Which roaster trays are best?
A roaster tray, also known as a roasting pan, is an essential tool for holiday cooking. Roaster trays are big enough to handle Thanksgiving turkeys, Easter hams and Christmas geese. They’re also great for everyday meals like lamb chops, pork ribs or roasted vegetables. There are several types of roaster trays on the market, and finding the best one for you can be difficult.
The perfect roaster tray is sized just right for your needs and is easy to use and clean. Top pick Cuisinart Chef’s Classic Stainless 16-Inch Rectangular Roaster hits all the marks and looks great too.
What to know before you buy a roaster tray
Roaster trays are made from a variety of metals. Basic models are available in aluminum or steel. These get the job done, but pay close attention to user reviews and the maximum temperature, since most trays top out at 450 degrees. Cheap aluminum or steel can warp easily.
Mid-range and high-end models are mostly copper or stainless steel. These provide even heat distribution and look great while serving, but they can also be hard to clean. Keep in mind that whatever your tray is made of, a dark metal will make it difficult to see drippings collecting on the bottom of the pan.
Some typical roaster tray sizes include 13 by 9, 14 by 10 and 17 by 13 inches. While these don’t sound very different, a few extra inches can mean the difference between a holiday feast for four and a holiday feast for a dozen.
Remember that you can always use less of a big tray, but you can’t use more of a small tray. If you think you’ll need the extra space, even if it’s only once a year, go big. Just make sure that your new big roasting tray will fit in your oven and that you have room to store it.
Finding the roaster tray that’s the right weight can be a bit tricky. In general, heavier is better. Heavy roaster trays stand up to higher temperatures and conduct heat more efficiently.
On the other hand, the food you’re cooking is likely to be heavy already, and you want to be able to safely and easily take your tray in and out of the oven. Be realistic about what you’ll be able to lift to avoid cooking disasters. While a cast iron roaster tray might seem like a good idea, it’s probably best to go with another material unless you’re absolutely sure you can handle the weight.
What to look for in a quality roaster tray
Meat juices, burnt bits and other flavor goodies collect at the bottom of your roaster tray. When your meal is gone, make cleaning up after these extras a whole lot easier by buying a tray with nonstick coating. It’s a common feature on many models.
The only downside to nonstick coating is that you can’t use metal utensils while cooking or cleaning. Nonstick coating on cheaper models is also known to peel, so be cautious when choosing a pan.
Some cooks would never use a roaster tray without a rack, while others prefer to leave out the rack and instead place their meat on top of vegetables. There are flavor benefits to both, but one logistical benefit is that a rack makes it easy to pick up your meat all at once for carving or resting.
Not all roaster trays come with a rack. If it’s an essential feature for you, be sure to check your prospective model before you buy.
Most roaster trays have handles along the side. You want your handles to be big and sturdy; ideally, they’ll be riveted in place for extra security. A cheap handle means the food you worked so hard on could accidentally end up on the floor.
One word of caution about big handles is that they can make an already large pan too large to fit into your oven. Be sure to measure carefully before you buy — you still want enough room for air to circulate properly.
How much you can expect to spend on a roaster tray
Roaster tray prices depend on size and material. You can find simple smaller roaster trays for $10-$20. Larger roaster trays with better construction and higher-quality components are generally $40-$100. High-end stainless steel roaster trays run $100-$300.
Roaster tray FAQ
How do I clean a roaster tray with burnt food on the bottom?
A. Sprinkle your tray with baking soda. Then add vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes while the mixture bubbles. Add hot water and soak for half an hour. Scrub and rinse. Your pan should look like new. If not, repeat the process using more baking soda and a longer soak.
How do I know my food is safe to eat?
A. A high-quality meat thermometer is the best way to ensure your food is safe to eat. The recommended minimum internal temperature differs by type of meat. For example, Thanksgiving turkey should be at least 165 degrees measured from the thickest part of the bird. Be sure your thermometer doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan or a bone.
What are the best roaster trays to buy?
Top roaster tray
What you need to know: This is a top stainless steel roaster tray from the most trusted name in the kitchen.
What you’ll love: This pan is perfectly sized for a Thanksgiving turkey. It has large, sturdy handles. It’s surprisingly easy to clean for stainless steel.
What you should consider: Wide handles mean this pan might not fit in smaller ovens.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top roaster tray for the money
What you need to know: This quality budget roaster tray gets the job done for under $20.
What you’ll love: The pan’s nonstick surface makes cleaning a breeze and holds up well over time. It’s available in multiple sizes.
What you should consider: This pan can be difficult to take out of the oven because it doesn’t have handles.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This Circulon pan is a deep oversized roaster tray ideal for holiday or everyday cooking.
What you’ll love: The handles are rounded and easy to grip. It’s built tough. The extra room makes cooking for a crowd simple.
What you should consider: Some users report issues with the lining peeling off after frequent use.
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Frank Paiva writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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