How we tested
A good roasting rack securely holds a roast, elevating it so it doesn’t sit in fat while cooking. It should allow hot air to circulate around the meat—key for accurate cooking and a perfectly rendered exterior. We’ve often disliked the racks that come bundled with roasting pans; even our winning pan’s rack is slightly unstable. What’s more, many roasting pans don’t come with a rack in the first place, and racks occasionally go astray. For years, we’ve turned to a nearly $25 rack from All-Clad.
But new models have entered the market, with snazzy silicone shapes and intriguing designs. To compare, we tested the All-Clad against six new racks, priced from roughly $8.50 to nearly $26, by roasting 250 pounds of chicken, beef, and turkey and ranking the racks on stability, capacity, cleanup, design, and—most important—how the food turned out.
Some racks were too small. Plump turkeys bulged over their sides as if the birds were trying to squeeze into their high school jeans. Except for one rack, bigger was better, providing both capacity and stability. Small racks skittered around because they weren’t broad enough to brace themselves.
Side support was key, too; those with U- or V-shaped baskets cradled their fowl upright, while flat racks’ birds lurched drunkenly, like fleshy ships run aground. Also problematic: undersized or nonexistent handles. Loaded racks are heavy, and large handles made them easier to maneuver.
The silicone models were eye-catching but didn’t have handles. More pressing was that they didn’t raise the meat enough, so their food steamed on the bottom. In fact, half the models didn’t allow for proper air circulation, an issue which was further illustrated when we tried to roast vegetables below a chicken, as we sometimes do when we want a handy one-pan meal. Models without enough clearance turned out pasty potatoes that literally paled in comparison to the crispy, caramel-hued tubers produced by racks with open, raised bottoms. Loads of space wasn’t necessary—our winning model had just ½ inch of clearance, but its open slats ensured that hot air had full, even access to the meat.
In the end, no rack outperformed our previous winner. Meat cooked on it always emerged perfectly rendered, it securely fit everything we wedged into it (including a 22-pound behemoth of a bird), and it performed well with our winning roasting pan but also worked with a range of pan shapes and sizes. For optimal roasting, it’s still our top choice.