In 2008, Williams-Sonoma released a line of exclusive All-Clad flared roasters. They are expensive, but well worth it if you use your oven a lot. The unique design makes for very even cooking, especially if you don’t have a convection oven. The lower sides give good heat exposure, so you get excellent browning on the underside of roasts. The aluminum core provides outstanding heat distribution.
Last year, I cooked a 27-pound Thanksgiving turkey in the extra large roaster, and I’ve since used this pan for all kinds of dishes. Since it’s basically a very large saute pan, it works great on the stove as well. I’ve used it to cook a huge portion of mac & cheese (mixing the roux/bechamel right into the pan on the stove). I also use it regularly for large batches of braised lamb shanks and short ribs. The roaster’s low and wide design encourages a lot of reduction of the braising liquid, which yields a more flavorful sauce.
Warning: The extra large size is unwieldy. Before buying, make sure it can fit in your oven and sink. Although the curved design makes it very easy to clean with a brush, this size barely squeezes into my sink. Though it’s a bit of a beast to handle, it’s nevertheless indispensable if you need the capacity.
If the large version also seems a bit much, there’s now an even smaller and cheaper version for roasting chickens. This has quickly become my standard everyday pan for most things. It also comes with a suspension arm for cooking a chicken elevated.
I’ve experimented a bit with the suspension arm. In my oven, which is not a convection oven, breast-side-up is a disaster. Not enough heat reaches the bottom, and the white meat gets overcooked while the thighs stay very undercooked. However, breast-side-down gives outstanding results. Time after time, I’ve gotten evenly-cooked, very tender and juicy meat with crispy skin. And here’s the best part… without adding oil or basting; just salt and pepper or a dry rub. Out of the box, the suspension arm was a little testy: If it’s jostled too much, the whole chicken will fall into the pan and it’s a bit of work to get it put back up. I was able to fix this by bending the prongs with a pair of pliers. Once adjusted, it yields good results.
Regardless of which size is right for you, these are great roasting pans. The images are pretty deceptive with respect to the size differences and just how big they actually are. It’s worth a trip to the store to see which size is best for you.11/17/09