly important consideration as you learn how to choose a roasting pan. The basic material types available are:

  • Heavy-gauge stainless steel: As one of the most popular materials among all the types of roasting pans, stainless steel helps to create "fond," or browned bits on the bottom of the pan that are essential for making gravies and sauces. Some stainless steel pans have an aluminum core that helps them to heat quickly and distribute heat evenly so that you get the best of both stainless steel and aluminum cookware.
  • Aluminum: Generally not a good choice for a roasting pan unless the metal is thick. Aluminum tends to warp and bend, and can react to acidic any acidic ingredients you might add when making casseroles or sauces.
  • Anodized aluminum: This type of material can make an excellent roasting pan. The only potential drawback is its dark color can make it difficult to see when poultry's juices are running clear or when a sauce or gravy is becoming too dark in color.
  • Stoneware or ceramic: These are good all-around pans if you mostly cook smaller roasts or birds as they are handy for everyday cooking. If you like to take advantage of the fond to make sauces or gravies, ceramic or stoneware may not be the best choice as it's usually not suitable for stovetop use.
  • Cast iron: With its exceptional heat conduction and retention, cast iron performs well as a roaster, but only in smaller sizes. Cast iron pans usually weigh enough on their own, and they can be difficult to manaeuver when filled with a heavy roast or bird.

Coating

Nonstick Baking/Roasting Pan

Whether you choose a roasting pan with a nonstick coating or not really depends on the foods you plan to cook the most in it. If you don't do roasts or poultry often and plan on using it mostly for casseroles and other one-dish meals, a nonstick coating will make post-meal cleanup much easier. If you do plan to cooks a lot of roasts, roasted veggies and whole birds--especially if you plan to use the pan for making gravy and sauces on the stovetop--don't choose a nonstick pan. The best flavors develop when the juices and drippings stick to the bottom of the pan and a nonstick pan prevents this from happening.

Handles

When learning how to choose a roasting pan, remember to pay special attention to the handles as they are essential to safely moving a hot, heavy pan around the kitchen. Avoid bale-style handles that slide around in an attachment and lean towards those with fixed, riveted handles. For smaller cast iron, stoneware or ceramic pans, simple built-in handles will suffice.

Choosing Accessories

Roasting Pan Set

Many roasting pans come with accessories that are handy but not always necessary. Poultry lifters make the job of getting a hot roast out of the pan easier and safer, but there are other ways to get the job done. For instance, a foil tent will keep poultry from browning too quickly, but a tight-fitting cover is a requirement for braising.

The most helpful accessory that often comes with roasting pans is a custom-fit rack. Make sure the rack has handles to make lifting easy and that the wires are thick enough that they won't cut into your food. A nonstick rack is a big plus.

When choosing a roasting pan to complete your cookware set, consider the many ways you might use it and then find the one that has the features you need for your style of cooking while keeping safety in mind. If you tend to host large family gatherings at the holidays or Sunday suppers for a crowd, make sure to choose one that is large enough to accommodate the size roast you usually cook.

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