My Recipe Box

Equipment Review: Roasting Pans

We go in search of a heavy-duty multi-tasking roasting pans for roasting everything from Thanksgiving turkeys to big cuts of prime rib, and find several worthy contenders

by Maryellen Driscoll

from Fine Cooking
Issue 81

Large roasters are a must for Thanksgiving turkey, of course, but we also like to use them for big cuts like leg of lamb or prime ribroasting two chickens or numerous game hens at once, and browning roasts or even large batches of stew meat on the stovetop. So for this review, we set the bar high by looking for roasting pans that could multi-task. (Read Picking a Roasting Pan for tips on how to pick the right roasting pan to use both on Thanksgiving and all year long.)

We limited the lineup to heavy-duty stainless-steel roasters. No lightweight or nonstick models this time around. Because all the pans were high quality and had so much in common, we thought at the outset that they might all perform equally well. But after putting the pans through their paces, the four roasters shown here ultimately distinguished themselves as the best of the best.

We began our tests by roasting turkeys, a classic task for a large, heavy-duty roaster. Had we stopped there, it would have been hard to pick a winner because each turkey from each pan roasted to perfection. Forging ahead with our tests—making gravy, searing a roast on the stovetop, and browning another in a high-heat oven—we experienced the "aha!" results that weeded out the merely good pans from the great ones. These tasks really tested the pans' ability to conduct heat.

How we tested

We limited our tests to large roasting pans (15 to 17 inches in length) under $275 with sides at least 3 inches high, fixed handles (welded or riveted), and stainless-steel finishes. In each pan we roasted a 12-pound turkey, made gravy from the turkey drippings, seared a London broil roast over two medium-high flames (roasters were heated empty for 40 seconds before adding the oil-coated roasts), and finally, browned a top-round roast for 20 minutes in a 500°F oven. Other roasters tested were made by All-Clad, Anolon, Calphalon, Cuisinart, and Matfer Bourgeat.

A warped surprise

During gravy-making, the best pans browned the roux evenly and simmered the gravy gently without signs of hot spots—no frantic whisking or heat adjustments necessary. And during stove-top and high-heat oven searing, the best pans held steady and browned the roasts evenly, while the worst pans smoked andthwap!—buckled.

Admittedly, we were surprised to see hefty stainless-steel pans warp. But a little research helped us understand why. Although stainless steel is a great metal for a pan's interior and exterior surfaces (because it's nonreactive, durable, and easy to clean), it's not the best heat conductor. To improve conductivity, manufacturers sandwich at least one layer of a good heat-conducting metal, such as aluminum, between the interior and exterior layers of steel. A pan's ability to conduct heat evenly and at a controlled rate—the key to preventing warping—depends on the composition and gauge of the aluminum layer, or layers, as well as whether it's located both in the base and up the pan's sides. The manufacturers I talked to didn't want to disclose the precise composition of their pans' cores, but it didn't matter. The proof of quality was in the performance.

The Best of the Best

Mauviel MCook — Here's the secret recipe to this terrific pan: three layers of hard-to-scratch, easy-to-clean, stainless steel; three layers of aluminum for first-rate heat conduction; and a magnetic stainless steel layer for induction cooking. Use it in the oven or on the stovetop, and you'll get terrific results, be it a Thanksgiving turkey or an Easter leg of lamb.15-3/4 x 12 inches; $199.95 at Cooking.com.

KitchenAid — One of the smallest of the large roasters in our review, this pan is one of KitchenAid's "best-kept secrets," as a company spokesperson aptly put it. It took the heat beautifully when searing roasts in a hot oven and on the stovetop, developing a rich, amber-brown crust where the roast came in contact with the pan. It's five-ply stainless clad, meaning two outer layers of stainless steel are bonded to an aluminum core by two metal alloy layers. This pan comes with a roasting rack.15 x 11-1/2 inches; $119.95 at Cooking.com.

Viking — Everything about this pan is impressive: its size, its solidity, its performance. Made of seven-ply stainless steel—including three layers of aluminum alloys and a magnetic layer on top for induction cooktops—it conducted heat extremely well. Its generous size is handy for those 18-pound turkeys or for roasting extra vegetables alongside a bird or roast, but it might be too large for some ovens (you'll want 2 inches clearance between the sides of the pan and your oven's walls). A roasting rack is included. 16 x 13 inches; $274.95 at Cooking.com.

Sur La Table — This "tri-ply" stainless-steel roaster (stainless-steel interior and exterior with an aluminum core) is a standout pan that's relatively easy on the pocketbook. In our tests, it held up beautifully to stress, deeply and evenly browning a roast in a 500°F oven and never buckling over a medium-high stovetop flame. This pan can be cleaned in the dishwasher. 17 x 12-1/2 inches; $99.95 at SurLaTable.com

Photos: Scott Phillips

Page:
header

MEET THE CHEFS FROM SEASON ONE

Cookbooks, DVDs & More