The Right Tool for the Task: Roasting Pans and Roasting Racks
A heavy duty, high quality roasting pan is an essential piece of cookware especially around the holidays. Add a roasting rack and you’re ready to roast turkey, goose, beef roast or ham for a holiday buffet and chicken for a weekday dinner.
If you’re shopping for a new roasting pan or roasting rack, here are the three key things to consider:
• Size – Measure your oven to ensure the roasting pan will fit. Measure the roasting pan to ensure the rack will fit. Choose a pan and rack that will hold the largest Thanksgiving turkey or holiday roast you plan to serve. Often, roasting pans come with a roasting rack.
• Weight – A heavy-duty roasting pan is better but may weigh too much. Make sure you can safely lift and transport a fully loaded roasting pan to and from the oven.
• Material and construction – For the roasting pan, choose from many brands and options including nonstick, anodized aluminum, stainless steel and tri-ply. Each has its pros and cons. For the roasting rack, many cooks like a nonstick model that’s easy to clean.
How to Choose a Roasting Pan
Before you do anything else, measure your oven’s length, width and height. The right sized pan lets air circulate freely on all four sides. Allow at least 2 inches of space between the sides of the pan and the oven walls.
Length and Width: When you measure the pan’s length, include the handles. For example, our CHEFS Essentials Tri-ply Roasting Pan is 17 inches long without the handles and 19-1/2 inches long with the handles. Also, consider what you plan to cook in the pan. If it’s strictly for your Thanksgiving turkey, choose a pan that holds the largest bird you plan to roast. The meat should not touch the sides of the pan. For proper air circulation, allow 2 inches of space between the sides of the pan and the bird or meat.
Depth: The pan’s height affects roasting time. Most roasting pans are around 3 inches deep. Deeper pans increase cooking time because hot air has a harder time flowing around the poultry or meat. Conversely, shallower pans cook meat faster.
Heavier is usually better and safer as long as you can lift the pan. When lifted, heftier roasting pans loaded with meat and drippings are less likely to warp, twist or flex.
Is the pan too heavy? To see, add the pan’s weight to the weight of the turkey or meat you’re planning to roast. Then answer the question: “Can I lift the total weight and safely move the loaded roasting plan into or out of my oven?”
For safety, handles should be large, securely attached to the pan and easy to grasp while using thick oven mitts or potholders.
Material and Construction
Pros: Interior surface is easy to clean. Great if you don’t need brown and crisp drippings for gravy or sauce. Pick your favorite exterior: aluminum, stainless steel or tri-ply.
Cons: Drippings won’t brown or crisp for gravies and sauces. Interior may scratch when using metal utensils. May not be dishwasher safe.
Brands to consider: CHEFS Essentials, Calphalon, Swiss Diamond, Chef’sDesign, Scanpan, Nordic Ware
» Hard Anodized Aluminum
Pros: Durable and quick heating. Makes brown and crisp drippings for gravies and sauces.
Cons: Aluminum is a reactive cooking surface and not recommended for cooking acidic foods like tomatoes. Dark interior speeds up cooking. May not be dishwasher safe.
Brands to consider: Calphalon, Scanpan, Swiss Diamond
» Stainless Steel
Pros: Widely available in many sizes, weights and price ranges. Durable. Nonreactive cooking surface. Makes brown and crisp drippings for gravies and sauces. Dishwasher safe.
Cons: If too lightweight, bottom may warp or twist when you lift the pan. May have hot spots especially along the edges.
Brands to consider: CHEFS Essentials, All-Clad, Norpro Krona, Camerons, Granite Ware, KitchenAid
Pros: Heats quickly and evenly. Uses the best qualities of different metals: a fast-heating layer of aluminum or copper sandwiched between durable and nonreactive stainless steel. Makes brown and crisp drippings for gravies and sauces. Dishwasher-safe.
Cons: Limited sizes. Heavy. More expensive.
Brands to consider: CHEFS Essentials, Calphalon
» Enameled Cast Iron
Pros: Heats evenly and retains heat beautifully. Makes brown and crisp drippings for gravies and sauces. Dishwasher-safe.
Cons: Very heavy. Limited sizes. More expensive.
Brands to consider: Le Creuset
Pros: Heats evenly and retains heat beautifully. Makes brown and crisp drippings for gravies and sauces. Good for high heat roasting. Dishwasher-safe.
Cons: Limited sizes. May break or crack if dropped or hit against hard surface.
Brands to consider: CHEFS, Emile Henry, Le Creuset, HIC,
How to Choose a Roasting Rack
Roasting racks raise poultry and meat above the pan’s bottom, allowing oven heat to flow freely around the entire surface. Meat browns instead of steams, creating crispier skin that seals in juices and a well-browned exterior on all four sides. Fat and drippings collect on the pan bottom and brown while the meat roasts. Many roasting pans come with a roasting rack.
A V-shaped rack cradles poultry or meat, helping it keep its shape during roasting. The V-shape also gives you room to cook vegetables alongside the meat and to access fat and drippings during roasting. Flat racks work well when roasting ham, fish, loins and odd-shaped cuts of meat.
You’ll find nonstick racks and uncoated racks – both work equally well during roasting. Many cooks prefer an easy to clean nonstick rack.
Buy a rack with large handles that you can grip securely with bulky oven mitts or potholders. In general, handles set along a roasting rack’s long side will make lifting safer and easier.