What to Use If You Don't Have a Roasting Pan


The Spruce Eats / Victoria Heydt

A roasting pan is a staple in many kitchens. It adds convenience to roasting a turkey and is useful when cooking beef or pork roasts, as well as a whole chicken. The special design cooks these large pieces of meat evenly while trapping the juices underneath. Don't stress if you don't have a roasting pan because you likely have a substitute in your kitchen that will work.

What Is a Roasting Pan?

A roasting pan is a large oven-safe pan with a rack that fits inside. Often made of thick stainless steel or aluminum, it can hold the weight of whole poultry and large roasts. The rack keeps the meat off the pan's bottom, which promotes airflow for even cooking, The pan underneath serves a dual purpose: it collects the meat drippings and offers a space to roast vegetables.

If you roast meat regularly, owning a roasting pan makes a lot of sense. They're not particularly expensive and can be found second-hand. However, a dedicated roasting pan large enough for a turkey may take up more storage space than it's worth for anyone who rarely cooks large meat dinners. If you fall into the latter group, create a make-shift pan and rack set up using things you already have in the kitchen.

illustration depicting roasting pan substitutes
The Spruce / Lisa Fasol

Roasting Pan Alternatives

The best roasting pan substitutes are a minimum of 9-by-13 inches. It should also have raised sides that are tall enough to catch all of the juices that drip from the meat as it cooks.

Pans that should be big enough to accommodate a large turkey or roast include:

  • Cake Pan: A 9-by-13-inch cake pan is standard, though you'll want something a little larger for a full-sized turkey.
  • Casserole Dish: Use the same size recommendation as a cake pan. For ceramic dishes, ensure it can withstand the temperature your recipe requires—the maximum is usually imprinted on the bottom.
  • Broiler Pan: The typical design doesn't have the high sides of a roasting pan, but it does include a rack for drippings. These are often included with an oven or can be purchased separately.
  • Foil Roasting Pan: These pans are intended for a single-use and available at most grocery stores. The biggest drawback is that they're flimsy. Place it on a sturdy baking sheet so you can safely move the meat in and out of the oven.

If you're roasting a small cut of meat, like a chicken or pork loin, the options include:

  • Cookie Sheet: Ensure it has raised sides to catch drippings.
  • Oven-Safe Skillet: Cast iron and stainless steel skillets are perfect for the job. Do not use pans with a non-stick surface or handles that will melt in the oven.

Hacks for the Rack

To ensure your meat is roasted—rather than steamed—you need a rack of some sort to raise it off the bottom of the pan. There are a few things from the kitchen that you can set the meat on: 

  • Cooling Rack: Place the rack that you use to cool cookies in the bottom of the pan. Most will fit inside cake pans and casserole dishes.
  • Vegetables: Create an edible rack by lining the bottom of a pan with carrots, potatoes, and onions. Serve the veggies as a side dish to go with your roast.
  • Foil: Roll foil into small balls and place them in the bottom of the pan.