Q. I am hosting my family's Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I need help in choosing a roasting pan. Can you give me tips on how to choose the correct roasting pan to use?
A. Choosing the right pan for your turkey (or roast) is important. The following are tips on how to choose and use different roasting pans.
- Choose a pan with sides that are about 3 inches high. If the sides are higher, the hot air may not be able to get to the bottom of the pan to cook the food evenly. If the sides are too low, the drippings can spill when pulling the pan out of the oven.
- If you make gravy with the pan drippings, be sure to get a pan that can stand up to the direct heat of a burner. Besides aluminum pans, stainless steel pans are also suitable for stove-top cooking. However, using an aluminum or stainless steel pan with a nonstick coating won't give you the crispy browned bits on the bottom of the pan that help to make a rich gravy.
- Most importantly, before you purchase any roasting pan, measure the inside of your oven. Not all ovens are the same size and some will not accommodate larger roasting pans. Pans should have 2 inches of air space on all sides when in the oven to allow good air circulation.
- If you plan to use your roasting pan for a variety of cooking needs, not just for the occasional roast, consider investing in a good quality roasting pan that will cook with you throughout the years. It may cost a little more, but it will be well worth the price.
- The pan needs to be just large enough to hold the biggest thing you will roast without touching the sides of the pan. A larger pan will only be cumbersome and difficult to handle.
- Choose a pan that is heavy and won't buckle under the weight of a large turkey or large cut of meat. Be careful not to choose a pan that is heavier than you can lift once the food is in it.
- Strong handles are very important. Lifting a hot, heavy pan is much easier with sturdy, fixed handles.
- Consider the shape of the pan. Oval pans are perfect for cooking a single roast or turkey, but it is more difficult to use them for two smaller roasts or chickens. Rectangular pans with rounded corners, however, can accommodate a wider range of food sizes than oval pans.
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