How to Choose the Best Roasting Pan For You
Many of us only give real thought to a roasting pan at Thanksgiving when an extra-large one is required for the turkey. It’s strange how we are happy to buy a special pan that will only be used once a year and yet we often make do with a succession of inexpensive ones to use throughout the year.
A good quality roasting pan will reward you with delicious cooked food and it will be easy to care for – so why not invest in a good one and see what a difference it can make to your cooking and to your cleanup!
Tips for Choosing the Right Roasting Pan
1. How Big Should It Be?
- A roasting pan should be around 1½”-2″ larger than the food you are going to roast so that the food doesn’t touch the sides.
- Once the food is in the pan, there should be enough space to allow the air to circulate and brown the undersides.
- It’s also worth considering what else you will be using the pan for. If you regularly use a water bath, try measuring your ramekin dishes and make sure that the roaster will take the correct number in one batch.
- Don’t go too big – unless you usually add vegetables or herbs to the pan alongside the roast. The reason for this is because a large amount of exposed pan will encourage the meat or poultry juices to burn.
2. How Deep…?
- The height of the sides is important as you need it deep enough to be able to avoid hot splashes when braising or if you are using the pan as a bain-marie (water bath).
- If the sides are too high, it can encourage the hot air to rise quickly, away from the base of your food, which will prevent thorough cooking.
- A side height of 3 to 4 inches means that the pan will easily hold all the juice drippings that come from your roast and will also accommodate any potatoes or vegetables that you would like to cook along with the meat.
3. What Shape…?
- The most space-effective shape is a rectangular pan.
- Look for one that has rounded corners which will make it easier to reach in with a whisk when you’re making gravy or sauce.
- Oval-shaped pans are attractive, especially if you’re using oven-to-table wear – but you do lose out on space.
4. Measure Up…
How many of us have at least one pan – probably bought on impulse – that has never been used because it doesn’t fit into the oven!
- To be sure of getting a pan that fits, measure the internal dimensions of your oven. When you measure, be careful to take the narrowest width, not including the recessed ridges for the racks.
- Pans are often labeled with their measurements but this is sometimes misleading. This is because the measurements usually refer to the interior size of the pan but the thickness can add enough extra millimeters to make the final measurement different and that could mean that it won’t fit!
- Don’t forget handles, as these are not always included in the measurement details and they can add up to three inches to the height and/or width of your pan.
5. Get a Handle on it!
- While we’re on the subject of handles, you have a choice and it all comes down to personal preference. Some handles extend out horizontally from the sides of the pan which makes them easy to hold but their placement will reduce your cooking area inside the oven.
- Others rise up vertically, which saves you space, but makes them much more difficult to lift out of the oven – especially when you’re wearing the essential oven mitts!
- It’s also very easy to burn yourself on vertical handles, especially if you like to make gravy in the pan that you cooked your roast in.
The best idea is to have two pans.
Have one without handles for light foods, like chicken thighs. These can easily be lifted in and out of the oven. However, for larger joints or roasts, you really do need handles to help you support the weight and avoid nasty spills of sizzling fat.
A final point to look for is thick, strong, riveted, handles that are fixed as these are far safer than the sliding type.
6. A Weighty Decision
A heavy roasting pan will serve you well for a number of reasons:
- A lightweight pan that twists or warps will not wear as well as a heavier pan.
- worse than that, it could be dangerous. If you are lifting a very hot pan, full of boiling fat out of the oven, the last thing you want to happen is for it to suddenly twist and spill fat over you.
- Another reason is the cooking process. A heavier pan will give you even heat distribution so that the drippings from the roast won’t burn and spoil your subsequent gravy or sauce.
7. What is the Best Metal?
- The two best choices are heavy stainless steel or copper.
- Cast Iron coated with enamel is pretty and easy to care for but it can be just too heavy.
- Aluminum is prone to warping, even when it is thick and it can also react with any ingredients that may be acidic.
- Anodized aluminum can be a good choice but be aware that it makes it harder to judge the stage of the cooking because it has a dark surface, You need to be able to see if chicken or meat juices are running clear (which indicates completed cooking) and a dark surface can make this more difficult to judge.
8. Should I go for Non-Stick?
- Nonstick surfaces can be extremely helpful in some cooking, for example when making omelets or pancakes. They also make for easy cleanup.
- However, in roasting, nonstick is not beneficial especially if you like to make your gravy in the pan.
- For easy deglazing of the pan, you need a surface that helps the meat or poultry juices to stick, cook and develop good flavor. Nonstick surfaces prevent this process.
- Also, non-stick surfaces are dark in color and as we have noted above, this isn’t helpful when cooking roasts.
If you do decide to go for nonstick, don’t forget to use utensils such as scrapers and whisks that are non-stick-friendly, to avoid damaging the surface.
9. Do I Need a Rack?
This is entirely down to personal choice. There are pros and cons to using a rack in a roasting pan.
Reasons for Using a rack:
- It can stop the underside of a chicken from becoming flabby
- The drippings from the chicken or meat will stay clearer
- It makes fat easier to skim off
- It helps air to circulate to encourage roasting, rather than steaming
- It helps drippings to drip!
Reasons against Using a rack:
- The meat or poultry can stick to the rack making it awkward to lift out of the pan
- As the mass of food is not sitting in the pan and absorbing heat, the pan can get very hot causing juices to evaporate and burn
- Sit your food on a bed of vegetables, which you can then include in the meal or whizz in a food processor to add to the gravy or sauce
- Look for a flat-rack which sits on the floor of the pan and just helps you to lift the roast out when cooking is completed
10. Our Recommendations
The following items can be purchased at great prices from Amazon.
#1: Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Special-Value 16-Inch Roaster with Nonstick Roasting Rack
#2. Cuisinart Multiclad Pro Stainless 16″ Roaster with Rack
#1: Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Roaster with Rack, Baster, Injector, and Lifters
#2: Rachael Ray Hard-Anodized Nonstick Roaster with Rack – BEST VALUE FOR MONEY
11. Handy Hints
- DO NOT use cooking spray on your nonstick roaster. It leaves a gummy residue that is difficult to remove and will cause food to stick. Instead use an oil mister that you have filled with olive oil or vegetable oil.
- Another tip is to wipe the nonstick surface with some oil on a paper towel.
- Preheat your nonstick roasting pan before adding the food
12. What You Can Cook in a Roasting Pan
- Flavourful gravy or pan sauces
- Braise meats, poultry, and vegetables
- Roast potatoes and other vegetables
- Cook batches of lasagne, enchiladas, shepherd’s pie, or cobbler
- Custards or soufflés (use the pan as a water bath)