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I'd like to buy myself the best roasting pan and I'm stuck on whether to get an Enameled Cast Iron or a thicker Stainless Steel/tri-ply type pan. I'm looking for the pro/cons of each, and any personal experience with either variety.

So far I know that:

  • CI is heavy
  • CI will heat more evenly, but will take longer to heat up
  • I can gently use metal tools on either
  • Both are induction-ready!

I have electric coil-type heating elements, so either should be fine for the stovetop. As far as what I'll be cooking in it, it will probably be a bit of everything. Meat, veggies, potatoes, onions, lasagna, you name it.

Is either one better at creating a fond, making gravy, or cooking down veggies/onions? Or are those just a matter of paying attention while cooking? :)

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The enamel is brittle, especially when scratched. cast iron is often cheaper. They clean differently: stainless is initially a little harder to clean, but polishes with use making cleaning easier. Food initially sticks less to enamel, but scratches and cracks change this. using steel wool to clean stainless improves the finish, using it to clean enamel scratches the finish. If you are gentle with enamel it should last decades,stainless will survive children beating on it with almost anything, and can be passed to your grandchildren. thinner metal will heat quicker and cool quicker, but will develop hot spots. Thicker metal will heat more evenly, but heats and cools slower.

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I only use enameled cast iron in applications where I want an even heat for a long period of time, and where I know I will only use wooden utensils. Otherwise, I'd prefer steel. –  Jared Dec 24 '13 at 6:53

The key properties for a good roasting pan are:

  • Expense
  • Size
  • Weight

Since they are rarely used on the stove top, except briefly to deglaze, their heat conductivity is not really a feature that matters very much at all. Similarly, their non-stick properties are not normally important, because you want fond development to provide the basis of a good sauce.

Neither of the two choices you enumerate is ideal based on these criteria:

  • Cast iron would be far from ideal simply because a pan large enough to hold a good sized roast or bird would be prohibitively heavy.
  • Layered construction pans are very expensive, and provide little benefit, although they do perform well (but not better than alternatives)

Many cooks, both home and professional, including myself, don't actually use specialized roasting pans. Most kitchens contain at least three other pans that will serve the purpose just as well, without an additional expense at all:

  • Sheet pans are ideal for roasting, and are inexpensive and useful for many other tasks.
  • A skillet or saute pan can be used for roasting smaller cuts (and some big ones if you have a larger pan), and also is ideal for any searing or deglazing
  • A casserole or lasagna pan can be used for roasting

For this reason, I recommend that you don't invest in a dedicated roasting pan. Instead, look to what more general purpose pans you have in your kitchen, and use one of them. If you don't have one, I suggest starting with sheet pans.

While I do own an enameled roasting pan, I almost never use it. My first choice is a sheet pan, or one of my other skillets.

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