We love a good roasting pan with a rack, especially for Thanksgiving turkey, but if you don’t have a roaster, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a great bird. Here’s how to roast turkey (and other poultry and meat) without a roasting pan.
You don’t need to run to the store for one of those big disposable aluminum pans, either, provided you already have a baking sheet or other vessel that’s large enough to accommodate your turkey.
Food52 x GreenPan Roasting Pan with Rack, $139 on Food52
If you do want a roasting pan, this nonstick one in pale sage-blue with brass handles is a looker from a great brand.
Choose the Right Vessel
Depending on the size of your protein, you may be able to roast it in a Dutch oven, skillet, or baking dish, but for a larger turkey or a big brisket, for instance, you’ll be better off with a baking sheet. Make sure it’s a rimmed sheet pan with raised edges to keep all the juices and drippings contained.
One word of caution: When roasting a heavy protein—a monster turkey, for instance—on a baking sheet, it will be harder to maneuver without handles, so be careful. Also, be sure no part of the protein overhangs the edges of the pan.
USA Pan Bakeware Half Sheet Pan, $19.99 on Amazon
Deep enough to hold all your drippings.
Do You Really Need a Rack?
Not necessarily, but you will still want to elevate the protein in some way—this helps air circulate for even cooking and prevents the bottom from getting too soggy (so you’ll have more crisp skin on poultry or caramelized crust on a piece of pork or beef). Depending on how much fat and juice renders out, without a rack (ersatz or otherwise), you could end up braising instead of roasting your meat.
Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Braising and Roasting?
What’s the Best Roasting Rack Replacement?
If you have a cooling rack like you’d use for cookies, you can set this into your sheet pan and place the meat on top.
Ultra Cuisine Stainless Steel Baking and Cooling Rack, $19.98 on Amazon
Good for cooling baked goods and roasting meats.
If you don’t have any kind of rack, however, you can simply scrunch up some aluminum foil (try the figure 8 shape shown in the video below) and use that to raise up the turkey, chicken, pork tenderloin, or whatever else you’re cooking.
No foil? Try spoons!
The tastier method, though, is to make a bed of coarsely chopped veggies like potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables:
They’ll raise up the protein and absorb all the delicious drippings; just be sure to make them nice and chunky so they don’t disintegrate (see it in action). You can even roast it on a bed of stale bread for insta-stuffing. Either way, add chopped or minced garlic, sliced lemons (or other citrus), and/or fresh herbs like thyme to the mix for even more fragrant flavor.
See how Chowhounds roast chicken without a rack.
And for more Turkey Day tips, tricks, and recipes, see our Ultimate Guide to Thanksgiving.