How to Choose the Right Roasting Pan


If you are confused about choosing the right roasting pan, you came to the right place. When I first began to get serious about cooking, I already had a cheap roasting pan that I had used but I knew that I needed better equipment.

So after doing research I felt better about what I’m looking for, and once I purchased a quality roasting pan I never looked back. It is interesting to note that most cooks only consider a roasting pan when one is needed for the Thanksgiving turkey. And to be honest, that is why I originally bought one.

A roasting pan that is high quality will make your cooking experience a better one, and I learned that after finally using a good pan and moving away from the one I spent 20 bucks on. It is a big decision to invest in a high quality roasting pan, but once you experience the difference in your cooking and in your cleanup you will not look back!

What About the Size?

The size of the roasting pan does matter. The food should be able to get into the pan comfortably without being in contact with the sides. There should be enough space once the food is in to allow air circulation, and so the underside turns brown.

Try not to use pans that are too large as this will make the poultry and meat juices burn because there is too much surface for the juice to accumulate. You don’t want a thin layer along the bottom of the pan because it will burn easier, you want it to “pool up” a bit. Of course if you add herbs or vegetables alongside the roast, then you can opt for very big pans.  My pan is pretty big and I often cook small stuff in it, so that is exactly what I do…I just add a bunch of veggies and I’m good to go!

What About the Depth?

The roasting pan’s height is crucial as you really need it to be deep enough for a few reasons. Its height should be sufficient when braising to avoid hot splashes or if you are using it often as a water bath. Having too high sides will cause the hot air to quickly rise and food will not be cooked properly and cooked through thoroughly.

The side height should be 3 to 4 inches so that the drippings will be grabbed easily by the pan. Potatoes and vegetables will be accommodated in this depth of the roasting pan as well.

Ever roast something and get alot of smoke?  That is likely because the juices are splashing around and hitting the bottom of your oven!  If you use a pan with sides that are high enough, that won’t be an issue.

Shape is Important Too!

A rectangular pan is generally the most effective one. Try to buy one that has its corners rounded as reaching in is made easier when making sauce or gravy, like the Cuisinart roasting pan.  This is because the rounded corners make it easier to handle when you use a whisk in the pan when working with the gravy.

Use the Ruler before Being Ruled by Wrong Pan Some of us succumb into impulsive buying and this includes buying a pan that is not appropriate for the size of the oven. There is nothing worse than bringing home a pan that doesn’t fit in the oven, so make sure you do a bit of homework before you buy anything.

The oven’s internal dimensions should be measured to ensure that then pan you buy fits properly. When you measure, make sure the width that you measure is the narrowest width.

Measurement Labels

Don’t forget this step before you buy a big roasting pan! The measurement labels on pans are often misleading, and if you read some Amazon reviews in particular of some products you will see some people complain about this. The pan’s interior is the usual reference for these measurements, but the additional thickness of the walls of the pan makes a difference in the last measurement of the pan. Because of this the pan will sometimes not fit.

While the thickness of the pan is usually so small that is doesn’t matter, the handles are actually the biggest concern. Make sure you include the handles in measuring the dimensions of the pan as this can increase the pan’s height and/or width quite a bit.

Make Sure you Get a Hold on the Handle

Roasting pans also differs when it comes to handles. When it comes down to it, the design of the handles is a matter of preference.

Some pans have handles that horizontally extend out from the pan’s sides that makes ease in holding them. However, the oven’s cooking area is reduced when you have these kinds of handles because these types of handles ultimately increase the overall size.

The Calphalon pan, pictured to the right, has horizontal handles but they curve in towards the pan.  This is to prevent the pan from taking up unnecessary room in the oven. Another kind is the one that rises up vertically. This is normally space saving but it makes lifting

out of the oven a more difficult job. You can easily get burned when you have vertical handles like this because the handles are closer to the heat element at the top of the oven. The best thing to do is to have both kinds of pans for different recipes. Buy a pan that does not

have handles for cooking light foods that make lifting in and out of the oven an easy task, like chicken thighs or a small roast. On the other hand, buy another that has handles to carry the weight of a large turkey or ham.

Heavy or Light?

A heavy roasting pan has many benefits over a lightweight pan. A lightweight pan is not as safe to use as it easily twists and warps. If you are handling the pan when it’s not and it twists, the juice could spatter at you. A heavier pan will result in a better cooking process overall, as this produces an evenly distributed heat.

A heavier pan will also work better when you are moving the pan from the oven to the stove top to deglaze the pan and make a sauce. A thin pan will not take the heat from the burners at all so if you’re pan is thin and not heavy-duty you will not be able to do this.

Choose Your Own Metal

Cooking needs a metal that is safe for food preparation. The best two metals are the heavy stainless steel and copper.

There is aesthetic beauty to enamel-coated cast iron but is usually too heavy for handling. Aluminum can warp easily and is reactive with any acidic ingredient.

Anodized aluminum is good for cooking but its dark surface makes it difficult for you to judge whether the food is cooked already. Complete cooking is indicated when juices of meat or chicken are running clear and this is difficult to see when the pan is dark.

Are Non-Stick Roasting Pans a Good Choice?

Cooking is generally easier when non-stick surfaces are used. This is best when omelets and pancakes are prepared, but of course this only applies to saute’ and omelet pans and not roasting pans. The cleanup is usually a breeze as well.  But in my opinion, you do not need your roasting pan to be non-stick at all.

Non-stick is not fit in roasting especially if you cook gravy in it as well. Easy pan deglazing requires a “sticky” surface and this cannot be provided by a non-stick pan. Good flavor is developed when the juices of the meat “stick” and cook in the pan, and this will not happen in a non-stick pan. In general good roasters are not non-stick.  This is what you want to get.

Rack Inclusion

It is your personal preference to include a rack in a roasting can. There are both advantages and disadvantages in including a rack in a roasting pan.

Using a rack can prevent a chicken or turkey’s underside from becoming wet and sloppy, for example. Air circulation encourages good, even roasting and drippings will drop more freely and collect better for making a sauce.

On the other hand, a rack can make lifting the meat out of the pan a little more difficult because it can be awkward if what you are cooking is large. It’s also possible that the juices can disappear and burn.

My opinion?  Get a rack and use it!  Then see what you think.  I use mine all the time. There are other options for a rack, like sitting your food on a vegetable bed. Also keep in mind you can also get a flat-rack which sits on the pan’s floor.

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