A Dutch oven or roasting pan, which one should you choose? For years, this conversation has baffled cooks across the world. Both have their advantages and disadvantages depending on what you’re cooking. But which is actually better for the long run and who do experts say to go with?
We looked into both pans to find out the answer to this question once and for all.
What is a Dutch Oven?
A Dutch oven is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to create roasts, casseroles, and stews. Its nickname is the “oven that cooks like a stove.” Think of it as a pot with legs! They are typically made out of cast iron and range in size from 1 quart to 4 quarts.
While it may appear that a Dutch oven is similar to a cast iron pan, it actually has its own unique characteristics. It has multiple air vents in the lid and end of the pot along with a curved edge so that heat can be evenly distributed. The curvature within the pot allows for even cooking over an extended period of time.
The Ideal Way to Use Dutch Ovens
Dutch oven cooking is a lot like gas-cooking. Take your time, put your ingredients in the pot by layers (like a stew), and let it simmer for as long as you need to.
Dutch ovens are multi-functional and can be used on the stove top, in the oven and even on camp stoves. They can be used for slow cooking foods such as stews or roasts for many hours.
With that said, they are typically not recommended for baking or making bread because of their high moisture content and prolonged use in a direct heat environment.
What is a Roasting Pan?
A roasting pan is designed to roast, or brown, meat and poultry at high temperatures. The high temperature creates the fat needed to cook your food evenly and creates a crispy skin on the meat. Roasting pans have sloped edges that disperse heat more evenly. They often have handles for easy removal from the stovetop oven or pans and are also useful for browning other foods similar to Dutch ovens.
The cooking time of a piece of meat is directly related to how much fat it has on its surface, which comes from cooking over high heat until the ingredients caramelize and become golden brown in color.
There are different types of roasting pans available. The two most common types are aluminum, which is inexpensive and can be found at most any grocery store, and cast iron which is sturdier and lasts longer. Cast-iron requires some maintenance but is great for preventing dents in the long run.
The Ideal Way to Use a Roasting Pan
Using a roasting pan is similar to using a Dutch oven with one key difference: the higher heat of the pan creates more browning and better flavor. Because of that, you can cook many items in it, such as game meats like venison and beef, poultry (roast chicken or turkey) and vegetables (pan-roasted root vegetables).
Using a roasting pan requires high heat or an open flame to create the browning effect. This is because the high temperature makes fat in the food turn into a caramelized coating. The higher temperature also eliminates water in food that isn’t already present.
Stainless steel roasting pans are not recommended when using an open flame because the pans can warp and may be dangerous to use for any other purpose.
Dutch Oven vs. Roasting Pan: The Differences
As we’ve found out, both Dutch ovens and roasting pans have close similarities. But, there are some differences that could impact your cooking experience.
1. Cooking Temperature
Roasting pans are typically made from cast iron or aluminum, which both help to distribute the heat more quickly. Dutch ovens, on the other hand, are typically made from a thicker metal that distributes heat slower than cast-iron or aluminum.
2. Heat Retention
A well-made Dutch oven can retain a great deal of heat for many hours without losing its temperature. This makes them great for making stews and braising meats for extended periods of time without monitoring the stove too much. A roasting pan, on the other hand, requires constant temperature monitoring because the browning process that happens in the outer edges of the pan will pull heat away from the center and lower its cooking temperature.
Roasting pans are typically made from light materials which makes them easy to carry around. The thinner metal of a Dutch oven, on the other hand, can be very heavy if it’s packed with food. You can always opt for a lighter material like aluminum or steel if you choose to use a Dutch oven instead. Those types of pots typically have some sort of non-stick lining inside which makes them easier to clean than cast iron without damaging your food.
4. Cooking Time
Roasting pans are typically made from thinner materials, which means they take a shorter time to cook food on a stovetop. Cast-iron Dutch ovens, on the other hand, can take much longer to cook some foods because of their heavy weight and thick walls.
5. Cooking Surface
Dutch ovens are typically flat-bottomed pots with a lid that closes at the top. This design allows for more even heat distribution than roast pans because they have nice sloped edges at the bottom and sides that help funnel heat to one point. Also, the lid creates an additional barrier between you and the heat when placed on top of your pot.
Roasting pans are typically designed for shallow dishes that have easy access to the food. This makes them good at searing meat and browning vegetables, but not ideal for larger cuts or foods that need a lot of space between ingredients to cook properly. For those latter tasks, you’ll need a Dutch oven.
Because of the size and shape of each type of pot, Dutch ovens require a bigger lid than roasting pans do. The lid on a Dutch oven usually fits into the pot or has an insert which sits inside the dish with plenty of room for your food. The lid on a roasting pan, on the other hand, is usually smaller than the pan itself.
7. Types of Foods They’re Best For
While Dutch ovens are great at making stews and braising meats, they fall short when it comes to baking. Pans have sloped sides that make them better at distributing heat around food so it can brown more evenly than Dutch ovens are able to do. Because of this, Dutch ovens are best used when you’re making soups and large cuts of meat that you need to pack tightly in the pan for proper cooking.
Roasting pans are the go-to choice for anyone in search of a versatile piece of cookware that can be used to make a wide variety of foods. They’re able to do most things Dutch ovens can do, except they’re better suited for baking cakes and breads.
Dutch ovens have been around since at least the late 18th century, and they’ve stood the test of time. Cast iron is an extremely tough material that’s resistant to dents and other kinds of damage. The interior of a cast iron pot is also remarkably nonstick, meaning it’s easy to clean and you won’t have to worry about any of the food sticking to the pan either.
While roasting pans aren’t as robust as Dutch ovens, they’re relatively lightweight and can be used on a regular basis without worrying about them being prone to discoloration or breaking. Because their lids generally fit snugly into the pot, roasting pans can also be safely stored upside down when not in use.
9. Overall Size
Because of their sloped sides and ability to retain heat, Dutch ovens are the perfect size for making savory stews and braised meats. A cast iron Dutch oven is large enough to hold a lot of food, but it’s not so big that it’s hard to cook with or store.
Roasting pans, on the other hand, are designed to hold just one or two birds at a time. If you’re planning on preparing large meals on a regular basis, you might want to consider investing in a larger roaster instead of using multiple pans.
10. Price Tag
Dutch ovens are definitely more expensive than other types of cookware—you could easily spend $150 or $200 on a high-quality piece. But they’re also great investments. You can use them to cook a variety of dishes, and you’ll never have to worry about damaging them because they’re built to last. So if you plan on cooking for yourself or the whole family on a regular basis, a Dutch oven is worth the investment!
Can a Roaster Pan Be Used as a Dutch Oven?
While there are similarities between Dutch ovens and roasting pans, they also have some things they don’t. For one, there’s no air vent or lid on a roaster pan. Another difference is that roasting pans are designed to hold larger quantities of food while Dutch ovens are typically made to cook for smaller groups.
The clear answer here is that a roaster pan can definitely be used as a Dutch oven if you want to. All you need to do is purchase a lid for the pot with more room than the one that comes with it. Otherwise, the only other difference you’ll experience is the size of your pan; it will be smaller if you use one.
Can a dutch oven be used as a roaster?
Yes, a Dutch oven can be used as a roaster! Anyone can tell you that the inside of a Dutch oven is flat, whereas the inside of any roasting pan has raised sides. But that’s not all there is to it.
A Dutch oven is essentially a very large pot with some flaring on one side. And because it’s able to retain heat for long periods of time, you can use it to slowly cook daintier items like steamed vegetables or even fish and poultry. A regular pan or roaster might work better if you’re planning on making smaller cuts of meat (like chops) or seafood (like shrimp).
What is the Best Type of Roasting Pan?
There are many different roasting pans on the market, so it’s important to find one that works best for your needs. We’ve ranked these categories from best to worst:
Aluminum roasting pan
Aluminum roasting pans are inexpensive and lightweight. They’re also widely available at grocery stores and work well for searing meat or browning vegetables if you don’t want to dedicate a big chunk of your kitchen countertop space to cooking. Their material is also non-stick and easy to clean, which makes them ideal for someone who doesn’t want the extra hassle of cleaning a cast iron pan.
Cast iron roasting pan
Cast iron roasting pans are usually a bit more expensive than their aluminum counterparts, but they’re also sturdier and last longer. They’re great for making meat-based dishes that need the high heat of an open flame to cook properly. If you plan on doing a lot of grilling or cooking over open flames, cast iron is definitely worth the added cost.
Stainless steel roasting pan
Stainless steel roasters are often the most expensive type of pan available. They generally have non-stick coatings which make them easy to clean and are more aesthetically pleasing than their metal counterparts. They’re also great if you want the option of using your roaster for other cooking tasks, such as boiling water or baking bread.
So, what do you think? Have we persuaded you to try a cast iron roaster pan instead of buying one that’s made from some cheap material? If not, tell us why in the comments section below. And don’t forget to share this article with your roasting friends!
What is the Best Type of Dutch Oven
Now that you know what a roasting pan can do and how it differs from a Dutch oven, it’s time to learn about the best Dutch ovens on the market. We’ve ranked these categories from best to worst:
Cast iron dutch ovens
Cast iron pans are heavy and can be used in cooking stews, baking cakes, searing meat and braising dishes. Each cast iron is handmade by hand, so there’s no steel found inside. These types of dutch ovens are often used in restaurants because of their durability and ability to produce delicious food.
Carbon steel dutch ovens
Carbon steel is a lighter choice than cast iron and is still considered durable. It’s not as heavy or hot as cast iron, meaning you have a better chance of burning yourself if you’re not careful. But carbon steel works well for braised dishes that require high temperatures and retain heat well.
Reactive dutch ovens
Reactive pots are made from aluminum, which works better than chemically treated materials at conducting heat to the food that’s inside it. They’re also non-stick, which makes cleanup a breeze! You can use these pans on any consistent cooking surface, including the stovetop, grill or even in your oven.
Stainless steel dutch ovens
Stainless steel is a good alternative to carbon when it comes to cooking over open flames, because of how long they retain heat. They’re not as heavy as other types of dutch ovens, which makes them easier to carry around if you plan on taking them camping or hosting a get-together. Stainless steel pans also have the added bonus of having non-stick interiors which make cleanup much easier!
Aluminum dutch ovens
Aluminum pots are the least expensive material used for making Dutch ovens. They’re also lightweight, but they do not retain heat for as long as cast iron pans or carbon steel. But aluminum is easy to clean and lightweight, which makes it great for cooking on non-conventional surfaces, such as the grill or stovetop.
If you’re looking for a great upgrade to your kitchen, consider purchasing a roasting pan or dutch oven. You’ll be glad you did! They’re not the same, but they can definitely help you save time and effort when it comes to cooking delicious dishes for your family and friends.