Don’t throw out your plans for a Sunday roast just yet.
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Apple-Bourbon Turkey and Gravy
Credit: Iain Bagwell

What's all the fuss about roasting pans, anyway? If you're in charge of cooking the Easter ham, Thanksgiving turkey, or Sunday roast, we hope you're not asking yourself this question. In the off chance you are, there's hope for you yet. We're delivering all the details on what a roasting pan is, the best roasting-pan replacements, and even how to create a makeshift roasting rack. You might be relieved to find a number of options hiding in your kitchen ready to help you mimic the benefits of a roasting pan and its BFF, the rack. Before you set out on a full-blown panic, slow down and take stake of what you already have on hand for the best roasting-pan alternative.

What Is a Roasting Pan?

One of the most definitive features of a roasting pan is its high walls, which are designed to capture the falling juices from cooking meat while also locking in heat. Roasting pans are specifically designed to cook at higher temperatures without fear of uneven cooking. You'll find many who praise their stainless-steel versions, but ceramic-coated cast-iron models and nonstick varieties also come highly rated. 

What Is a Roasting Rack?

Roasting pans are often sold with a roasting rack. The rack allows heat to circle around the meat while it cooks and also allows for the drippings to collect in the bottom of the pan. And if you've ever tasted Mama's gravy, you know the importance of good drippings.

Roasting-Pan Alternatives

Above all else, your roasting-pan substitute should have raised sides (again, the juices). From there, it's as simple as taking a gander at your existing cookware to find the appropriately sized replacement. Large cuts of meat like ham, standing rib roast, and a whole turkey will obviously need larger cooking vessels, while small whole chickens, tenderloins, and the like can utilize large skillets and even some specialized cookware (looking at you, paella pan).

  • Aluminum Roasting Pan – A disposable aluminum roasting pan could work if you're desperate but it likely (and perhaps surprisingly) will not be the best replacement. The material is thin and might not be able to handle the weight of what you're cooking once it's piping hot. There's also the issue of heat distribution—no even Stephens here. Aluminum pans do come with a major benefit in minimizing cleanup though, and we all know the allure of that fact can't be underestimated.
  • Broiler Pan – A broiler pan paired with a grill rack provides a great option but the low walls could prove troublesome depending on how much liquid your roast delivers.
  • Casserole Dish – A large casserole dish can be a reliable alternative to your standard roaster, just make sure your casserole dish is designed to withstand high temperatures for long periods of time.
  • Cast-Iron SkilletThe do-it-all darling of every Southern kitchen can also moonlight as a roasting pan. Its ability to withstand high-temperatures, its excellent heat retention and distribution, plus its ability to crisp meats to perfection make it a winner.
  • Dutch OvenA Dutch oven is designed to go from the stovetop to oven with ease, withstands high temperatures, and comes in an array of sizes that can cover everything from a roast to a whole chicken.   
  • Paella Pan – It might seem like quite the specialty item to have if your kitchen isn't already stocked with a roasting pan, but the good news is that a paella pan will absolutely come in handy for roasting in a pinch thanks to its large capacity and walled design.
  • Rimmed Baking Sheet – Depending on how much juice or drippings you think your meat will deliver, a standard rimmed baking sheet could do the trick, particularly if it's fitted with a baking rack as well. Because you won't have quite the wall height you would with a traditional roasting pan, be careful when removing the pan from the oven as spills and splatters could be an issue.

Roasting Rack Alternatives

Now what to do if you find yourself in need of a roasting rack? You're not out of luck quite yet. Here are a few alternatives:

  • Metal Cooling Rack – Sure you might use it for cookies and baked goods most of the time, but a metal cooling rack can certainly help you out if you find yourself in want of a roasting rack. Metal racks for the microwave or toaster oven can also do the job.
  • Veggies – Large diced root vegetables are a favorite way to give meats a boost while providing heaps of flavor. Parsnips, carrots, onions, even fennel and potatoes are all great options, but use whatever ingredients work best with the meal's star.
  • Foil – If you're really in a bind, make a few aluminum foil balls to place under the meat. The objective is to provide just enough lift to ensure the meat doesn't sit on the bottom of the pan.