A roasting pan with a rack is an essential kitchen tool for cooking large cuts of meat and poultry. The rack elevates the meat off the bottom of the pan, allowing air to circulate completely around the meat for even cooking. Using a roasting pan with a rack provides many benefits over cooking meat directly in a pan.
Allows Fat to Drain
One of the biggest advantages of using a roasting pan with a rack is that it allows the fat rendered from the meat to drip down into the bottom of the pan rather than pooling around the meat. Fat is mostly rendered from slow cooking methods like roasting or braising. As the fat melts from the heat, it needs somewhere to drain away from the meat. Otherwise, the meat will end up frying in its own juices, steaming rather than roasting.
A rack elevates the meat up out of the fat drippings, keeping the meat from simmering in the rendered fat. The fat collects in the bottom of the pan below the rack where it can’t contact the meat. This results in crisper, browner, better textured meat with intense roasted flavors. Without the rack, meat ends up soggy and greasy.
Promotes Air Circulation
Elevating the meat on a rack also allows hot air to circulate completely around the entire surface area of the meat. The exposure to moving hot air is what creates that desirable browned, crispy, caramelized exterior on roasted meats. Air circulation is key for high heat roasting and broiling. It brings the hot dry heat into direct contact with all sides of the meat for excellent browning.
If meat is sitting directly in a pan, the side touching the metal will not brown as well. The pan shields that side from the circulating hot air. A rack holds the meat up out of the pan so the hot air can reach every single surface and crisp it beautifully.
Avoids Soggy Bottom Crust
Resting directly on the metal pan also causes the bottom of meats and poultry to steam and become soggy from moisture trapped between the meat and the pan surface. With a roasting rack, the hot air gets under the meat from all directions for a crispy browned crust on the bottom too.
Makes Basting Juices
A V-shaped roasting rack positions the meat up over a reservoir for collecting juices and fats. As the meat roasts, delicious pan drippings are captured in the well below the rack. These rich meat juices can be spooned up over the meat as it cooks for basting and additional flavor. Basting meats regularly as they roast keeps the exterior moist and tender.
Without a rack over a reservoir pan, these delicious juices would evaporate off or burn onto the exposed pan bottom. The rack lets you make use of the flavorful meat juices rather than losing them.
Allows Meat Thermometer Access
A wire rack provides open access underneath the meat for easily inserting an instant read thermometer probe to check for doneness during roasting. Checking the internal temperature is the most reliable way to determine if meat is cooked through without cutting into it.
With meat sitting directly in a pan, it can be difficult or impossible to find enough space to poke in a thermometer probe horizontally from the sides or vertically from above through such a large, dense cut of meat.
Facilitates Food Safety
Raising meat up out of its drippings also has food safety advantages. Juices pooling in the bottom of the pan will instantly transfer heat to the meat. Extended contact with hot drippings past the minimum safe temperature can overcook the bottom surface or edges closest to the juices while the center remains underdone.
A rack allows the interior and exterior to finish cooking more evenly since the meat isn’t simmering in hot juices from the get-go. This makes it less likely for the exterior to overcook while waiting for the center to come up to temperature.
Resting right on the metal pan often causes meats and poultry to stick as juices and proteins interact with the pan surface. The rack prevents this binding so meat lifts right off after cooking without leaving any crusty bits behind. The pan will also be much easier to clean since drippings collect under the rack rather than crusting onto the exposed pan bottom.
Works for More Than Meat
While roasting racks are certainly handy for cooking large cuts of meat and poultry like whole chickens, turkeys, prime ribs, pork loins, and leg of lamb, they can be used for more than just meats.
A rack over a roasting pan is great for elevating vegetables off the pan bottom to roast them. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and beyond all benefit from the hot air circulation a rack provides for caramelized, browned veggies.
The rack and pan can also be used for holding baked goods like dinner rolls, biscuits, and corn bread to allow heat circulation under and around the items for even cooking and crisping.
Choosing a Roasting Pan with Rack
When selecting a roasting pan with a rack, you’ll first want to consider the size you need. Roasting pans come in a wide range of dimensions to accommodate small and large cuts of meat.
For turkey and other large roasts, you’ll want to select a pan that’s at least 2-3 inches larger in each dimension than the meat itself. This leaves you plenty of room for good air circulation.
For smaller roasts like chickens and pork loins, an 18 x 13 inch roasting pan size can work nicely. Make sure to check the rack dimensions too since they can vary between pans.
The rack should fit snugly inside the pan with just enough room to easily lift it out. Non-slip feet on the rack help keep it stable and elevated off the pan bottom.
Heavy gauge stainless steel and aluminized steel pans with chrome plated steel wire racks are ideal for even heating and durability. Nonstick surfaces can degrade at prolonged high roasting temperatures. Stainless steel interiors clean up easily.
Look for a pan with handles that have good insulation so you can safely carry the hot pan. Helper handles on the rack are useful for lifting it.
For easy movement in and out of the oven, opt for a pan with minimal rim height to reduce hand burning. Some come with matching lids to use when cooking liquids.
How to Use a Roasting Pan and Rack
Using a roasting pan with rack takes a few simple steps:
- Place the wire rack inside the roasting pan.
- Pat meat dry and season as desired.
- Place meat directly on the rack over the empty pan.
- Roast according to recipe directions until cooked through.
- Lift rack and meat out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board to rest before carving.
- Spoon or pour pan drippings into a fat separator.
- Serve defatted juices alongside the carved meat.
Be sure meat is at room temperature before roasting for most even cooking. Use an instant read thermometer to check for doneness. Baste meats during roasting for added moisture and flavor.
Let meat rest at least 5-10 minutes before slicing into it so juices can redistribute through the meat fibers. Carve across the grain for tenderest results.
Cleaning and Care
Roasting pans and racks are simple to clean with hot soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge or brush.
Soak any dried on debris in the sink before scrubbing. For tough stains, simmer water in the pan for 10-15 minutes to loosen residue before washing.
Avoid using very harsh cleaners or abrasives that can damage the pan and rack surfaces. Make sure to dry them thoroughly so they don’t rust.
Tips for Using a Roasting Pan with Rack
Follow these tips for the best results when using a roasting pan and rack:
- Season meats generously with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices for flavor.
- Start meats at a high oven temperature to brown then reduce heat to finish roasting.
- Baste meats every 30 minutes while roasting.
- Use a meat thermometer to determine doneness.
- Let meats rest before slicing into them.
- Make gravy from the defatted pan drippings.
- Use the pan and rack for roasting vegetables too.
- Clean the pan while still warm for easiest cleaning.
A roasting pan with a rack is designed to provide the ideal environment for cooking large cuts of meat to juicy, tender perfection. The rack lifts the meat up out of the fat and juices for better air circulation all around. This allows the exterior to brown beautifully while the inside cooks evenly. The result is flavorful roasted meats with a caramelized crust and moist interior. A roasting pan with rack yields impressive results worth the modest investment in the simple kitchen tool.