What to Use in Place of a Roasting Pan

Turns out you don't need to buy a roasting pan or rack.

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Roasting pans are hardly limited to cooking for Thanksgiving. They actually make for a versatile addition to any kitchen and can be used for roasting meats like turkey, chicken, game hens, pork, beef, etc. And with such a wide surface area, you can roast your vegetable side dishes right alongside your meat mains. Roasting pans can also double as over-sized baking dishes for casseroles or cakes.

But if you know Thanksgiving is the one day of the year you'll use a roasting pan, you're better off making your own DIY roasting pan and rack. Otherwise, all it will be doing for you is taking up a lot of cabinet space. Here, you'll learn how to fashion your own roasting pan and rack duo using items you likely already have on hand.

In the market for a roasting pan? Check out The 13 Best Roasting Pans for Holiday Cooking.

What Is a Roasting Pan and How Do They Work?

Before you make your own roasting pan, it's important to understand the mechanics of them. Roasting pans are made with high walls, which help to trap heat inside. This also leaves plenty of room to store the pan liquids, which is particularly handy when basting.

You'll find that most roasting pans come with a roasting rack, which helps to lift your meat off the bottom of the pan. This helps the meat to cook evenly, and gives you that nice, crisp skin (rather than the soggy bottom that will result from sitting in the pan juices).

But most importantly, roasting pans are big. Like really big. These pans and racks need to be able to hold the weight of an entire turkey, but they still have to fit in a standard oven. So when looking to create your own roasting pan, you'll need to make sure it's oven-safe, large enough to accommodate whatever you're roasting, and small enough to fit in your oven.

Whole roasteed chicken in ceramic roasting dish on bed of vegetables
Scott Little/Meredith

Roasting Pan Substitutes

There are a number of dishes that can be used in place of a roasting pan. And the good news is, you likely already own them. Keep in mind the size of your roast when choosing your pan.

Casserole Dish

We've already established that a roasting pan is basically an extra-large casserole dish. If you have a 9-by-13-inch casserole and/or baking dish, you can make this work for smaller roasts like chicken or game hens. For a full sized turkey, go with an over-sized baking dish with relatively high sides.

Cast-Iron Skillet

If you're looking for yet another way to use your cast-iron skillet, look no further. A cast-iron skillet is ideal for smaller roasts. It can go from stovetop to oven, and its thick walls will help circulate heat while roasting.

Rimmed Baking Sheet

Yes, with a little creativity a rimmed baking sheet can double as a roasting pan. It is important that it is rimmed, so that the pan liquids don't overflow. You may also want to place a sheet of aluminum foil underneath the baking sheet to catch any spills. To keep the roast raised from the base of the baking sheet, try placing a wire cooling rack (more on DIY roasting racks below) inside the baking sheet to ensure even heating.

Foil Roasting Pan

If you only use a roasting pan once a year, disposable, foil roasting pans are going to be much more cost effective. However, they can be frustrating to work with because they are so flimsy. But their high sides and large surface area make them just right for roasting a large turkey.

Roasting Rack Substitutes

Some roasting pans come with racks and some don't. If you've found yourself without a roasting rack on the day of the feast, there's no need to go out and buy one. There are a number of ways to lift your roast without the use of a rack.


You can always place your roast atop a bed of hearty vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions. Not only will this keep your turkey raised from the base of the pan, but it will also add a whole new layer of flavor to your roast.

Aluminum Foil

Make your own roasting rack using cylinders of aluminum foil. To do this, simply roll three to five pieces of aluminum foil into sturdy, tight cylinders. Lay them across the base of the pan, mimicking the layout of a traditional rack. That's it! Now your turkey will sit slightly above the pan juices.

Wire Cooling Rack

And finally, a wire cooling rack makes a great substitute for a roasting rack. It has the word rack in the name, after all. Choose a rack that will fit inside a standard baking dish, and place the rack inside your pan. Now you have a flat roasting rack!


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