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Roasting pans - do I need one, and if so, what's the cheapest I can get away with?

I'd like to try roasting some leaner meats this autumn - poultry, pork loin, etc. I'm not really looking to capture juices for gravy. Do I still need a roasting pan? I assume that suspending meat on a rack helps it cook more evenly rather than having one side flat on a pan. If so, what's the cheapest I can get away with? They look pretty expensive on Amazon.

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  1. You can roast in of those disposable aluminum pans.
    No difference.

    8 Replies
    1. re: monku

      Yeah, the aluminum foil ones work great... unless you want to:

      --save money;
      --scrape the pan;
      --take it somewhere in polite company;
      --have more fun;
      --have it not give birth to your roast on the floor;
      --have it not react with the food;
      --clean and reuse it;
      --teach someone to cook;
      --serve from it;
      --care about the environment; or
      --pass it on to someone you love.

      Other than those little things, disposable foil roasting pans are superb.

      1. re: kaleokahu

        "pass it on to someone you love."
        I've been to group functions where people bring food in those disposable aluminum pans and they end up just tossing them out. I pick them up clean them and use them later to bring food to those kind of functions.

        1. re: monku

          Good for you, monku, that's very laudable from an environmental (mitigation) standpoint. But with respect, you're probably 1 in a million. And those other 999,999 pans are en route to some landfill, with 1M more in a warehouse, 1M more at the smelter, and 10M more ALREADY in the landfill.

          Now, your daughter's getting married.... You decide to give her a family heirloom... Is it Grandma's beautiful cast iron roaster or your scavenged tin foil pan?

          1. re: kaleokahu

            I don't think I'm one in a million, I see other people doing it at the same functions...luckily there are plenty to go around so there's no fighting.

            You know what, a little soap and water and those tin foil pans look brand new. I've probably got a dozen in my cabinet, just waiting for that special occasion.

            She can have her choice, I bought a beautiful roasting pan on sale at Macy's for $10 last year.

            1. re: c oliver

              monku & C oliver:

              LOL, you both must be gentler than I am. I've tried recycling the foil ones (because I don't yet have a real one large enough for anything greater than a goose). After doing the Wet Worm dance trying to keep it inside the lines, washing it , pulling it out to baste/test a few times, and banging it around on the sideboard, she's metal-fatigued like a pop can. Maybe you have self-cleaning ovens, I do it my-self.

              Please, by all means, ENCOURAGE folks to fight over used foil pans. League sports, Vegas betting? Card girls? Maybe Don King's there already.

              And monku, I know which one your daughter will want.

          2. re: kaleokahu

            That's a great list!

            I guess I'm just not into disposable. That said, I guess it depends on what you consider roasting? You can roast a turkey in a relatively inexpensive aluminum (not disposable) roasting pan. Did it for years before we got a nice SS pan that's a little more heavy duty. I can't say that I can taste the difference. Now if you are talking about making a pot roast, or something along those lines, it's going to get more expensive and I really like a Dutch Oven for this.

            1. re: mikie

              Mikie: Yes of course you are completely right. The actual ROASTING in an open pan goes pretty well no matter what you use. It's what happens before and after that makes a difference.

              I don't know about the pot roast. I nearly bit the other day on some slick, disposable aluminum drop-in liners for my camp DO. AS long as it has a lid on it, I don't drool any less at the prospect of a good pot roast done in tin foil than in cast iron. Just don't burn/spill/pollute it on a campfire in JUST foil, I say.

        2. If you have a big skillet/saute pan that is ovenproof and whatever you are roasting will fit, use that. Pork tenderloin, chicken should fit depending on the size pan of course.
          A roasting rack is nice, but not necessary...if you are roasting veg with the protein, put the protein on top of the veg.
          A roasting rack isn't something I wouldn't spend a lot of money on. Also, if you aren't looking to put the roasting pan on a burner for something like making gravy, I don't think you need to spend much on a roasting pan either...check restaurant supply stores. I have used half sheet pans/jelly roll pans to roast things that dont fit in one of my skillets and has come out just fine. Conduction isn't so much an issue since it is going in an oven and not a burner. Not sure if the cheap non-stick roasting pans would stand up to hot ovens after many uses.

          2 Replies
          1. re: dcole

            For years I used a 9x13 pan for almost everything except huge birds. And before I could afford a rack (I was an impoverished single mom raising kids and going to college so I could get a job) I crumpled up (used) aluminum foil in a ring and used it for a rack.

            1. re: dcole

              I've made racks by forming aluminum foil into an appropriately sized "donut."

            2. I feel sad when I read posts by people who think they dare not cook unless first they go and buy out Williams-Sonoma. This is like saying "I'd like to take a bath but I can't afford a Jacuzzi or steam shower". And BTW if you need cooking equipment and don't have a lot of money, consider estate sales. Google "estate sales [and the name of your city or nearest city] and you will get hits describing upcoming sales where often very good kitchen stuff goes dirt cheap---I once got four Henckel knives for a dollar apiece.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Querencia

                Such a great point. Sam Fujisaka used to preach that regularly. A bad cook will cook badly no matter the tools. An inspired, fledgling cook can do wonders with almost anything. Thanks, Querencia.

                1. re: Querencia

                  Querencia: "This is like saying "I'd like to take a bath but I can't afford a Jacuzzi or steam shower""

                  No, not only is is NOT like that, but no one here is saying "...they dare not cook [except in] Williams-Sonoma"

                  So please don't be sad.

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    I really think that much of Williams-Sonoma's merchandise is overpriced. And I believe in the adage, you get what you pay for. That said, I've seen similarl or same merchandise at Amazon, Chef's, etc. that command much lower prices that what WS demands.

                    1. re: GibsonGirl55

                      Totally. I think we're all mostly ! in agreement that rarely is WS a good deal.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Yep, sorta like buying your lanai junk from Frontgate.

                2. I use large and medium cast iron skillets, as well as Pyrex bakeware.

                  I only pull out the roasting pan when I'm doing a full rib roast or a turkey.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jaykayen

                    Took the words right out of my mouth. In my case that means I only use the big (cheap enameled aluminum) pan at Thanksgiving and at Christmas. I was mulling over the purchase of a better quality roasting pan some years ago, but once I discovered the spectacular results I got from the cast iron skillet for chicken and smaller roasts, I dropped the idea. If I were routinely cooking for more than two, I could see it, but I'm perfectly happy with the cast iron skillets, the pyrex, and the enameled dutch oven for 99% of my oven cooking.

                  2. If you want a roasting pan that will be versatile, sturdy, light and cheap at the same time, go to Walmart or your nearest discount home store and look for something called graniteware. It is the black or navy or red and white mottled enameled aluminum stuff that is similar to what you see used to make coffee pots for camping.

                    I have used one that has built-in ridges on the bottom that form a rack of their own for 20 years. I took it from my mother's house after she used it for many years. They are light, cheap and much sturdier than those dangerous disposable things (don't get me started on spilled oil and gravy when the pans warp with a heavy bird in them). You can even put them stove top for making pan gravy. The ones I have seem lately are large oval models that come with a cover, and they are in the $20-25 range.

                    Light is good when it comes to heavy birds like the T-day turkey, trust me on this. No one needs a pan that weighs ten pounds without the 20 pound bird.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: RGC1982

                      For as many years as I've been cooking I have used the bottom of the broiler pan that came with my first new stove. It's big - 16x20 - and holds a big turkey just fine. It has low sides, but i've never found it to be too low to hold the liquid from roasting a turkey. This broiler pan bottom is made of enameled steel which is both scrubbable and light weight. Plus, when I can afford to buy steaks, I leave the stainless broiler top on it and broil away! You can find these broiler pans often at Goodwill - look for a big one that doesn't have too many dings in the enamel coating.

                      For roasting smaller cuts of meat I use a ceramic baking dish, or my LC 3 quart braiser, or an oven safe skillet. I prefer using a skillet or the braiser because I can make gravy once the meat is finished roasting.

                      I really prefer multi-tasking equipment in the kitchen - a pan that can do many things is best!

                      1. re: Lotsofscots

                        I, too, use the bottom of a broiler pan from a long-gone oven. I use it for lots of things... roasted veg, chicken, etc. It's my go-to pan for most roasting. I rarely use the top of it. When I do steak, I use a cast iron skillet.

                        I also have one of the big granite-ware roasters I pull out when I do a BIG turkey. I also use it for mass quantities of chexmix, caramel corn and cornbread dressing for a crowd. :-)

                      2. re: RGC1982

                        RGC1982: "don't get me started on spilled oil and gravy when the pans warp with a heavy bird in them."

                        I ruined one in a pair of boots bringing a ham to the table in one of those aluminum POS at a friend's house one night, so I could carve it. All the goop and drippings landed right on the boot, which were really light colored, so they truly absorbed it all.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          Er, do you think perhaps your "technique" was the problem perhaps? You were bringing the roasting pan to the table. Nope, doesn't work. Take the meat out of the pan onto a cutting board by the stove,let rest, carve, serve.

                          1. re: c oliver

                            Are you this pleasant IRL?

                            It was a college kid's apartment. He didn't have room for a cutting board by the stove, as he didn't have a _counter_ by the stove. And he was in the process of making such a mess in the kitchen, the table in the LR was by far the better alternative.

                            He was doing his best. I'm not even sure he had a cutting board. It was long ago. I ended up cutting it on a plate on the stove.

                            Be assured, c oliver, I will remember you and your warm, welcoming demeanor.

                            1. re: Jay F

                              My point was that you don't try to carry one of those anywhere. Put it on top of the stove if there's no counter top. And,yeah, we've all "carved" on a plate.

                        2. re: RGC1982

                          I've got a couple of pieces of graniteware; it's reasonably priced and entirely serviceable. The disposable pans are also occasionally useful. Let's say a family that has lost a member and you want to take over a lasagna - they can toss an aluminum pan in the freezer if they have too much food for the time being, whereas something in your grandmother's heirloom pan has to be dealt with more immediately.

                          As with any tool, you have to know how to use it. The first rule of disposable aluminum pans is to never lift them. Slide one onto a cutting board, broiler pan, small piece of plywood, whatever (I use a pizza peel), then lift the thing that's supporting the aluminum pan. Problem solved.

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Agreed on the occasional use of a disposable pan for these purposes. I often send leftovers home with guests in the half-size pans that fit over disposable water pans used as steam trays. They are cheap and I buy them in bulk at warehouse clubs. Just wrap around with heavy duty foil and they are good to go. But these are HALF the size of those big roasting pans.

                            I was envisioning the big Thanksgiving turkey when I dissed disposable pans. On the rare occasions when cooking at someone else's house and they plan on using one of those pans, I often tuck a half-sheet pan in my car to use to stablize those blasted large ones when lifting. I have never tried the wire gadget that appears in the supermarkets around holiday time that is supposed to aid in lifting them, but that may be an alternative to consider. The truth is, I just don't like to use big disposable pans because they are not stable when heavy food items are in them. I am much more comfortable using a metal pan. I also have a number of big pans in plain aluminum, and a number of smaller pans, my favorites being old stainless steel pans formerly used by Horn & Hardart that were purchased by my Dad many years ago when the chain of restaurants closed and sold their fixtures and other goodies to the public. Funny how these oldies but goodies are really my favorites. I really do suggest checking out thrift stores for finds, as my "collection" is far from what you would find at WS.

                          2. re: RGC1982

                            I agree, completely. I've used a graniteware (or speckleware?) roasting pan for my 18-20 lb turkey forever, and it works great for lasagna (although I don't need that much lasagna these days!) It can sit on two burners to make gravy, and cleans up like a breeze. I also have - but can't find anymore - a low sided version of the same pan. Perfect for roasting veggies and baking filled savory crepes.

                            You can't beat going to your local hardware store or camping outlet and getting one of these pans. My Kentucky born and bred MIL uses a large oval covered version to braise nearly everything.

                            Fabulous because it's cheap and does the job very well.

                            1. re: breadchick

                              Re: the low sided version. I wanted to get one for my sister, so if anyone can steer me in the right direction - most appreciated. I LOVE mine, and found it in - yes, the local hardware store a few years ago and haven't seen one since.

                              Just thinking about those crepes - I may need to make them this weekend.

                          3. I used to use a traditional roasting pan, but always found that the lower part of the meat did not brown well. The deep sides of the pan inhibit air circulation.

                            Then I started using my jelly roll pan - with maybe 1/2 inch sides, and my roasts "roasted" much better.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: sbp

                              sbp: 2 questions: (a) In your traditional roaster, were you perching your meat on veggies/aromatics or an inner rack?; and (b) The jelly roll pan isn't filling up with/overflowing/spilling the drippings?

                              If you're dry roasting (as on a spit), why not just use your oven rack with whatever drip-pan on another rack underneath?

                              1. re: kaleokahu

                                In traditional roaster, yes for roasts with racks, but I'm also talking about roasting a cut up chicken, where you wouldn't use a rack. And no, the jelly roll doesn't fill up. I think because it isn't a braise - cooking uncovered, with a "roast worthy" cut of meat (not braising meats, which give off tons of liquid), it sears in a lot of the juices and what does come out start to evaporate more readily.

                                I do sometimes use the oven rack, though it makes clean up messier. For instance, if I'm making a Zuni style roast chicken, I may put bread and sauteed onions in the pan and the chicken on the rack over it.

                                By the way, another advantage of the jelly-roll: a quarter-sheet pan sized cooling rack fits right on top, so I can raise the meat completely out of the pan.

                                1. re: sbp

                                  I roast cut-up chicken pieces on a rack in a lower sided pan, or directly on a half-sheet pan so that air can circulate and crisp up the skin. However, if we are talking about a turkey -- you need something substantial, and you should use a rack.

                                  About the worst thing I ever saw was at a friend's house for a holiday dinner. They had put the turkey in a deep disposable aluminum pan, and it was filled nearly two inches at the bottom with juices, so the turkey was sitting in liquid at the bottom. The bottom never really cooked. What a mess. I have no idea how they ended up with so much liquid. I do know it was a kosher bird because they kept a kosher kitchen, but that is all I know about that holiday meal.

                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                    RGC: "I have no idea how they ended up with so much liquid."

                                    This is totally OT, but it's odd you posted this today. Over the weekend I roasted a large chicken, which we were late in thawing. Had to resort to the running water method, and some water leaked into the bag. When it was thawed, it was drained well and patted dry, inside and out. When it went into the oval roaster on a bed of carrots and celery, I thought it looked a little endemitous. Cooked it covered at 375 for about 90 minutes, then took the top off to brown the skin with butter. HOURS later, the bird was nowhere near done, and the bird was absolutely SWIMMING in liquid.

                                    My guess is that I--and your hosts--failed to thaw the bird completely and/or subjected it to water torture in trying to thaw it too fast.

                                2. re: kaleokahu

                                  A half sheet pan has a capacity of about one US gallon. Minus, of course, whatever part is taken up by what you're roasting. And whatever you lose from it not being flat. That's an awful lot of drippings.

                                  1. re: dscheidt

                                    dscheidt: "A half sheet pan has a capacity of about one US gallon... That's an awful lot of drippings."

                                    Well, yes, if you have gyro-stabilized, fluid-damped, robotic oven removers. Otherwise, a 1/2-inch wall is going to work almost like no wall at all to contain slops. Don't believe me? Put a gallon... No, put a PINT of water in your half sheet pan and try taking it out of your oven; carry it across your kitchen to the cutting board. Now visualize your 20 pound Tom rolling/scooting/sticking around your counter on its own turkey skateboard as you try to move it to the board. Gonna spill?

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        Try to put a pint of water in there along with a 20 lb. weight and move it around. Only one possible outcome ;)

                                        1. re: mikie

                                          Yeah. Just moving a pan with water (ala cheesecake) on scratchy oven racks is dicey. Note to self: must oil racks.

                                3. if you want a multi-use pan, the big pyrex pans are good for roasting & more versatile-- use for big gratins and lasagnas, etc too.

                                  but i have a cheap ikea roasting pan that i've absolutely beat the crap out of on a regular basis. i really like it, and i like that i can bring it to family events and not get an ulcer trying to get it back, like i would if it were a really "nice (expensive)" pan. it also came w a basic wire rack iirc. you can also always roast your meat over a "rack" of root veggies like sliced onions, carrots, celery etc. you say you don't want gravy, but it's a great home cooking bonus to scrape out the vegetable "rack" and the drippings from a roast and make a quick stock or pureed soup.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    I agree- my pyrex pan is a workhorse in my kitchen; roasting veggies, mac and cheese, cooking ribs or chicken wings, whatever. Cleans easy too.

                                  2. Hi blkery,

                                    Some of my favorite kitchen things have come from thrift stores. If that is not distasteful to you, (and I really do understand if it is!) there are some wonderful things to be had for a song. It's an inexpensive way to try different materials and sizes, too, as you don't have much money in it so you can't make a costly mistake.

                                    I have a bright yellow copco gratin dish, a flame vintage le creuset, great bean pots, beautiful souffle dishes, old milk bottles that I use as pitchers, huge roaster with rack, and so much more more that I've gotten that way.

                                    1. When I was in my 20's, I used an old, rusty, grimy roaster (made out of whatever my mother's old muffin tins are made out of...) that worked for years and years--just a cheap piece of metal that's deeper than a jellyroll pan, and large enough for a ham or beef roast.

                                      I also used, for years, a beat up aluminum roaster with a lid, that had been my mother's in the 1950's. Worked fine, too, UNLESS you forgot to take the lid off while roasting your turkey and steamed the bird for the full cooking time...(the newborn with colic may share some of the blame for this oversight ) When my brother-in-law went to lift the turkey to a platter, it collapsed into a pile of bones!

                                      Now, I have two fancy All-clad roasters (large and small) and, honestly, aside from the groovy racks that came with (which are great!) there isn't MUCH difference in the foods I make in them, and the foods I made in those junky, serviceable cheap pans, years ago.

                                      They look prettier, though. :-D

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Beckyleach

                                        When I was taking golf lessons, my pro said that, although he can get any club(s) he wants for free, he still uses an old cheap putter that works for him.

                                        And, yes, my pretty blue Staub cocotte doesn't cook any better than my big black Lodge DO.

                                        1. re: Beckyleach

                                          Most professional kitchens have cheap, banged up aluminum pans that they use for everything, and they seem to be able to turn out well cooked food no matter. When I worked in a restaurant kitchen we roasted on sheet pans on top of mirepoix. The one exception that stands out in memory was seeing the kitchen at Daniel in NYC. The collection of copper pots and pans hanging over the stoves was awe inspiring...although I can't actually remember if I saw anyone cooking in them!

                                        2. BTW -- If you are interested in Graniteware, Walmart has the covered oval roaster and the rectangular roaster with rack at a really good price near the frozen turkey freezer in the meat department this week.

                                          1. Although I do have a good heavy duty roasting pan, increasingly I'm using my cast iron skillets. Instead of a rack, I just prop the meat over some cut up vegetables