I’m a guy and I hate to cook. For me cooking is limited to the twenty seconds I invest into nuking whatever I’m about to stuff into my face. And I even dislike the amount of time that takes. But other folks like to cook. My wife for one. Like many, she’s a foodie, a Food Network junky and recipe swapper.
Now that it’s nearing Thanksgiving, I figured this would be the perfect time to write a post about turkey roasters. I knew little about them. My kitchen role is limited to roasting pan hauler from oven to counter top. Since I’m a turkey junky, my wife always admonishes “Keep your hands off till dinner!” Like she can see what I’m trying to sneak from another room. Go figure.
That being said, let’s talk about what you want. Most folks don’t think about a roasting pan until the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around, unless they use their pans for other purposes during the year. Like roasting a rack of lamb, pork roast, baking lasagna or a roasting a bunch of veggies like potatoes, squash, winter squash, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.
How much of this you make depends on the why. You can use a roasting pan for a single meal or to prepare mass quantities to feed the local fire department, or freeze for later consumption reheated in your microwave.
Cheap or quality?
Investing in a quality turkey roaster is not a small matter. The biggest benefit between buying cheap roasters and replacing these frequently and buying quality is that with quality you make the investment once and forget about it.
Buying really cheap, like those pressed aluminum pans, is based on a strangled budget or lack of storage space. Been there, done that. These aluminum jobbies are very unstable when you haul a 500 degree F bird from your oven and hope to make it to the counter. Not to mention that these roasting pans are really easy to cut through when you carve. Done that enough.
So what do you do or look for when you buy?
Measure your oven twice, buy your roaster once
There are two reasons to measure your oven before you head out on the hunt for a quality roaster.
The most obvious is that not all ovens are created equal. Every oven interior size varies from brand to brand. Home ovens are generally larger, while apartment or condo units are smaller. It’s your responsibility to measure before the Buying Impulse Frenzy strikes during the next big sale.
Measure your oven’s interior to determine space between shelves
To determine the size of the pan you need, measure the space between walls. The maximum width of the pan you can buy will be a couple inches less than this dimension because you’ll be handling the pan with your hands encased in bulky oven mitts.
The fit between the side of the oven and your roaster must be comfortable and safe. Figure on 2-3 inches for your mitted hands, subtract this measurement from the oven’s interior walls and you’ll have the roasting pan size you need.
You can’t go too tight when handling a roasting pan because it’s all too easy to suffer a nasty burn if you have to squeeze in to retrieve your turkey from your oven. Also been there, done that.
Roasting pan dimensions range from 12″ to 26″ wide. But don’t forget the handles which will add a couple of inches depending upon the type of pan you buy.
While some cheaper roasting pans have folding handles, the better ones are fixed and flare out from the sides. Others are straight up types with still others flaring in toward the pan. My expert wife doesn’t like the latter. Too easy to get a burn she says. I agree cause I’ve been burned.
Some ovens are longer than wide, like ours, so our roasting pan easily fits. Our oven is elevated too which helps because you don’t have to bend down to haul up your dead-weight bird and pan in a kitchen clean-and-jerk technique.
But other narrow ovens only allow a sideways placement of a roasting pan, so be sure to measure your oven’s width at its narrowest point.
Usually when you buy a roaster on impulse somehow the extended size of its handles sticking out escapes you. So when you get home, the roaster won’t fit.
So when you know the size you want, bring a tape measure with you to the store and pull the pan out of its box and measure again including the handles. For online purchases check the product specifications. Why? Cause not all roaster box manufacturer labels state the right dimensions from a consumer point of view. Manufacturers take the pan’s interior measurements and don’t always account for the thickness of the pan’s walls so make sure to add this number. Wall thickness is usually so small that it doesn’t matter. Usually.
Upright handles are another concern. When you measure your oven, factor in the height because upright handles will increase the pan’s height. Others with an outward flare of others will add to the roaster’s width.
Since you’re buying a quality roaster with the intention of keeping it for several years or decades, perhaps to later pass it down to your kid, always buy a roaster to fit the usual size of bird you make every year. We usually get a 14-18 pounder. Your family may require a bigger turkey, or maybe even two. If that’s the case for you, buy two roasting pans if you have a double oven and roast both at once.
A 16-inch long roaster is big enough to accommodate a 17-pound turkey set atop a vegetable bed without overcrowding the pan. Most turkeys sell in the 14-18 pound range. We’ve had 22 pound monster that fit into our 18” pan without a problem.
Bigger is always better. Buy a roasting pan large enough to easily accommodate the biggest turkey you’re ever going to roast. This means that the bird must fit the pan without touching the sides. This space also allows for air circulation to brown the undersides.
Roasting pan side height
Side height should be 3 inches so drippings will drop down into the pan. If you use potatoes, carrots and other vegetables as a bed for your fond, make sure to factor in the height of this layer. Initially it will add a little height, but as the veggies roast, they’ll shrink.
If your pan’s side height is too low, you’ll risk splashing burning hot liquids when hauling the turkey from oven to tabletop or counter.
Shape is critical
Roasting pans come in two shapes: oval or rectangular. My wife swears by rectangular ones with rounded corners. Rounded corners make it easier to use a whisk in the pan to make gravy.
As the designated turkey transporter, I’ll vouch for rectangular. Its easier to balance and handle, especially if you have a bird loaded into it the size of a young Godzilla.
Oval roasters are OK but generally are too small to handle the seasonal behemoth you roast every year. Again, it’s a personal choice for you based on the size of the turkey you prepare.
A flat bottom is best
If a pan has a raised middle or a perimeter channel, it’s difficult to make a smooth gravy due to the drippings running into the side groves making mixing a roux difficult.
A flat bottom makes it easier to make roux and whisk a smooth gravy.
Don’t make the rack a torture device
Racks come in two flavors, flat and V-shaped. The rack’s purpose is to keep the bird’s underside from sticking to the pan. If any part of the bird sticks, you can end up scalping the thing when you flip it over during roasting.
A rack allows radiant heat to smoothly flow underneath a roast or turkey. Without this flow, the result may be unappealing pale, gray skin.
A good rack allows easier skimming off of fat and keeps the turkey from falling apart or roasting in its own juices. Circulation is important for the that deep brown crunchy skin texture I really like. Roasting a bird in its own juices makes a for a sloppy underside, that easily sloughs off.
In some instances you won’t even need a rack. With a rectangular pan you can layer in your veggies and place the bird right on top.
A rack makes the job of lifting the turkey and setting it on a platter easier (another designated task for yours truly) without making a mess. Lacking a rack you’ll have to attack the task with two large forks which has never been a good solution for me. I never seem to get the balance just right. As I lift the turkey it leans one way or the other overbalancing it, making it difficult to transfer to a platter.
Handles are a key factor in your choice
Handles are very important. You don’t want to buy a cheap pan with flimsy handles that are hard to grasp, or so thin that they’re hard to hold securely with hands wearing oven mitts.
Remember that your roaster carries a multi-pound cargo, which, when added to the weight of the roaster and trimmings adds up real quick. Not to mention that the hot pan at 500°F. It’s darn hard to try and remove a hot, heavy pan from the oven with just potholders or mitts and no handles to grab.
When hauling anything from the oven, a good grip is essential. You’re holding a hot, bulky and heavy roasting pan containing boiling hot juices.
Large upright handles are big enough to get a good grip while wearing bulky oven mitts.
Thin folding handles welded into the sides are difficult to grab and are flimsy. And when you grab your pan it is not the time to question whether you’re going to make it to the table, as the hot fat bubbles, splatters and sloshes around.
Handles must be thick, made of a single piece of metal that’s thick enough to do the job. They must be securely riveted to the pan body, instead of the sliding type. If your pan’s handles are too flimsy your turkey may try to escape and hit the floor as a cheap handle bends or fails.
Roasting pans are made out of several different materials. Not all of these are best for your needs.
When it comes to roasters, heavy is better, just as long as you can lift it the total package of bird, trimming and pan. A heavier pan, one with heft that feels good implies quality and provides better roasting with evenly distributed heat.
Good heft instills confidence. Grab a pan that’s too thin and you begin thinking about heat warping causing your loaded pan to twist or flex. Flexing causes sloshing of hot liquids making a mess on the floor or you.
Aluminum is a a good heat conductor but can be a roasting lightweight. Regular aluminum reacts with acidic ingredients, and is more prone to warping.
Anodised aluminium is non-stick and its dark color helps brown meat as it roasts. It’s better because it withstands an oven’s intense heat.
Cheap aluminum pressed disposable pans are flimsy and a danger to you, your oven, and your turkey. These require extra caution, so when baking a turkey in them set it atop a heavy duty cookie sheet to provide structure.
Nonstick ain’t necessarily good stuff
Nonstick surfaces separate juices and makes deglazing a moot point since juices won’t stick together and develop deep flavors preventing fond from forming. Nonstick does precisely the opposite of what you need a good roasting pen to do. This may be just me, but I don’t think nonstick imparts a good hearty flavor in most anything you roast with it.
Enamel-coated cast iron
Pans made with enamel-coated cast iron heat evenly and retain heat well. They make gravy making using browned drippings easy. Most are dishwasher safe. They’re durable, attractive, great on the stovetop, cook evenly, and are non-reactive.
The downside is that Enamel-coated cast iron can become way too heavy to be practical when loaded with a good-sized turkey. When you toss in a 14-23 pound turkey prepare for an Olympic lifting competitions. Sizes are limited.
Heavy-weight stainless steel or copper makes the best roaster.
Stainless steel is attractive, non-reactive, easy to clean and bright so you can see exactly how your fond and pan juices are progressing. Stainless resists marring. It’s great for creating the sticky fond on the bottom of the pan, which makes gravy delicious and a joy to make. Most are dishwasher safe.
The best type to get is tri-ply and 5-ply construction. These are made with sandwiched aluminum cores thick enough to prevent buckling or warping. The sandwiched aluminum heats quickly and evenly. These pans are durable and nonreactive. Makes for quick browning and crisp drippings for gravies.
Best Turkey Rosters for 2015
Here’s a selection on what I think are the best turkey roasters available this year. Following these reviews is a link to even more roasters and accessories so you can make a quality buying decision.
All Clad is the brand for you if you want something that will last a lifetime and can be handed down to your children.
All-Clad partnered with Williams-Sonoma to develop a perfect top of the line roasting pan. Great for roasting meat and poultry, potatoes and vegetables. Works well on the stove top for creating savory gravies or sauces from drippings. Hand crafted in the USA.
All-Clad 501631 Stainless Steel Large Roti Combo with Rack and Turkey Lifters Cookware, Silver
All-Clad Stainless-Steel Large Flared Roaster with Rack
Heavy gauge polished stainless steel with 16-Inch by 12-Inch by 10-Inch capacity
Large loop handles for maneuverability
18/10 stainless-steel cooking surface for easy clean up
Stay-cool stainless handles with non-corrosive rivets
Cooking rack (with handles) promotes even roasting
Measures 20.2 x 13.8 x 5.6 inches (W x D x H)
Limited lifetime warranty
Stainless-steel rack with lifting handles for easy removal of large foods
Ideal for vegetables and turkey
Durable construction for long-lasting performance
Won’t react with foods
Ensures fast, even heating
Low flared sides promote uniform browning and even cooking
Riveted stainless-steel handles stay cool on the cooktop
Hand crafted in the USA
Calphalon is a good alternative to Cuisinart. Their unique designs merge style with function to fit the culinary needs and style of home cooks and professional chefs.
Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 14-Inch Roaster with Rack and Lifters
Tri-Ply stainless construction combines the even heating of lightweight aluminum with the durability and corrosion-resistance of steel in an elegant design. Aluminum core between 2 stainless steel layers provides even heating for excellent browning and control of the cooking process.
- Triple-riveted handles make lifting and turning easy
Nonstick V-Rack lets heat circulate, for crisp browning
Brushed stainless steel handles make it easy to lift even when pan has a full load
Non-porous stainless steel cooking surface is safe for use with all utensils
Elegant brushed stainless steel exterior can go straight from the oven or stove directly to the table
Reflective cook surface makes it easy to monitor cooking foods
Clear tempered-glass lids allow you to monitor food while it’s cooking
Oven safe clear glass lids are perfect for oven use or to keep foods warm until ready to serve
Roasts meat beautifully
Holds up to a 25-pound turkey.
Ideal for making gravy
Carries Calphalon’s full lifetime warranty
Calphalon Contemporary Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Cookware, Roaster with Rack, 16-inch, Black
Heavy-gauge aluminum construction ensures even heating and is hard-anodized for durability. The nonstick surface means you can cook healthier using less fat.
- Triple-riveted brushed stainless steel handles makes lifting full loads and turning easy
Nonstick V-Rack lets heat circulate, for crisp browning
Brushed stainless steel handles make it easy to lift fully loaded pan
Well-designed handles flare out perfectly to prevent burned knuckles and fingers
Interior has three layers of nonstick coating
Features a hard-anodized exterior and nonstick interior for durability
Heavy-gauge aluminum construction ensures even heating
Holds up to a 25-pound turkey.
Easily transported from oven to stove
ideal for making gravy
Fast and easy cleanup
Comes with Calphalon’s full lifetime warranty
Cuisinart MCP117-16BR MultiClad Pro Stainless 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster with Rack
A mid range pan that performs like higher priced models. Stainless steel heats evenly with no hot spots. It’s sixteen-inch size is perfect for Thanksgiving, family dinners, parties, and other holiday celebrations.
- Tri-ply stainless steel construction
Sturdy and durable riveted stainless steel handles
Internal aluminum sandwiched layer provides even heat conduction with no hot spots
Easily holds a 22-pound turkey
Roasting rack firmly holds the turkey and allows juices to drain
Provides the perfect heat circulation
Granite Ware 0510-4 19-Inch Covered Oval Roaster
A good roasting pan for folks who do one-shot seasonal turkey roasting and don’t plan on using it for other tasks. Far less than the cost of a Cuisinart or All Clad.
- Browns better and cooks evenly
Dark interior absorbs all the oven’s energy
Steel core evenly distributes heat
Glass interior doesn’t alter the taste
Cooks 18 lb poultry / 22 lb roast, 19″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″
Design makes it impossible to use on the stove for gravy-making
Norpro KRONA Stainless Steel 12 Quart Multi Roaster
Norpro Krona’s Stainless Steel 12 Quart Multi Roaster holds an 18-24 pound turkey. The lid has a 3mm tri-ply encapsulated base and holds 5 quarts/4.8l. The lid can also be used on a burner as a saute pan.
- 5mm thick Tri-ply encapsulated base, provides uniform heating without hot spots
Heavy duty rack can be placed on base of roaster or lid, allowing juices to drain
12 quart/11.4 liter capacity
Heavy duty rack included
Multi-tasking lid can be used on burner as a saute pan or skillet
Cleans with hot soapy water
Viking 16″ by 13″ by 3″ 3-Ply Mirror Finish Roasting Pan with Non-Stick Rack, Large, Silver
Viking designed this roasting pan with the home cook in mind.
- Induction ready
Quality rivals All-Clad
V-shaped non-stick cooking rack elevates food for quicker and more even cooking
3-ply clad construction combines stainless steel’s durability with aluminum’s superior conductivity
Provides even heat distribution along the bottom and throughout the sides of the pan
Non-reactive cooking surface
Evenly distributed heat means no localized hot spots
Uniform heating over the burner and the far edges of the pan
Stainless steel construction won’t react with food
“Stay-cool” ergonomically designed handles make it easier to put turkey into and take out of the oven
Weighs 10 pounds
Inverted handles curve toward pan interior
Can fit up to a 25 point turkey
Rack fits inside pan snugly and leaves the lightest impressions on breast meat
Limited lifetime warranty
A final word
Investing in a quality turkey roaster can be a big deal. Because quality costs. Period. Quality offers the advantages of not requiring you to to buy a replacement roaster often, if ever. You make just one investment. When added up, buying cheap several times can exceed the cost of a quality roaster.
Buying cheaper roasting pan alternatives means you’ll have to purchase new stuff every year, especially if you like those pressed aluminum pans. But I can understand why. Strangled budgets or lack of storage space must always be considered.
So if you can, invest in quality. I’ve shown several roasters here at different price points.
But wait! There’s more!
LOL Had to throw that in.
There are a lot more roasters to consider. And you’ll probably need some additional kitchen tools, cooking bags and a whole bunch of stuff. If so, click the links below and you’ll see more stuff you’ll need to make your holiday truly spectacular.
Turkey roasting accessories
Turkey roasting pans
Turkey meat thermometers
Turkey carving knife sets
Best electric knife sharpeners
Best manual knife sharpeners
Read my posts for more information:
Best knife sharpeners to make your life easier
The best Thanksgiving dinnerware china for your holiday table
Best turkey homemaker and cocktail party aprons for
How to choose the best turkey serving platters for your holiday table
Hope this helps you.