We went looking for a model that we’d want to use all the time, not just twice a year.
Last Updated Aug. 27, 2021. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Autumn Supper
It had been a while since we last reviewed roasting pans with racks, and since the winner of the original review had been discontinued, we decided to test a few new models. We liked both the new pans we tested, but the best option for home cooks is our former Best Buy, the Cuisinart MultiClad Pro Stainless 16” Roasting Pan with Rack. It is now our winner.
A handsome, heavy-duty roasting pan bearing a big holiday roast—what could be more iconic? But twice-a-year employment for an item that can cost $300 (or more) never made any sense to us, which is why we were glad to find our previous winner. This sturdy, roomy workhorse impressed us with even browning and an ability to withstand high-heat searing on the stovetop. Luckily, the manufacturer of our previously winning roasting pan hasn’t changed a thing about the pan since we discovered it in 2006, not even the price.
So why are we fixing what ain’t broke? Cookware companies are constantly coming out with new roasting pans. Our search turned up six other contenders, costing $18 and up, including a $200 model that we tested to see if spending more meant better performance. Materials ranged from all aluminum to enamel-coated steel, plain stainless steel, a tri-ply construction of stainless steel sandwiching a core of aluminum. All models were at least 12 inches wide and 16 inches long and came with racks.
We started by roasting 2 pounds of potatoes coated in olive oil in each pan to see which materials browned evenly. Plain stainless steel was the worst, leaving spuds at the center pale while those at the edges overbrowned. Thin, enamel-coated steel pans weren’t much better. Pans of stainless steel plus aluminum distributed the heat more evenly across their surfaces; most browned well. As for the all-aluminum pan, its dark surface browned evenly but very quickly: Its contents were deeply golden brown (the potatoes were perfect) in half of the time that the other pans took.
These results were repeated when we seared pork loins in the pans over a medium-high flame on the stovetop: The thin stainless-steel model buckled and burned, blackening the pan surface. We tried again over lower heat, but that didn’t get a very nice sear on the meat. One enamel-coated steel pan fared even worse, blackening and making a popping noise as its enamel cracked and a few pieces of enamel fell off. (We got a second copy of this pan and lowered the flame, which helped.) And after their interiors blackened, these two pans were impossible to get completely clean; the rest cleaned up easily. Though tri-ply pans were heavier to maneuver, they heated steadily on the stovetop, never warping or buckling, leaving golden-brown crusts on the pork—ditto the all-aluminum pan.
Moving the pans was about more than weight. Large, easy to grip handles made a difference, as did pan shape. One sizable, boxy pan was awkward and heavy—not fun when we had to pour out hot drippings. The enamel-coated steel pans were lightweight, but their handles, also enameled, were slipper...
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