The 4 characteristics that define a roasting pan's quality

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When it comes to roasting pans, cookbook author Dorie Greenspan says four characteristics define quality: the pan's weight, its size, the good grip of its handles and the metal it's made of.

1. The pan's weight

Fine pans are heavy. Expect them to weigh in the neighborhood of 9 pounds. There are reasons for such heft: a heavy pan allows stove-top searing to promote browning of food before additional cooking time in the oven. Those crusty bits that form on the bottom of the pan are pure gold when it comes to making a pan sauce. Heavy pans are safer. Avoid those flimsy, aluminum foil roasters from the supermarket -- they're downright dangerous.

2. The pan's size

Before you invest in a quality roaster, determine how big a pan your oven can accommodate. Roasters need 1-2 inches of air space on all sides. If your oven can handle a pan about 16 inches long and 13 inches wide, this is the size to consider. It will accommodate turkeys as well as chickens, which roast best when taking up only about half the pan's floor space.

3. The grip of the handles

Handles that allow a good grip are obvious for safety reasons. Look for heavy-duty, upright handles riveted to the body of the pan with enough room for hands protected by big mitts to get a good grasp on the pan.

4. Nonreactive metal

Look for a roaster with an interior of nonreactive metal for those times when you want to cook acidic foods such as tomatoes along with your roast or deglaze the pan with wine. Acidic ingredients can cause aluminum pans to turn gray, giving an unattractive appearance and off taste to the food. The best nonreactive metals for roasters are stainless steel, anodized aluminum, or enameled steel.

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