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Roasting Pan: Le Creuset vs. Stainless Steel

Looks like I'll be cooking a standing rib roast for Xmas. Looking at the current roasting pan I know it's time for a new one. I cook probably 2-3 turkeys &/or roasts a year so it's not a high priority item but I do want it to function well.

I narrowed down my choices to stainless steel or a Le Creuset... (maybe a Calaphalon hard-anodized). I know all three are more difficult to clean compared to non-stick but I don't like non-stick from de-glazing.

My preference is Le Creuset because it can double up for some uses and be put on the table and look okay. My main question is how well does Le Creuset work on the stove top for de-glazing and making gravy? I assume you can put it on the stove top. Thanks for any info.

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  1. I own a large LC roasting pan (Yay for closing down sales otherwise it would have been unaffordable) that I use for all my roasts. It being cast iron it performs equally well on the stove as in the oven. Remember that stainless steel is a lousy heat conductor, you'll be far better off with either anodized aluminum or cast iron.

    The only issue you might have with the LC is weight. For me that's not a problem but my wife finds the pan heavy.

    1. CI rates the All Clad #1, but who wants to pay $250 for a roasting pan? Whatever you do, do not buy non stick that comes with the rack, not prudent as the surface disintegrates.

      For quality, LC is always first rate, but the weight is an issue for a pan that size to some. Good pans are all expensive, but you definitely want something you can use metal utensils in.

      You can also use this pan for lasagna, hence you'll want to be able to cut the thing without damaging a non stick surface. I lent my Costco non stick roaster to a neighbor, and it promptly came back scratched after instructing them not to use a knife on it.

      1. Sur La Table used to have an outstanding fully clad stainless/aluminum/stainless roaster that was only $100 for the large and $80 for the small--half the price of All Clad's all stainless roaster.

        For some reason, they're discontinuing it. It's no longer on their website, and both Chicago stores were sold out of the large pans and only had the small ones left.

        If you can find one left in stock at your local SLT, it definately would be worth a look.

        1. I'm curious about this roasting pan issue. I use an old, 11x16x2", seems to be aluminum or
          some junk metal, pan that was probably originally sold to cook lasagna. This is what I roast
          meat in. It's big enough for most reasonable sized turkeys, a leg of lamb, and any beef
          roast I could possibly afford. It seems to work just fine.

          My question is, and I'm not trying to be sarcastic here I genuinely would like to know,
          am I missing something by roasting in this 20 year old, $5 pan from Woolworths?

          The part of my brain that remembers the thermodynamics course in college tells me
          that heat conductivity is not an issue in a standard roasting situation. And I can
          toss it onto the stove afterwards for some gravy production. And if something bad
          happens I can scrape real hard and shoot it with some Easy-Off oven cleaner and throw
          it into the dishwasher next day, all with the impunity that comes with a $5 pan. What does a
          $250 All Clad get me?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

            The benefit is in the initial sear and the gravy making. A pan that heats evenly will make both tasks easy. I also want a sturdy pan for the roast to be secure in.

            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

              As Andreas mentioned it helps w/ searing or gravy making/de-glazing.

              Today I used a porcelain enamel roasting pan for the rib roast. (I don't even recall how I came to own it.) Any way, tt worked fine in the oven but on the stove you could see the pronounced hot spot where the burner was underneath.

              In a LC or multi-layer All Clad the heat would dispurse evenly, heat slower, give you more control and thus be less likely to burn. With the hot spot I couldn't turn it up as high and I had to constantly be stirring in that area to keep from burning Not a huge deal but I was doing three things at once so more control is better.

              Any way, I did some searching on the web and you can get a large LC enamel/cast iron roasting pan for $100. I'd rather have LC over stainless because you get the benefit of looks and you can put it on the table.

              1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                OK, so the advantages of the extremely-high-priced roasting pans are on the
                stovetop, not in the oven? And the note below about "radiant energy from the sides of
                the heavier pans improved browning." ? That's voodoo, isn't it? The "radiant energy"
                is more accurately called "heat". And in an oven, the source of heat is not the pan
                it's the oven. 90% of the roast is not in contact with the pan anyway, the main job
                of the pan is sitting there catching drippings.

                OK, so color me dubious about these extremely-high-priced slabs of metal.

              2. The NY Times tested roasting pans in 2003 and put KitchenAid first, followed by All-Clad and Bourgeat. If price is critical, they recommended Tramonitina.

                The story said that radiant energy from the sides of the heavier pans improved browning. I'm not so sure of that, but certainly the heavier pans conduct heat more evenly and can be deglazed on the stovetop without hot spots.

                The Times story is at http://select.nytimes.com/search/rest... but you have pay a $45/year fee for access.

                I got the large All-Clad, which is great for turkeys and other huge items, but I don't use it very often. I get equal results roasting chickens in a heavy metal-handle 12" WearEver skillet.

                Offhand, I think a Le Creuset pan big enough to hold a standing rib-roast would be almost too heavy to handle just by itself, let along with the roast in it, and I would worry about whether it would produce a good fond or, being cast iron inside, would deglaze without hot spots.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KRS

                  But one of the main benefits of cast iron is that there'll be no hot spots and perfect deglazing. That's the entire point of using a heavy cast iron pan. We had a rib roast for 12 this evening and the LC pan performed admirably, both for the roasting and the fond. We'll be making stock from the bones and leftovers, for the traditional New Year's Eve French onion soup.

                2. The big disadvantage of the current All-Clad models and many other brands of stainless roasting pans is that they are now designed with a moat around the outside edge. This may be useful when roasting, as the fat flows to the side, but it's a major flaw when it comes to deglazing, as your deglazing liquid does the same thing. When reducing the liquid, you either end up constantly tilting the pan on the burner to hasten reduction and prevent the centre from scorching (hard to do while you're also trying to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan) or you dump the liquid into a saucepan for reducing. This was a deal breaker for me.

                  Also, the All-Clad is prone to hot spots, since it's not clad at all but 100% stainless. Someone should sue them for misrepresentation. ;)

                  1. I have at least 6 pans that I use for roasting, not counting my cast iron skillet which works great for a chicken. They range from a large Pilluvuyt to a gigantic commercial covered roaster which doesn't even fit into my current convection oven.
                    The one that I use the most for turkeys and large roasts is the $30 model with rack that I bought at Costco. It seems to have some kind of non-stick coating which has some minor scratches after about 10 years but that hardly affects performance. It is thick and doesn't have hot spots when I use it stove-top to deglaze the pan or make a roux for gravy with the drippings. My sister bought a similar one at Linens & Things for about the same price and I have seen many like it for $50 or less.
                    I really can't see spending more for something that isn't in everyday use if you can get something perfectly adequate for less. Additionally, the weight of the LC added to the weight of a large turkey or roast is a potential danger at high heat. Just handling it to pour the gravy out into a sauceboat is awkward when it's hot.
                    I have spent an embarrassing amount on other pieces of kitchen equipment but not this one.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Don't you find that using non stick in this situation will reduce your caramelization and thus the flavor of your gravy?

                      1. re: andreas

                        Since caramelization is a sugar oxidation and meat is protein, how can there be any
                        caramelization at all in any pan?

                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                          Most animal muscle is roughly 75% water, 20% protein, and 5% fat, carbohydrates, and assorted proteins. Browning occurs when the denatured proteins on the surface of the meat recombine with the sugars present. The combination creates the "meaty" flavor and changes the color.

                        2. re: andreas

                          Not at all.
                          Caramelization doesn't depend on the pan or even on oil. I can melt sugar in a teflon skillet for caramel for flan. A roux can be made in any kind of a pot because you are just browning the flour in fat.
                          Frankly, you could remove all of the drippings from a roasting pan and make the gravy in another pan altogether as our grandmothers probably did if they used those old graniteware roasters. That was great gravy, wasn't it?

                          And meat is more than just protein, Chuckles. It has other compounds. I imagine that the sugar is lactose or glucose which react with the protein to caramelize. It's called the Maillard reaction. See explanations in Cookwise by Shirley Corriher.

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            I know about Maillard. But that's not "caramelization", it's the Maillard reaction.
                            Are we going to start calling toast "caramelized bread" soon?

                            But more to andreas' point: I've had trouble getting onions to do anything
                            other than to turn mushy and translucent white in a non-stick frying pan, while
                            they go all nice and brown in the cast iron. Which is probably what he/she is
                            talking about. Not a problem with the $5 woolworths pan in any case.

                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                              According to Corriher's discussion of the Maillard reaction in Cookwise, I guess it is "caramelized bread." She describes the process as "a series of complex reactions between certain sugars and proteins that produce...caramel-tasting brown products...named after Dr. L. C. Maillard, who first described them."

                              I agree that everything sautees better and gets a better color in cast iron or steel than in non-stick, LC enamel, or in stainless for that matter. It does pretty well in my old Calphalon, not as well in the new stuff.
                              I can produce a decent mirepoix without it going mushy however as long as I don't crowd the pan. And I can make a fine medium roux which is what I like for a good gravy.

                            2. re: MakingSense

                              >>> Frankly, you could remove all of the drippings from a roasting pan and make the gravy in another pan altogether as our grandmothers probably did if they used those old graniteware roasters. That was great gravy, wasn't it? <<<

                              Graniteware or enamelware quite frankly is the old standby still available today. Even jailbird Martha Steward has a line. Unfortunately their costs today is placing them on the hate list for normal cooks. Unless you get the 18 quart electric roaster, that is about the only cooking appliance that remains bargain today.

                        3. thanks everybody for chiming in. I love learning about the science of food and this thread has been educational. So, here is my current understanding of it all:

                          When you heat food, two kinds of non enzymatic browning reactions occor:

                          1. Caramelization. This is the oxidation of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. This happens when the natural sugars in both meats and vegetables are used as reactins and this is what I was referring to. Caramelization is partly responsible for the tasty dark stuff (to give it it's scientific name) that accumulates at the bottom of the pan. Non stick pans are notoriously bad at creating this tasty goo, simply because nothing sticks to them.

                          2. The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction between an amino acid and a reducing sugar, usually requiring the addition of heat. Like caramelization, it is a form of non-enzymatic browning. The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar interacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and interesting but poorly characterized odour and flavour molecules result. This process accelerates in an alkaline environment because the amino groups do not neutralize. This reaction is the basis of the flavouring industry, since the type of amino acid determines the resulting flavour.
                          In the process, hundreds of different flavour compounds are created. These compounds in turn break down to form yet more new flavour compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavour compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavour scientists have used over the years to create artificial flavours.
                          Although used since ancient times, the reaction is named after the chemist Louis-Camille Maillard who investigated it in the 1910s.

                          Source: Wikipedia

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: andreas

                            More science than we really need to deal with. And some that didn't come from any source either.
                            Your statement that "Non stick pans are notoriously bad at creating this tasty goo, simply because nothing sticks to them" is not from Wiki, the source that you cite, and contradicts your own earlier statement that "Browning occurs when the denatured proteins on the surface of the meat recombine with the sugars present. The combination creates the "meaty" flavor and changes the color."

                            Excellent gravy can be produced from the drippings from many types of pans as Chuckles and others have pointed out. I make gravy successfully with drippings from several types of pans including cast iron, graniteware and a non-stick roaster. You rightly prefer yours.

                            The OP was asking for guidance and several of us simply opined that price and type may not matter that much for an infrequently-used piece of kitchen equipment, and that the science of browning/caramelization/Maillard/whatever in gravy-making doesn't necessarily dictate one purchase over another.

                            1. re: MakingSense

                              Relax - I was simply summarizing my understanding of the matter, together with my personal experience. There was no dogmatism there. I didn't know that I was back at school where I had to quote all sources.

                              In my opinion - and it's just an opinion - and experience non stick isn't as good for making gravy as other options available. Your mileage varies and that's fine.
                              I find that I am using my LC pan for lots of other purposes too, from making baked beans to using it as a large braising pan.

                              1. re: andreas

                                Sorry, didn't mean to sound cross. I reacted to you closing your post with a note that you were sourcing from Wiki which isn't always 100%.
                                We are generally in agreement however. Non-stick just doesn't work for searing, sauteeing, browning, etc. or when you have to depend on a fond for deglazing or intend to make a pan sauce. That's tough even in my AllClad and Spring stainless. Nothing like cast iron or steel.