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Do You Need a Nonstick Roasting Pan?

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2008

A great roasting pan should brown food evenly and produce substantial fond. Can a nonstick roasting pan do both?

We’ve long been satisfied with the traditional stainless steel roasting pans made by our top-rated brands, All-Clad and Calphalon. But since both companies also manufacture nonstick versions, we thought we would give them a try. For us, a great roasting pan should brown food evenly in the oven and produce a substantial fond when searing food over a burner. (Fond is the flavorful browned bits that form when drippings from a roast or bird fall to the bottom of the pan, creating a flavorful base for gravy or sauces.) We roasted chicken and potatoes as well as a whole prime rib (searing it first over two burners) in each type of pan.

Both types of pan performed identically in most applications—including browning the food evenly and preventing it from sticking. Where differences arise was in making gravy, specifically when it came to fond. Oftentimes, the fond is cooked over a burner while the roast rests, before being deglazed and made into gravy. The problem is, the dark color of the nonstick pan makes it very difficult to gauge not only how much fond you have but how dark the fond has become, leading us to accidentally burn one batch as we prepared to deglaze it. The final word? We’ll stick to the traditional choice.