Inexpensive and basic, with easy-to-grasp handles.
Feels flimsy, scratches easily, and comes with a poorly designed roasting rack.
This is a roaster for people who need one only once or twice a year. Any more than that and you may regret the purchase.
Thanksgiving and other holiday meals call for outfitting your kitchen with a roasting pan large enough to handle a turkey sized for feasting. A good roaster needs to have a few basic features: It should be large enough to handle a 20-pound turkey, be reasonably easy to haul in and out of the oven, have a well-designed roasting rack, and be able to distribute heat evenly, so you can make a pan sauce in it on the stove without risk of scorching. The KitchenAid Gourmet Distinctions roasting pan is at the lower end of the price scale for quality roasters of this size, but does it perform adequately enough to land a spot on your permanent holiday guest list?
KitchenAid's Gourmet Distinctions roaster has outside dimensions of 16 3/4 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 5 1/4 inches high (that's with the handles). This is one light roasting pan: just 3 pounds 1 ounce without the roasting rack that's included; 4 pounds 13 ounces with. It’s made of stainless steel, polished to a mirror shine inside and out, with a well all around the edge to capture the rendered fat and roasting juices. The design innovation here is the wire roasting rack: It curves gently, a flattened U shape that rises a mere 1 inch off the center of the roaster floor, with a 2-1/2-inch rise on the edges. The rack has movable handles—they fold flat for storing, and stand upright a little more than 6 inches for hoisting in or out of the pan. The roaster itself is safe for range-top heating over gas, electric, or halogen, on ceramic cooktops as well as conventional burner rings. No word from KitchenAid about whether it’s dishwasher safe, though to preserve the polished finish you should probably wash it by hand, avoiding abrasive sponges or detergents. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
To answer the number one question for any roaster—can it manage the holiday bird?—we kicked off our testing with a Thanksgiving-size turkey, then made a pan gravy with the drippings. Finally, we made a large batch of caramel corn, using the Gourmet Distinctions roaster to mix and oven-bake it to a crackly crunch.
Roasted turkey: Our Gourmet Distinctions roaster performed OK. The turkey browned well, but we hated dealing with those folding handles on the rack insert: The movable arms kept falling over onto our turkey whenever we shifted or even nudged the pan—we got to the point where we didn’t want to move it at all, to avoid the fall-over (we were afraid the arms would bake onto the turkey skin, marring the bird). And since the rack sits so low, there wasn’t much air circulation. As a result, the underside of our turkey steamed in the roasting juices, a less-than-ideal result.
Pan gravy: The reservoir around the edge of the pan made gravy-making tough (it’s hard to get gravy lump-free when the liquid wants to run away from the middle of the pan). Maybe because the pan is so thin, the drippings in the middle of the roaster tended to get very brown and scorched. And when we used a metal whisk to add broth to our roux, the pan’s floor scratched quite easily.
Caramel corn: Our recipe calls for spreading out the caramel-coated corn in a large pan and baking till crunchy. This means moving the roasting pan around quite a bit, so we appreciated how well-designed the handles are, and how light the overall roaster is—we could transport it with only one hand.
General stuff: The most distinctive thing about the Gourmet Distinctions roaster is its fairly low-budget profile—it’s lightweight, with some pretty basic construction. Price-wise, it’s at the low to moderate end for roasters of this size. Is it a good buy? That depends on how often you plan to use it. If you think you’ll pull a roaster out only once or twice a year for holiday meals or occasional entertaining, it’s fine. If not, you’ll probably want to upgrade.
Photos by Chris Rochelle