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Jan 24, 2012 08:27 PM

mirror finish of stainless steel roaster - functional?

Does the mirror finish of a stainless steel roaster have any particular function?

After coveting the ergonomics, the sheer ease of my brother's roasting pan and rack, both with great big handles so perfectly placed, I took advantage of post-holiday sales and bought an All-Clad stainless roasting pan, which came with a nonstick rack. Sunday I inaugurated them with a slow-roasted leg of lamb, and then raised the heat and added some potatoes with rosemary - all were just delicious - and the pan was nice and heavy, perfect on the stovetop when I added red wine to the pan drippings.

After dinner I put them all in the dishwasher, as recommended. The nonstick rack was a bit duller, but otherwise fine, though some cooked-in grease still stuck to the roasting pan. I scrubbed a bit with a soapy plastic wool, wondering why, as I normally live with a certain amount of...let's call it patina. But the roaster came with such a mirror finish as I rarely see, and I can't help but think it may have a function.

So, do any of you know the answer? Have any good guesses?

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  1. My opinion is that SS is cosmetic only. Some people like everything to be shiny. I don't know how well they work, because I specifivally avoided SS when I bought a roasting pan last year.

    1. "But the roaster came with such a mirror finish as I rarely see, and I can't help but think it may have a function."

      Nah, I think it is mostly for cosmetic.

      1. Hi, Kayde:

        This can get pretty theoretical pretty fast. But generally dark-bodied ovenware behave differently from their white- and reflective-bodied equivalents. I believe this is due to a physical property called emissivity. See, generally And see, specifically The latter shows a photo of two otherwise identical (unverified) loaves of bread, one cooked in a dark dull pan, the other in a more reflective one.

        Based on these, I am going to theorize that all other things being equal, your brightly reflective new roaster is going to brown slightly less and slower than my very dark copper roaster. In many cases that is a *good* thing (visualize a roast chicken whose browning is far advanced of its internal cooking). If my theory is correct, your roaster will not require workarounds like tenting with foil to the same degree as mine. On the other hand, roasting things in small chunks might benefit from the opposite effect--quickly browning without *overcooking* their interiors.

        However, I also theorize that the differences will only become pronounced in a very high oven, say >450F.


        2 Replies
        1. re: kaleokahu

          Kaleo, that's an interesting point, but you should take into account that any roasting pan will accumulate drippings from the thing being roasted.

          1. re: GH1618

            Hi, GH1618:

            You're absolutely right. Anywhere from a lot to almost no drippings, depending on a variety of factors both pan and non-pan.

            Now that I think about it, the shiny pan may also favor preserving jus (as opposed to just fat) a little more than would a darker one. Downside: perhaps less concentrated/clumped fond.

            This would be a little more complicated--and expensive--to explore with joints of meat than it was the two bread loaves pictured on the engineer site. But I have a similarly-sized roaster coated inside and out with (shudder) nonstick at the beach place, so maybe I'll try a simple A-B comparison when I next polish the copper roaster.


        2. Thanks, all. Kaleo's points about properties of different surfaces are excellent - as I personally have had entirely different results baking bread in dark metal and pyrex pans.

          For me, the immediate question is: How might the shiny surface affect function? Is it worth trying to get off every bit of baked-on grease? It did occur to me that even a bit of stuck stuff could be like a magnet to yet more stuff, but if it's just cosmetic I don't really care.

          Would any of you use copper or steel wool on a pan like this?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Kayde

            Are you referring now to baking pans instead of the roasting pan? Your experience with baking does not apply directly to a roaster, but if you are using a shiny SS roaster, you might as well keep it looking nice.

            1. re: Kayde

              Hi, Kayde:

              Well, aside from the functional aspects I described (if indeed you ever do notice them), I can't think of any. Realistically, if you look at the roasting pans pictured in many celestial chefs' books, you seem to see the darkest, rastiest-looking roasters that look like they've never been cleaned, let alone polished.

              The difference between shiny and dark doesn't happen all at once, either. Most people never even think about it, they just adjust a little bit, and maybe work around what comes with the darkening (when it could affect cooking) with lower heat, less time, tenting, etc.

              I'm not presuming anything here, but unless you have a large saddle buffer and blocks of green chrome rouge sitting around, you're gradually going to lose the mirror finish anyway. Utensils, racks, scrubbies, bones, basically everything that goes in , on or next to the roaster is going to impart some minor scratching. I'd recommend 000 or 0000 steel wool as a good way of removing goo spots and polishing away surface hazes, but they too will not re-mirror the surface.

              It's all good.


              1. re: Kayde

                "How might the shiny surface affect function"

                The difference you see in baking in a dark pan and a light color pan is real. In this case, the photon absorption rates are quiet different, so the pans get heat up at different rates. However, mirror shiny surface is a different issue. A mirror polished surface actually reflects the same amount of photon per second. A more polished surface has a flatter surface, so the light is reflected in a more focused angle; whereas a less polished surface reflects light in a more scattered manner. The amounts of light get reflected, however, are the same. So they will get heated up and cooled down the same rate. If you think about it, it does not make sense in physics that a more polished surface reflects more light than a less polish surface does.


                In addition, GH is right on mark. It is very different between a baking and a roasting pan. I don't think you will see any real difference between a very polished roasting pan and a less polished roasting pan. There are many more important factos, such as the thickness of the pan and the depth of a roasting pan. Those have greater effects in your roasting products.

              2. Thanks everyone for a very interesting discussion. But, aside from what comes off with a quick scrub, I think I'm going to decide that it's all patina - what happens to anything (or anyone) that is well-loved and well-used.