Ideal for crispy vegetables and succulent meats, roasting is one of the most versatile cooking techniques. Just the word conjures up a crispy exterior, tender interior and plenty of delicious, sticky pan drippings. It’s how you make the best chicken you’ve ever had, of course.
The secret to a perfect bird? Using the best roasting pan.
Weight and Materials
Ideally, the roasting pan should be made with thick, heavy materials that distribute heat evenly. Think stainless steel, aluminum or carbon steel. That said, a thick, heavy-duty pan can be literally heavy—10 pounds or more—so make sure you’re able to lift it, especially when it’s full of food.
Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re shopping:
- Your roasting pan should be able to withstand a high temperature—like 450º or even 500º.
- A nonstick coating can make cleanup easier, but is usually not broiler safe.
- Look for a pan that’s safe to use on the stovetop as well as in the oven, so you can make gravy right in the pan.
- Beware dark-colored pans, which can make the outside of food brown (and burn!) too quickly.
- Bonus points for a roasting pan that’s dishwasher safe, which makes cleanup a breeze.
Our Pick for a Heavy-Duty Roasting Pan: KitchenAid 16″ Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Roaster ($112). It has a handsome brushed exterior and polished interior, but it’s tough, too: heat it to 500º and throw it in the dishwasher when you’re done.
Our Pick for a Lighter-Weight Roasting Pan: Calphalon Classic Hard-Anodized 16-Inch Roasting Pan with Nonstick Rack ($70). It’s large enough for a turkey, but made with aluminum for about half the weight of the KitchenAid (4.5 pounds).
Design Features to Consider
Find the Right Size
Do you want to host Thanksgiving dinner—or do you cook for two? The dimensions of a good roasting pan depend on how you cook. Using an overly large roasting pan can make pan drippings scorch as they spread out too thin over the bottom of the pan. On the other hand, a crowded, too-small roasting pan might cause food to steam rather than roast, and you won’t get a crispy exterior.
Large: Look for 16″-17″ in length and 12-13″ in width for a pan large enough for an enormous holiday dinner.
Small: 13″x9″ roasters are easy to find and versatile. This Cuisinart pan ($30) even doubles as a roaster and a lasagna pan!
Compare Deep Sides vs. Shallow Sides
A deep-sided roasting pan catches the juices from even the plumpest turkey, and has plenty of room for lots of vegetables underneath the meat.
A shallow-sided pan is ideal for making extra-crispy foods, like potatoes, Brussels sprouts or onions. A shallow pan also makes it easy to quickly stir or turn food. Here’s the secret to roasting vegetables.
Hold on to the Handles
Here’s a feature not to skimp on. Lifting a big roasting pan out of the oven is no easy task, but large, securely riveted handles make it more comfortable to grab and maneuver the pan.
Look for a Removable Rack
Roasting meat on a rack keeps the meat dry even as juices run out. That ensures the crispiest skin on the meat—and as a bonus, the drippings in the pan will get extra succulent as they cook alongside the meat. When the roast is done, you can easy lift the meat out, leaving the pan free for reducing the drippings to a gravy. Look for a rack that sits a couple inches over the pan, so you can cook vegetables under the meat. Be sure the rack has handles, too.
Want more shopping help? See what appliances and gadgets our Test Kitchen recommends!