Roasting Pans

Note: Cook's Country continuously updates our equipment reviews and taste tests. The written content below is the most up-to-date information available and may not match what appears in the video segment.

From Cook's Country | December/January 2014

Overview:

A handsome, heavy-duty roasting pan bearing a big holiday roast—what could be more iconic? But twice-a-year employment for an item that can cost $300 (or more) never made any sense to us, which is why we were glad to find our previous winner. This sturdy, roomy workhorse impressed us with even browning and an ability to withstand high-heat searing on the stovetop. Luckily, the manufacturer of our previously winning roasting pan hasn’t changed a thing about the pan since we discovered it in 2006, not even the price.

So why are we fixing what ain’t broke? Cookware companies are constantly coming out with new roasting pans. Our search turned up six other contenders, costing $18 and up, including a $200 model that we tested to see if spending more meant better performance. Materials ranged from all aluminum to enamel-coated steel, plain stainless steel, a tri-ply construction of stainless steel sandwiching a core of aluminum. All models were at least 12 inches wide and 16 inches long and came with racks.

We started by roasting 2… read more

A handsome, heavy-duty roasting pan bearing a big holiday roast—what could be more iconic? But twice-a-year employment for an item that can cost $300 (or more) never made any sense to us, which is why we were glad to find our previous winner. This sturdy, roomy workhorse impressed us with even browning and an ability to withstand high-heat searing on the stovetop. Luckily, the manufacturer of our previously winning roasting pan hasn’t changed a thing about the pan since we discovered it in 2006, not even the price.

So why are we fixing what ain’t broke? Cookware companies are constantly coming out with new roasting pans. Our search turned up six other contenders, costing $18 and up, including a $200 model that we tested to see if spending more meant better performance. Materials ranged from all aluminum to enamel-coated steel, plain stainless steel, a tri-ply construction of stainless steel sandwiching a core of aluminum. All models were at least 12 inches wide and 16 inches long and came with racks.

We started by roasting 2 pounds of potatoes coated in olive oil in each pan to see which materials browned evenly. Plain stainless steel was the worst, leaving spuds at the center pale while those at the edges overbrowned. Thin, enamel-coated steel pans weren’t much better. Pans of stainless steel plus aluminum distributed the heat more evenly across their surfaces; most browned well. As for the all-aluminum pan, its dark surface browned evenly but very quickly: Its contents were deeply golden brown (the potatoes were perfect) in half of the time that the other pans took.

These results were repeated when we seared pork loins in the pans over a medium-high flame on the stovetop: The thin stainless-steel model buckled and burned, blackening the pan surface. We tried again over lower heat, but that didn’t get a very nice sear on the meat. One enamel-coated steel pan fared even worse, blackening and making a popping noise as its enamel cracked and a few pieces of enamel fell off. (We got a second copy of this pan and lowered the flame, which helped.) And after their interiors blackened, these two pans were impossible to get completely clean; the rest cleaned up easily. Though tri-ply pans were heavier to maneuver, they heated steadily on the stovetop, never warping or buckling, leaving golden-brown crusts on the pork—ditto the all-aluminum pan.

Moving the pans was about more than weight. Large, easy to grip handles made a difference, as did pan shape. One sizable, boxy pan was awkward and heavy—not fun when we had to pour out hot drippings. The enamel-coated steel pans were lightweight, but their handles, also enameled, were slippery and small. Pans with big handles facing upward gave us a sure grip with potholders and helped us transfer the pan steadily, whether it held 2 pounds of potatoes or a 19-pound turkey.

But hoisting pans laden with big birds pointed to another factor: how well the racks fit. Some were much more secure and snug than others. Racks much smaller than their corresponding pans lurched and slid when we moved the heavy turkey. One traveled nearly 6 inches with a bird and hot drippings.

Deglazing drippings in the pans made us appreciate those with flat, or nearly flat, bottoms rather than deep grooves. And while the dark anodized surface of the aluminum pan yielded darker roasted bits, verging on scorched, the tri-ply pans’ lighter finish provided golden-brown fond that worked perfectly for gravy. (We could also monitor browning more easily in lighter pans.)

We’re sticking with our previously winning roasting pan and rack. Whether roasting a turkey, browning potatoes, or searing a pork loin, it gave us great results. For an even more budget-friendly alternative, get our Best Buy, made by the same manufacturer as our winning model.

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Roasting Pans

We went looking for a model that we’d want to use all the time, not just twice a year.

Watch the Video

  • Product Tested

    Results Key:

    Good ★ ★ ★ Fair ★ ★ Poor
  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Highly Recommended - Winner

    Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Roasting Pan with Rack

    This reasonably priced pan wins again. The tri-ply construction made it sturdy and reliable for stovetop searing and delivered even, consistent browning. The handles were roomy and secure, even with potholders. The U-shaped rack was slightly loose in the pan—a minor drawback.

    • Performance ★★★
    • Design and Handling ★★★

    $99.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended

    Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless 16" Roasting Pan with Rack

    This pan vied closely with our winner, searing pork loin nicely without buckling or burning and putting an even, golden-brown crust on potatoes. It held a 19-pound turkey easily and its flat bottom aided deglazing. The rack fit snugly, but its handles line up with the pan’s, making it tricky for unloading—our sole quibble.

    • Performance ★★★
    • Design and Handling ★★½

    $129.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended - Best Buy

    Calphalon Commercial Hard-Anodized Roasting Pan with Nonstick Rack

    A great choice at about half of the price of our winner. This anodized aluminum pan browned potatoes quickly and made dark fond (so we had to watch it closely). It withstood stovetop heat without buckling, and its completely flat bottom was great for deglazing. The only drawback: Its handles flare inward and got in the way when we flipped the turkey (our method for ensuring even roasting).

    • Performance ★★½
    • Design and Handling ★★½

    $59.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with reservations

    Le Creuset 17" x 13¾" Roasting Set

    Though it browned evenly and made great fond, this pricey pan was big, heavy, and boxy, making it awkward and tricky for pouring off drippings. Its rack slid in every direction as we moved the pan—scary when laden with hot drippings and a 19-pound turkey. For athletic cooks only.

    • Performance ★★★
    • Design and Handling

    $199.99

  • Not Recommended

    Cuisinart Chef’s Classic 16" Roasting Pan with Rack

    This all-steel pan was hotter on the edges and cooler in the middle, browning potatoes unevenly and rendering little fond from roasting turkey. It was roomy but so flimsy that we could twist it with our hands, and it blackened on the stovetop in no time flat.

    • Performance
    • Design and Handling ★½

    $61.29

  • Not Recommended

    Granite-Ware Open Rectangle Roaster with Non-Stick V-Rack

    Potatoes came out striped from the bottom’s raised grooves and overbrowned around the pan’s edges. The grooves got in the way when we deglazed. The pan withstood stovetop use only if we kept the flame at medium-low. Its handles were small and slippery, and its too-small V-shaped rack slid. A 19-pound turkey would not fit.

    • Performance ★½
    • Design and Handling

    $17.48

  • Not Recommended

    Rachael Ray 16.5 Inch Roaster with Rack

    This thin, lightweight pan buckled on the stove, and enamel pieces sheared off. (A replacement pan held up better.) Channels on the bottom impeded gravy making and left stripes on potatoes. The pan’s low enamel handles were impossible to grab—testers dropped the pan twice. Potatoes roasted unevenly, and fond from turkey was too dark.

    • Performance ★½
    • Design and Handling

    $49.99

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