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Roasting Pans with Racks

Published December 2013

How we tested

A handsome, heavy-duty roasting pan bearing a big holiday roast—what could be more iconic? But twice-a-year employment for an item that can cost $300 (or more) never made any sense to us, which is why we were glad to find our previous winner. This sturdy, roomy workhorse impressed us with even browning and an ability to withstand high-heat searing on the stovetop. Luckily, the manufacturer of our previously winning roasting pan hasn’t changed a thing about the pan since we discovered it in 2006, not even the price.

So why are we fixing what ain’t broke? Cookware companies are constantly coming out with new roasting pans. Our search turned up six other contenders, costing $18 and up, including a $200 model that we tested to see if spending more meant better performance. Materials ranged from all aluminum to enamel-coated steel, plain stainless steel, a tri-ply construction of stainless steel sandwiching a core of aluminum. All models were at least 12 inches wide and 16 inches long and came with racks.

We started by roasting 2 pounds of potatoes coated in olive oil in each pan to see which materials browned evenly. Plain stainless steel was the worst, leaving spuds at the center pale while those at the edges overbrowned. Thin, enamel-coated steel pans weren’t much better. Pans of stainless steel plus aluminum distributed the heat more evenly across their surfaces; most browned well. As for the all-aluminum pan, its dark surface browned evenly but very quickly: Its contents were deeply golden brown (the potatoes were perfect) in half of the time that the other pans took.

These results were repeated when we seared pork loins in the pans over a medium-high flame on the stovetop: The thin stainless-steel model buckled and burned, blackening the pan surface. We tried again over lower heat, but that didn’t get a very nice sear on the meat. One enamel-coated steel pan fared even worse, blackening and making a popping noise as its enamel cracked and a few pieces of enamel fell off. (We got a second copy of this pan and lowered the flame, which helped.) And after their interiors blackened, these two pans were impossible to get completely clean; the rest cleaned up easily. Though tri-ply pans were heavier to maneuver, they heated steadily on the stovetop, never warping or buckling, leaving golden-brown crusts on the pork—ditto the all-aluminum pan.

Moving the pans was about more than weight. Large, easy to grip handles made a difference, as did pan shape. One sizable, boxy pan was awkward and heavy—not fun when we had to pour out hot drippings. The enamel-coated steel pans were lightweight, but their handles, also enameled, were slippery and small. Pans with big handles facing upward gave us a sure grip with potholders and helped us transfer the pan steadily, whether it held 2 pounds of potatoes or a 19-pound turkey.

But hoisting pans laden with big birds pointed to another factor: how well the racks fit. Some were much more secure and snug than others. Racks much smaller than their corresponding pans lurched and slid when we moved the heavy turkey. One traveled nearly 6 inches with a bird and hot drippings.

Deglazing drippings in the pans made us appreciate those with flat, or nearly flat, bottoms rather than deep grooves. And while the dark anodized surface of the aluminum pan yielded darker roasted bits, verging on scorched, the tri-ply pans’ lighter finish provided golden-brown fond that worked perfectly for gravy. (We could also monitor browning more easily in lighter pans.)

We’re sticking with our previously winning roasting pan and rack. Whether roasting a turkey, browning potatoes, or searing a pork loin, it gave us great results. For an even more budget-friendly alternative, get our Best Buy, made by the same manufacturer as our winning model.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*
Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB