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 properly cooked
foods and 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
How Big Should It Be?
A roasting pan should be a good size so that food can fit into
it without touching the sides. Once the food is in, there should
also be enough space to allow the air to circulate and brown the
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 would 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. This is because a large amount of
exposed pan will encourage the meat or poultry juices to burn.
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.
pans are pretty, especially if you’re using oven-to-table wear -
but you do lose out on space.
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
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.
Get a Handle on it!
While we’re on the subject of handles, you have a choice and
it’s down to personal preference. Some handles extend out
horizontally from the sides of the pan which make them easy to
hold but their placement will reduce your cooking area inside
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
The best bet 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.
A Weighty Decision
A heavy roasting pan will serve you well for two main reasons. A
lightweight pan that twists or warps will not wear well but
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.
The second reason is the cooking process. A
heavier pan will give you a good, even distribution of heat so
that the drippings from the roast won’t burn and spoil your
subsequent gravy or sauce.
What is the Best Metal?
The two best choices are a good, heavy stainless steel or
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.
Should I go for Non Stick?
Non stick surfaces can be extremely helpful in some cooking, for
example when making omelets or pancakes. They also make for easy
However, in roasting, non stick 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. Non stick
would prevent this process.
Also, non stick surfaces are dark in color and as we have
already seen, this isn’t helpful when cooking roasts.
If you do decide to go for non stick, don’t forget to get
utensils such as scrapers and whisks that are
non-stick-friendly, to avoid damaging the surface.
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 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 then
• It helps drippings to drip!
Reasons against 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
• 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