Our full-size roasting pan is perfect for big holiday meals. Could we find a scaled-down version that offers performance for everyday use?
Last Updated Nov. 12, 2020.
We love our favorite roasting pan, the Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Roasting Pan with Rack ($99.99), for roasting turkeys and larger cuts of meat. But sometimes we want a more petite version for chickens, vegetables, and smaller cuts of meat. Curious to know which small roasting pan and rack were best, we purchased five sets priced from $17.99 to $159.95, each with a pan about 14 inches long. While the exact capacities of the pans differed, the pans we chose were, on average, about half the size of our winning full-size pan; all were dishwasher-safe. We used the pans and racks to roast potatoes and whole chickens and to make gravy on the stovetop with the chicken drippings.
Almost all the sets cooked the food well, but a few design factors made certain sets perform and handle better than others. We preferred pans that were made of tri-ply stainless steel (two layers of stainless steel sandwiching a core of aluminum) to those made of single-ply stainless or aluminized steel. As we’ve learned in other testings, the two materials in tri-ply models provide an ideal combination of heat conduction and temperature control, enabling them to cook food more evenly than single-material pans. The tri-ply models in this testing were also heavier—in one case, a bit too heavy to maneuver comfortably—and two to four times thicker than the single-material pans, making them a little slower to heat up. But that weight and thickness also contributed to those pans’ superior performance, helping them brown the food better and cook it more reliably. By contrast, the two thinnest pans in our lineup struggled with high heat. One scorched potatoes when we roasted them at 425 degrees—well within the pan’s permissible temperature range. The other warped slightly when we used it over a direct flame. (Neither model was recommended for stovetop cooking, but because many people use their roasting pans to make gravy over a burner, we tried it anyway.)
Pan color also mattered. In contrast to the four light-colored stainless-steel models, the one dark pan was particularly troublesome. Because dark pans absorb and radiate more heat than lighter-colored ones, they tend to cook and brown food more quickly. Indeed, we had to watch the dark model closely to prevent food from burning.
We preferred pans that had flatter cooking surfaces to those that came with pronounced grease troughs around their perimeters. The grease troughs tended to draw oil away from the center of the pan, inhibiting browning there and forcing us to pry the potatoes off the pan when they were done. They also cut into the ove...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.