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au gratin v. flared roasting pan v. traditional roasting pan (roaster question)

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I am thinking through roasters and want to try to understand the pros and cons of several options. Let's assume I am considering the following options (all in the 16" range):

#1 - 16" Traditional Rectangular Roaster with straight sides in either (A) copper (tin or stainless lined) or (B) Stainless-Aluminum Tri-ply

#2 - 16" Rectangular Flared Roaster (All-Clad tri-ply from Williams Sonoma)

#3 - 16" Oval Au Gratin in either (A) copper (tin or stainless lined) or (B) Stainless-Aluminum Tri-ply

I would use this pan for two primary purposes--roasting cubed or halved sqaush and potatoes and sundry other vegetables (brussel sprouts and the like) or roasting birds. I am particularly interested in the au gratin for this purpose, as it has low, sloped sides, but I haven't found much info on the web about using such a pan as a general purpose roaster. Finally, is a tin lined pan an issue when roasting at higher temps (like when I start my turkey at 500 degrees for :30 minutes and then lower the temp)?

All thoughts would be appreciated!!!

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  1. Hi, jljohn:

    Here are my thoughts: (1) Oval shapes tend to fit all birds, most roasts and many joints better than rectangular. Less extra floorspace means less of your jus boils away, hence less chance of burning your fond and drippings. Conversely, the corners can come in handy if you want to roast more vegetables along with your meat. See also, #3 below. (2) High straight walls in a crowded roaster can result in less than even browning by virtue of steaming action; this is the implicit reason why A-C "designed" their flared pan with a flare (=smaller floor, = food settles away from the sides). (3) SS-lined is worry-free >437F, tin-lined is not. Still, IME, I have pushed the 437 boundary past 450 with no problems, and I think it is generally safe to do so *provided the pan is dumping its heat into the food*. I.e., I have some confidence you can start a turkey ON THE FLOOR or ON THE AROMATICS in the right sized tinned copper roaster at 500F and melt no tin. I would not, however use a 16" tinned roaster to roast *two* cubed potatoes above the redline, or perch a turkey on a rack or span with a spit. (4) SS is obviously more durable, and many cooks like this for the reason that they can attack the fond and crispins with metal utensils. Personally, I like to let the deglazing liquid do most of the work, and I've never had more than a moment's extra trouble with wooden spoons and spatulas. Another theoretical advantage of SS is that--it will stay bright. Tin will darken over time, and the dark color can shorten times before burning/scorching is a concern. To me this is a workaround. (5) SS is "stickier" than tin. Some cooks like this, claiming it makes *more* fond, while others claim it ups the chances of scorching. (6) If you *do* go with tinned copper, be careful not to use too high a heat for deglazing on the stovetop; electric coils (especially if they have dead spots) can get too hot too fast unless you put your liquid in right away, and then you *may* bubble the tin. (7) Even though ovals are very efficient shapes, they rarely come with vertical handles, which makes a 16" pan effectively 20" long. Rectangulars are more likely to BE 16" long, and so may fit ovens better. (8) Square corners and tight-radius, straight walls aren't conducive to doing *other* things in the pan, e.g., cooking a gratin and taking it directly to table for serving.

    One last thing--aesthetics. I find curved shapes more naturally pleasing. JMO.
    Hope this helps.

    Aloha,
    Kaleo

    2 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Thanks for that info Kaleo! Exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

      BTW, based in part on your glowing reviews and comments, I just ordered a set of four sauce pans from Peter at Rocky Mountain Retinning. These will be my first tin-lined copper. I'm looking forward to trying them out when they come!

      1. re: jljohn

        Hi, jljohn:

        You're very welcome. Enjoy your RMR pans. I hope they give you (and your great-grandchildren) years of good food and memories.

        Aloha,
        Kaleo

    2. Don't have a lot of input as far as material, but for roasting veg, I'd suggest something as large as you can find / afford / fit in your oven. Not crowding the pan is really important when you're looking for a little browning.

      In cases where you aren't deglazing the pan, a sheet pan or large aluminum roaster may work pretty well. I got a really big triply roaster from Cook's Warehouse that I think is a good deal for $100.

      I don't thin the shape or degree of flare will affect the outcome much.