Are you a cooking novice and wondering what is a roasting pan — or in need of one? Follow along with this guide to find out what makes a good roasting pan, some of our favorites to use, and what to do if you don’t have one!

What is a Roasting Pan?

Roasting Pans are a must-have kitchen item, but picking the right one can something be a chore.  Here’s a quick tutorial on this kitchen essential.

A roasting pan is a large, high sided pan, typically with removable racks and/or a ribbed bottom and handles. And yes, you do need one, or something like it, if you plan on cooking whole turkeys or large cuts of meat in the oven.

3 types of roasting pans

What Makes a Good Roasting Pan?

A good roasting pan is made from thicker stainless steel or aluminum for even heat distribution. The rack and/or ribbed bottom functions to separate the meat from the drippings. Look for one with sturdy, easy-to-grip handles for maneuvering that hot and heavy turkey in and out of the oven.

The word roasting means to cook with dry heat. Meats and poultry that have a layer of fat on the outside benefit from this method. Roasting produces moist, juicy meat on the inside, surrounded by a delectable thin layer of browned crust on the outside. This outer layer is important for sealing in the juices. You need dry heat to achieve this effect, and a roasting pan is designed with this in mind.

A deep-sided roasting pan is best for turkey or meats that give off a lot of drippings. A shallow roasting pan has shorter sides and is appropriate for baked potatoes, fish, vegetables or other foods that won’t produce a lot of juices as they roast.

Some roasting pans come with covers. This is a terrific feature that can give the pan more versatile uses, like stewing or pot roast. Just don’t mistakenly think that the cover is for roasting. The meat will steam not roast and will come out dry and tough. This can easily ruin a gorgeous, expensive roast by cooking it with the cover on! If you are concerned about over-browning, you can tent the meat with aluminum foil.

What Can You Use Instead of a Roasting Pan?

Don’t have a roasting pan? Just be mindful of what it means to roast: dry heat. You don’t want to squeeze your meat into a pan so touches the sides of the pan or rests on the bottom.

  • Use a high-sided casserole dish fitted with a rack and get a similar effect.
  • A large skillet
  • A rimmed baking sheet
  • And if it’s a large, heavy piece of meat you’re roasting, do not use those disposable “roasting” pans. They are too lightweight and do not conduct heat properly. Worse, they can be downright dangerous to handle when you’re ready to remove your roast from the oven.

Roasting Pan with a Rack

When investing in a roasting pan, it definitely makes sense to get a sturdy roasting pan with a removable rack.

  • The rack keeps roasted meat out of the drippings.
  • It makes it easier to lift out the roast or trussed turkey in one piece.
  • The rack also gives more options for roasting potatoes and vegetables.

If you don’t have a rack, use balls of foil or even carrots/celery and onions to prop your meat up and out of the liquids.

After removing the roast or turkey, remove the rack and transfer the pan to the stovetop for deglazing in preparation for making an easy gravy.

Our Favorite Roasting Pans

Calphalon Classic 16-Inch Roasting Pan with Nonstick Rack

  • Why we like it:
    • Non-stick surface is easy to clean.
    • The price point is reasonable for a solid pan.
    • Removable rack for easy cooking.
    • Handles for easy lifting.
  • Price: $65.99 – Cephalon on Amazon

Granite Ware 18″ Covered Oval Roasting Pan

  • Why we like it:
    • Excellent price point if you only roast occasionally.
    • Has a lid.
    • Dishwasher and stovetop safe
    • Handles for easy lifting.
    • Comes in many sizes.
  • Price: $29.99 – Granite Ware on Amazon

a black roasting pan

How to Clean a Roasting Pan

One of the toughest kitchen chores is dealing with baked-on grease. A roasting pan is the poster child for this unpleasant task! There are lots of recommendations out there for cutting down on elbow grease.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • Stovetop burner, water, and a metal whisk or wooden spatula – Put an inch of water in the roasting pan and set it to boil on the stovetop. Scrape the baked-on bits along the sides by tipping the pan. This is effective at getting the worst spots, but you’re still left with grease along the tops of the pan where the water can’t reach.
  • Bon Ami powder cleanser and an abrasive pad – The same non-scratch cleanser that you can use for your sink and bathtub can also be used on your pans. It’s non-toxic, effective and doesn’t scratch. This is especially good for non-stick roasting pan that still might have some stubborn grease spots. I suppose you could also use abrasive powder cleansers for even more power, although I personally haven’t.
  • Oven cleaner and wadded up aluminum foil – I only use this on sturdy stainless steel, and only when the weather’s ok for carrying my pans outdoors. I don’t like spraying harsh chemicals in my kitchen. Effective, yes, but may not be the most practical for every situation.
  • Baking soda and vinegar – This is one I’ve haven’t tried yet, but I see it all over the Internet and plan to give it a go one of these days. Those who swear by it recommend sprinkling the pan generously with baking soda, then adding vinegar and letting it soak before scrubbing.


Pile of roasting pans with a tight
Different kinds of roasting pans with a title
Roasting pans with writing


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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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  1. Hi Holly,
    I like your website and gives me good tips.
    The granite oval roasting pan with lid should I use it only for stews and post roast? When I do the pot roast, should I covered the pan with his lid or aluminum foil?

    1. This will depend on the recipe and temperature you are cooking at but a pot roast should most often be cooked covered.