Published December 1, 2006. From Cook's Country.
Which ones can stand the heat?
How often do you use a roasting pan? Is it once or twice a year for a big holiday roast? A really nice roasting pan can easily retail for $200, but it doesn't make sense to spend so much money on a flashy pan that will sit in a cabinet most of the year, (especially since the $200+ model we’ve previously used in the test kitchen proved it couldn’t stand up to stovetop heat.) We wanted to find a utilitarian model, for a reasonable price.
Selecting which pans to test was easy. Since, to develop flavor, we often sear meat before roasting it, we chose pans that were flameproof and could be used on the stovetop; aluminum disposables, Pyrex, stoneware, and ceramic pans were out. We also wanted a pan that could accommodate a big holiday turkey with ease, so 15 by 11 inches was our minimum size. We wanted to be able to broil and roast at high heat, so we eliminated pans with nonstick finishes.
The best handles are sturdy and easy to grip with thick potholders and don't protrude far enough upward or outward to become a hazard. Our testers preferred upright, riveted handles, neither too thick nor too small.
The last thing you want to hear when you're working with a hot roasting pan—and its sizzling contents—on the stovetop is the "pop" of the pan buckling, which can send scalding-hot projectiles onto your arms. Buckling is also a telltale symptom of uneven heating, which leads to uneven cooking and browning. Most of the lighter pans buckled on the stovetop and produced food with spotty browning. The heaviest pans didn't buckle and were better at browning.
Stainless steel is attractive, nonreactive, lightweight, and relatively durable. It's also a poor conductor of heat, making it no surprise that our two top-performing pans featured an aluminum core inside the stainless steel. Aluminum is a superior metal for fast and even heat conductivity, which translates into no buckling and more responsive cooking—especially on the stovetop. The rest of the lineup was made of plain stainless steel or porcelain-enameled steel—fine materials for roasting a turkey in the oven (where the conductivity of the pan is not as important, as the food cooks mostly by radiant heat), but not well suited to the stovetop.