Solid stainless steel roasting pans are also acceptable, but should be fitted to a thick aluminium base.
Enameled cast iron roasting pans are ideal as they provide steady, even heat. They should be heavily enameled as thin coatings can chip or crack.
Nonstick surfaces require less oil and clean easier, but may not brown as well as metal.
Handles should be thick and rugged and firmly attached to the pan.
In cooking terms, roasting refers to a uniform application of dry heat from all sides. Although a variety of pans are suitable for roasting, roasting pans are particularly useful for cooking large pieces of meat.
The bottoms and sides of a good roasting pan will radiate and intensify an ovens heat, browning the outside of a roast quickly while keeping the inside moist. The pan itself will catch and brown the drippings for later use in a sauce or gravy. While roasting pans may be one trick ponies in the kitchen, they sometimes do a better job than anything else.
A good roasting pan must possess a few essential qualities. First it must be sturdy, strong enough to carry a 10 kilo roast without twisting or bending. It must also be conductive, able to evenly radiate the heat of an oven. Finally, it must be safe to heat on a stove top. You will want to be able to deglaze the pan before making pan sauce or gravy from the drippings.
Other aspects worth considering are weight and size. A lighter roasting pan will be easier to carry when its fully loaded. A mid-sized roasting pan 35 to 40 cm in length will be the most versatile, small enough to cook chickens and large enough to accommodate a turkey. Taller pans will reflect more heat to the sides of a roast. Some chefs consider tall sides crucial for good roasting. Otherwise, good roasting pans can be made from most metals.
Copper is an excellent conductor, and although copper roasting pans look stunning and perform exceptionally, they are far too expensive to be practical. We do not consider copper roasting pans necessary, but if you decide to purchase one, it will serve you well. Remember, because copper is toxic, reactive, and corrodes easily, it should always be lined with stainless steel.
Solid aluminium would be another ideal material for roasting pans if it were not reactive. Roasting pans made from anodised aluminium, an electrochemically treated aluminium with a nonreactive, nonstick surface, and aluminium clad in stainless steel are much better choices. They heat quickly and evenly, and are exceptionally durable.
Stainless steel roasting pans generally perform as well as any others, and in addition are durable and nonreactive. Because stainless steel is a poor conductor, a good stainless steel pan should always have a thick base of aluminium to promote steady even heating in the oven and on the stove top.
An enamel coated cast iron roasting pan is another excellent choice. Iron is heat retentive, and iron cookware will always deliver steady, even temperatures while cooking. If considering an enameled iron roast pan, be sure it is heavily coated as thin enamel will chip or crack with time.
Ultimately, the decision to purchase nonstick cookware will depend on your personal preference.
Nonstick surfaces have their advantages and their disadvantages. On the plus side, they are easy to clean and require less oil than traditional pans when sauteing. On the downside, the surfaces can be delicate and they do not generally brown food as well as metal surfaces.
Although innovations have made Teflon coatings more durable than ever, Teflon will release highly toxic vapours if heated above 350 EC. Empty Teflon coated pans should never be left heating over a burner. Inexpensive coated pans will scratch and flake easily and should be avoided altogether.
Anodised aluminium pans are nontoxic and scratch resistant. They tend to stick more than coated pans, but they will not be damaged by metal utensils and they do a better job of searing and browning. Some manufacturers use an anodised aluminium that has been electrochemically "infused" with non-stick polymers and others use revolutionary ceramics to create truer non-stick surfaces. We recommend any of these as they are durable and effective.
The handles on casseroles and French ovens are almost always made of metal. Those cast from the same metal as the pan will never break. Handles that have been attached should always be riveted, as spot-welding is not strong enough to support the weight of a good French oven. Some models feature handles that fold down for easy storage. Regardless of the casserole or French oven you purchase, we suggest you invest in a good pair of oven mitts.
The virtue of roasting racks is debatable. Some chefs prefer them as they allow the hot oven air to circulate around and evenly cook an entire piece of meat. Other chefs prefer to roast right on the bottom of a pan, arguing that the contact browning develops more flavour. If you decide to try a roasting rack, you will have a few options to consider, so here's what you'll be looking at. Be sure to choose a rack that is sturdy, fits inside your pan, and allows at least 5 cm of headroom at the top of your oven.
V-racks and basket racks cradle meat between two sides. Some V-racks are adjustable and can easily accommodate a variety of different meats. Flat racks hold food off the bottom of the pan, but do not hold meat in place. Vertical poultry racks look more like cones, prop chickens upright in the pan, and sear a bird on the inside. For general applications we prefer racks like basket racks that do not place pressure on our roasts, but vertical poultry racks can work wonders on the grill as well as in the oven.