By Mariette Mifflin

DEFINITIONA roaster, roasting pan or turkey pan is the name given to a large piece of oven cookware. Roasters can can vary considerably in size. For a turkey, a roasting pan needs to be at least 15"- 18" long and a rectangular or oval shape is ideal. 

Though we often refer to the large roasters as turkey pans, they are generally used for so much more, including a variety of meats, roasts, as well as large batches of cabbage rolls, baked potatoes or other meal items. They are also very handy for baking a lasagna or for roasting a whole chicken.

Compared to a baking sheet or large bakeware pan, a roaster usually has a heavier construction to reduce hot spots and improve cooking performance, safe and sturdy handles, and has higher sides to accommodate a large roast, chicken or turkey plus grease. In fact, the deeper the sides, the better. 

Choose a roaster based on a size suitable for your needs, construction and quality based on what you can afford and overall finish that is convenient and easy to care for. 

Keep in mind that how the roaster is constructed makes a big difference when it comes to even and quick heating, as well as cooking results. Since cleaning a large roaster can be tedious, roaster interior finish is important. The easiest to clean are those with either a nonstick interior or more durable polished stainless steel. 

Because this type of cookware is so versatile, most have more than one in their kitchen. One appropriately sized for a turkey, often a mid-size for large roasts and a smaller one for everything else. A covered dutch oven is often used as a smaller size roaster. If you are just starting to equip a kitchen and can only get one for now, a mid size that can accommodate a whole chicken or 3-5 lb roast, would be very practical. Most cookware sets include a dutch oven

There are many types of roasters or turkey pans, some with covers as well as open models. Many cooks seem to prefer covering a turkey with foil, rather than using a covered roaster for their annual bird, since covers often do not fit properly (over the turkey) to seal in flavor and heat. However, that cover is very handy when roasting/cooking other foods. So having at least one covered roasting pan is advisable. 

For those who prefer a quick cleanup, there are foil disposable roasters, but use extreme caution and follow my tips below when using a foil roaster for a turkey. There are also electric roaster ovens which take the roasting away from your main cooking oven and these are extremely handy. They are suitable for turkey roasting, as well as large batch cooking. 

Roaster accessories vary from essential poultry racks, to basters to keep the bird moist and oven mitts for safe handling. Racks are essential to help remove the large turkey from the pan to transfer to a carving board or platter. Learn more about essential turkey tools to see what you need. Keep in mind that nonstick finishes require plastic or wooden utensils to protect the finish and tend to wear over time. If you want your roaster purchase to be the last one you buy, I'd recommend an 18/10 stainless steel roasting pan. 

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