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What is a Roasting Pan? And Why Every Kitchen Needs One

  • A roasting pan is a high walled pan most commonly used to cook meat, veggies, and starches in the oven at high temperatures
  • Roasting pans aren't the same as baking dishes
  • Roasting pans aren't just for the holiday season — they're year-round cookware

Here’s what a roasting pan is...

A roasting pan is an oven safe, high walled pan most commonly used to cook a large cut of meat, vegetables, and/or starches at a high temperature — usually 350 degrees and hotter. The best roasting pans are made from a heavy duty metal with a non stick surface that conducts heat very well, such as carbon steel, stainless steel, or cast iron.

Roasting pans’ high walls make it essentially the opposite of a baking sheet in terms of things you stick in the oven. The reason behind these high walls is that they trap heat inside, allow for the storing and collection of liquid, and make tenting (covering your roasting pan with an aluminum foil tent to lock in heat and moisture) a breeze. There are a lot of articles about roasting pan alternatives out there, but the best roasting pan is, without a doubt, an actual roasting pan.

Contrary to what actually, y’know, makes sense, roasting pans are somehow typically not the best piece of cookware in which to pan roast (sear on the stovetop then finish cooking in the oven) due to their large size — they can take a while to get up to a searing temperature. However, some higher-quality roasting pans, like our Blue Carbon Steel Roasting Pan are stovetop compatible and can be great pan roasting tools.

roasting pan used for roasting vegetables on counter

When answering the question “what is a roasting pan?,” it’s important to make the distinction that a roasting pan is not the same thing as a baking dish. Baking dishes are typically made of glass or ceramic, have lower walls, and are used at lower temperatures, whereas roasting pans are usually metal, have higher walls, and are used at higher temperatures.

Roasting pans are often paired with roasting racks. As well as allowing air to circulate to ensure an even roast, roasting racks also serve the purpose of allowing cuts of meat to sit above the bottom of the pan and baste the starch and/or vegetables below them during the cooking process. The pan drippings collect in the bottom of the roasting pan and serve the dual purpose of braising whatever’s in the pan during the cooking process and flavoring them after the cooking process, when the drippings can be thickened up and turned into everyone's favorite thing in the world — pan gravy.

And here’s what a roasting pan is used for:

Roasting meat is where roasting pans shine. Their large size makes fitting whole birds and large cuts of meat a breeze, the use of a roasting rack allows for even heating when opting to roast rather than braise, and the high walls allow for you to cook, baste, and braise veggies and starches while your meat cooks. It’s a try do-everything-all-at-once piece of equipment -- that’s why some people call the roasting pan "the original crock pot" and "Kevin" (the latter is specific to people who've decided to name their roasting pan Kevin).

chef carving chicken inside roasting pan

Roasting pans are also phenomenal vessels in which to roast vegetables. Spaghetti squash, butternut squash, and other fall favorites are great roasting pan inserts as the roasting pan's high walls lock in heat and allow for even cooking. Furthermore, smaller veggies like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and broccoli cook great in roasting pans as they get tender from the long exposure to consistent heat as well as acquire great texture from being in constant contact with the pan base.

You’ll see roasting pans most often during the holidays, when Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas hams, and roasted fall vegetables are frequently in the mix. Don’t put the roasting pan in a holiday season corner, though! The versatility of the roasting pan means it can serve many purposes throughout the rest of the year. They’re great for:

  • Cooking a side dish - Potatoes au gratin, Brussels sprouts with bacon, roasted carrots — roasting pans are great for making large side dishes that require small cleanups afterwards
  • Tailgate appetizers - A batch of braised meatballs, a deep dish pizza, buffalo chicken dip, and more can be made using a roasting pan
  • Meal prep - Lasagna that will last you all month, a full roasted chicken for a full week of lunches, ratatouille you’ll snack on to your heart’s content — the roasting pan has you covered

With their overall sturdiness and incredible range of functionality, there’s really no limit to what you can use a roasting pan for. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out Taste of Home’s list of 60 roasting pan recipes!

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