What Is A Roasting Pan (And Do You Really Need One?)

roasting pan with roast sitting on table

What Is A Roasting Pan (And Do You Really Need One?)

1. What Is A Roasting Pan

A roasting pan is a piece of cookware specially designed for roasting food in the oven. This is probably the most popular method for preparing large roasts of meat and poultry, such as the traditional Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas Glazed Ham.

The most common model is rectangular and 16 inches; although today you can find several shapes and sizes in the market, from 12-14 inches up to even 20 inches.

Oval roasting pans give you just a little more room for your roast. You can purchase a covered oval roaster, which is good for larger meats. A covered oval roaster can also be used as a serving dish and easy storage inside your fridge. This is very similar to Dutch ovens.

Roasting pans are usually made of stainless steel, carbon steel, or cast iron (materials that conduct heat very well). 

This type of pan consists of two parts: the upper part is a rack and the lower part is a large, deep steel baking dish with raised sides, so it can “trap” the heat inside.

The upper rack is what makes a roasting pan what it is. The rack keeps the food high enough so it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan, allowing air to circulate and helping the roast to heat evenly. The slots in this rack allow juices from the roast to drip into the bottom tray. 

The bottom tray, or the “drip pan”, is responsible for collecting the pan drippings from certain foods (meats especially). 

A stainless steel roasting pan looks like an oversized casserole dish and can perfectly double as one, as most of them have a removable rack.

2. What’s The Purpose Of A Roasting Pan

roasting pan with chicken laying on wood table

A roasting pan makes the process of roasting something a lot easier. First, they can withstand direct heat at very high temperatures of more than 350°F. And unlike baking dishes, they are usually deep enough to better distribute that heat.

Nothing prevents you from using another piece of cookware to cook a roast. But the fact that roasting pans come with a nonstick rack and a drip tray makes it a lot more convenient when it comes to dealing with meat juices and liquids. And sometimes these pan drippings become gravy, an added benefit of roasting pans that we love.

The best part is you can choose to cook two things at once: meat or poultry in the roasting pan with rack and a vegetable bed at the bottom, for example. This comes in handy for big dinners or family reunions.  

3. Best Recipes For A Roasting Pan

  • A roasting pan is perfect for whole roasts like a turkey in all its delicious variants like herbs, apple or apricot glazed; baked ham (like the classic one with pineapple for Christmas), pork, tenderloin, brisket, or a whole roasted chicken (some sizes will even accommodate two chickens).
  • Another use is for braised meats like short ribs.
  • Fish can also be cooked in a roasting pan. Try a delicious roasted salmon.
  • And… good news for vegetarians: Roasting pans are great for cooking vegetables in large quantities! From butternut squash to smaller veggies like carrots, roasted potatoes, onions, asparagus, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts… you can get creative with side dishes.
  • More ideas: Meatballs, lasagna, roasted chicken wings, enchiladas, ratatouille…
  • In theory, any recipe to be made in a sheet pan can be made in a roasting pan. 

      4. How To Clean A Roasting Pan

      Roasting pans are easy to use, but they are also easy to get nasty. This is inevitable, considering all the liquids and food they are exposed to. But they are also easy to clean, especially when they are given the proper maintenance immediately after every use.

      This is a routine cleaning procedure for a roasting pan after cooking:

      1. Let it get to room temperature. Trying to wash a pan with cold water when it is still hot can make stains stick even more.
      2. Separate the pan and the rack.
      3. Pour warm water and rub gently with a non-abrasive sponge to remove excess residue and fat.
      4. Soak the pan and the rack in warm water and dishwasher detergent for around one hour.
      5. Scrub again with the sponge to remove all debris and stuck-on stains.
      6. If necessary, soak again and repeat the process until the pan is clean and shiny.

        What to do if the roasting pan has burnt food or stains

        If you are dealing with burnt bits or stuck-on food, it will probably take a little more time, but following a few simple steps, you will quickly recover it. 

        Baking soda is your best friend here. You have several options:

        Warm water and baking soda:

        Remove leftover food with a kitchen towel. Soak the roasting pan in warm water and add half a cup of baking soda. After one hour, scrub with a sponge. Finally, wash again with detergent. 

        With baking soda and vinegar:

        Sprinkle baking soda and then pour a bit of vinegar. Let it sit for at least an hour (or more). Scrub with a sponge and then wash as usual.

        Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide:

        If the previous methods won’t work, you can resort to a stronger mixture: In a small container, mix well one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and 4 tablespoons of baking soda, until you obtain a consistent paste. Apply the paste to the stains and leave it for at least four hours or even overnight. Remove the paste with a sponge and proceed to wash the pan with warm water and detergent. 

        Tips for the best maintenance of your roasting pan

        • Cleaning your stainless steel pan after every use is the best way to preserve it. 
        • Do not use the dishwasher. Only manual cleaning guarantees a better cleaning of the roasting pan.
        • If you put vegetable or aluminum foil on the floor of the pan during cooking, it will greatly help to prevent brown bits and stains.
        • It is recommended to polish the pan once a year with a high-quality polish.

            5. How To Store A Roasting Pan

            Storing large cookware like roasting pans is often a challenge. They take up a lot of space and the challenge is greater if you have a small kitchen. But with a bit of creativity and organization, it won’t cause too much trouble. Here are a few ideas:

            In a wide, deep cabinet:

            If you’re lucky enough to have a large cabinet in your kitchen, this is the obvious choice for your roasting pan.

            In the drawer under the oven:

            Ovens can have two types of drawers under the oven: a warming drawer and a storage drawer. If you don’t see any buttons or temperature indicators; then it’s probably a pull-out drawer where you can hide your large roasting pan.

            A file organizer:

            It’s not uncommon to find uses for file organizers in the kitchen. A sturdy, free-standing file cabinet can perfectly accommodate a large steel roasting pan and other similar cookware.

            The top of the fridge:

            How are you using the space above the fridge? You can always use it to keep your roasting pan. If you prefer, you can hide it inside a large storage box or basket.


            If your shelves are big enough, go for it. Remember to always store your roasting pan vertically, this will help a lot!

            6. What To Use Instead Of A Roasting Pan?

            Having a roasting pan can be extremely useful for cooking large roasts like the thanksgiving turkey or a whole chicken for a special occasion. But because those occasions aren’t too frequent; not everyone is dying to own a roasting pan full time, especially if they don’t have the space for it.

            However, if you find yourself needing a roasting pan for a recipe and don’t have one at the moment, worry not! There are a couple of alternatives and hacks that will serve the same purpose. Here are some ideas:

            For the pan:

            • Size matters when it comes to roasting pans, especially oval roasting pans. Whatever substitute you use, it shouldn’t be smaller than 9”.
            • The sides should be tall enough to contain potential meat juices.
            • It has to be able to withstand the oven temperature, stainless steel is a great material for this. 
              Best options: oven-safe skillets, cast iron pans, casserole dishes, baking sheets with raised sides, and cake pans. 

              For the roasting pan with rack:

              To properly build your very own DIY roasting pan, you need a rack. This rack is what keeps the meat raised enough so it’s properly roasted. These are your options:

              • A cooling rack, as long as it fits inside the pan.
              • Foil. Make small balls of foil and put them at the bottom to create some sort of floor.
              • Vegetables. The easiest one! Fill the bottom of the pan with potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. Then serve them as a side dish!

                  7. Best Roasting Pan Alternatives 

                  You can use any of the following with the DIY rack alternatives mentioned above!

                  1. 12" Frying Pan & Skillet | Avalon Series

                  12" Frying Pan & Skillet | Avalon Series

                  Big enough to be the best roasting pan substitute; but much more versatile. This high-performance, oven safe skillet looks and feels more luxurious than any roasting pan I’ve ever seen. It’s built in a way that food will cook perfectly without losing any of its properties.


                  • Copper Core Foundation for perfect heat conductivity
                  • Additional layers of non-reactive stainless steel and aluminum.
                  • Compatible with all stovetops
                  • It can withstand a temperature up to 600ºF 
                  • PFOA and PTFE free


                  • It’s the dark look that I like the most, to be honest. However, I am aware that not everyone is a fan of the total black style.
                  • The price is not exactly low, so if you were looking to save money by not buying a roasting pan… this may not be the one for your situation.

                  2. 12" Frying Pan & Skillet | Oberon Series

                  12" Frying Pan & Skillet | Oberon Series

                  Classic looking, yet built to last forever with higher quality than your average classic stainless steel aluminum pan. This skillet from the Oberon series will cover all your baking and cooking needs at an affordable price and with all the advantages of stainless steel cookware.


                  • With a 12” size, this oven safe pan can accommodate all your roast recipes.
                  • 3-ply aluminum core
                  •  It is also freezer, dishwasher, and refrigerator safe
                  • Excellent price-quality ratio
                  • Smooth and highly resistant to scratches thanks to the several layers of satin and nylon polish.
                  • Consistent cooking of your favorite foods.


                  • This is one of the biggest skillets Dalstrong has to offer, maybe you’re looking for smaller options.
                  • Some people prefer a round handle.

                  3. 9" Skillet Frying Pan | The Avalon Series

                  9" Skillet Frying Pan | The Avalon Series

                  A smaller alternative, but equally powerful and more visually striking than the others. You can make it work as a roasting pan for your roasts recipes; but you will also do any type of frying, sautéing, searing, baking, or boiling that you want, while becoming the star of your kitchen.


                  • The eye-catching design makes it stand above all others.
                  • It’s not only about the visuals, though: The materials used heat 5X better than iron and 20X better than stainless steel.
                  • Top heat conductivity and cooking performance.
                  • Put it in the oven, in the freezer, on the stovetop, and in the dishwasher. Whatever you want!
                  • Comes with a lifetime warranty. 


                  • Honestly, this pan is a dream. But the size may be too small for really large roasts that call for a proper roasting pan. 
                  • You will have to pay a bit more for this kind of quality and design.

                  4. 10" Frying Pan & Skillet | Oberon Series

                  10" Frying Pan & Skillet | Oberon Series

                  This is a crowd-pleaser right here. Super versatile, classic design, medium size, medium weight, great price. The cladding technology is what differentiates this from other aluminum cookware. It also includes a lifetime warranty, so don’t be scared of getting attached. 


                  • The 10” is a great size when you can’t make up your mind about a larger or a smaller pan.
                  • Impeccable heat distribution thanks to the 3-ply Aluminum core and the ultra-strong 2.5mm thickness.
                  • The brushed finish induction bottom enhances grip.
                  • 4mm tempered glass lid to ensure your recipes are perfect. 


                  • You may miss the nonstick benefits other materials have to offer.
                  • The angled handle (designed for a professional underhand grip) is not everyone’s favorite handle shape.

                  8. Frequently Asked Questions About Roasting Pans

                  What is a shallow roasting pan?

                  A shallow nonstick roasting pan is no bigger than 1-3 inches, more suitable for everyday roasting, and not necessarily large meats.

                  Is stainless steel the best material for a roasting pan?

                  Stainless steel is a heavy material, able to distribute heat in a very uniform way; this is why it is a great choice for large roasts; along with carbon steel and aluminum. 

                  Are roasting pans nonstick?

                  Commonly, roasting pans offer a nonstick coating; which can make cleaning easier. But you can perfectly use materials that are not- nonstick if you follow a proper cleaning routine.

                  Check Out Dalstrong Cookware Today

                  Written by Eva Contreras
                  Food & travel writer based in Buenos Aires. Superpowers include relentless curiosity and high tolerance to spicy foods.

                  What Is A Roasting Pan (And Do You Really Need One?)

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