Whether you need a roasting pan only for the holidays or routinely use one for roasting large cuts of meat and vegetables, experts say it's important that the roasting pan heats evenly: A sure sign of uneven heat distribution is a pan that warps.
Many roasting pans use aluminum in their construction, which is an excellent conductor of heat. But aluminum is also a soft metal and not particularly durable. Therefore, most high-quality roasting pans have a layer of aluminum sandwiched between outer layers of stainless steel, or they are made of hard-anodized aluminum, which is put through an electrochemical process to make the exterior more durable.
Other materials have some unusual benefits: Enameled steel and enameled cast iron are extremely durable; cast iron and ceramic hold heat well, and copper has a higher rate of conductivity than other metals. But overall, we didn't find as much support for these types of roasting pans as we did for stainless steel and hard-anodized aluminum.
Many cooks prefer the versatility of stainless-steel roasting pans, which can sear meat and deglaze sauces on the stovetop as well as withstand hotter temperatures in the oven or under the broiler. Additionally, stainless-steel roasting pans are durable and dishwasher-safe (although manufacturers may recommend hand washing to preserve the shiny appearance). Nonstick roasting pans don't sear meat as well as stainless, according to experts, and the dark color makes it easier to accidentally burn gravy on the stovetop. Even after carefully following manufacturer instructions, nonstick coatings often flake off.
The 16-inch Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Roaster with V Rack (*Est. $130) is recommended in two expert reviews. It gets excellent results when browning turkey and potatoes in the oven, and it scores points for the pan design and accompanying nonstick rack. Specifically, editors at Fine Cooking magazine praise the "nicely rounded corners" and "massive 5-inch-wide handles" that curve inward. This pan's tri-ply construction with an aluminum core minimizes warping and promotes even cooking. Most owners at Cooking.com and Amazon.com say they are happy with their Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Roasting Pan, which is covered by a lifetime warranty. They describe the pan as sturdy but not too heavy.
All-Clad is considered to be the top-of-the-line cookware by many professional cooks, and their roasting pans are equally as expensive. Because we found such good reviews for the Calphalon roasting pan, it's hard to recommend paying substantially more for an All-Clad pan. However, Fine Cooking magazine says the shallower 2.25-inch sides of the All-Clad Stainless-Steel Large Flared Roaster (*Est. $250) are less likely to inhibit browning in the oven, and the perfectly flat bottom distributes heat more evenly on the stovetop. The included rack is upgraded to stainless steel, but testers found its flat, handle-less design too awkward to use.
All-Clad roasters receive favorable reviews from owners at Williams-Sonoma.com, where they are primarily sold. A less-costly option -- the All-Clad Stainless-Steel Large Roaster with Rack (*Est. $200) -- is made of only a single ply of heavy-duty stainless steel and comes with a nonstick rack. Experts warn that single-ply stainless-steel roasting pans have a tendency to warp more than those with an aluminum core sandwiched between other metals. Both All-Clad pans are available in two sizes and covered by a lifetime warranty.
As most professional cooks favor stainless steel, nonstick roasters don't get as much attention in expert reviews. However, in one side-by-side comparison to stainless, the Calphalon Contemporary Nonstick Roaster Set (*Est. $80) performed as well as the Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Roasting Pan at browning a chicken, prime rib and potatoes, and producing flavorful fond (the brown bits that form in the bottom from meat drippings). It's also a standout in more than 200 owner reviews at Cooking.com, where reviewers agree that the hard-anodized exterior is durable, albeit heavier. In addition to a nonstick rack, the set includes two turkey lifters and an injection baster. The manufacturer covers the pan under a lifetime warranty but warns against using it in an oven that's hotter than 450 degrees Fahrenheit or cleaning it in the dishwasher.
If you only use a roasting pan once or twice a year, experts at KitchenDaily.com recommend Granite Ware pans over disposable, aluminum pans. The dark-colored, speckled appearance of Granite Ware roasters is familiar to many consumers, because the U.S.-based company has been making roasting pans for more than 100 years. The porcelain coating over carbon steel core is dishwasher-safe and covered by a lifetime warranty. Editors at one foodie magazine say the Granite Ware 19-Inch Covered Oval Roaster (*Est. $30) did an excellent job of browning potatoes, but the raised pattern on the thin bottom makes it very difficult to deglaze sauces on the stovetop and to clean. Reviews at Amazon.com and Cooking.com praise the lightweight, durable Granite Ware pans (available in several sizes and shapes), saying meat cooks quickly and turns out moist. Although the oval roaster is sold with a lid, a rack must be purchased separately.
A recent review at Fine Cooking magazine evaluates nine roasting pans by cooking a turkey and then potatoes in the oven and making gravy on the stovetop. Testers also evaluate each pan's shape, size, weight and design. Editors at Cook's Illustrated magazine follow a similar methodology in an older review of eight roasting pans. In a separate review of nonstick versus stainless-steel, Cook's Illustrated editors evaluate the performance of these two types of cooking surfaces without focusing on a particular brand. KitchenDaily.com recommends roasting pans at various price points. Cooking.com, Amazon.com and Williams-Sonoma.com are the best sources of owner reviews.