Dutch Oven vs Roasting Pans

What makes the perfect meal? Is it the finest ingredients? Partly. Is it a talented cook? Of course. But there’s one thing missing from the equation that many people tend to overlook: the equipment used during cooking.

Going into the kitchen without the right equipment is like cooking with one hand behind your back. Sure, you might still be able to do a decent job – but why would you not give yourself the best possible chance for success?

Of course, many of us have real concerns around storage space in the kitchen, not to mention a budget that stops us from going out and buying a fully equipped dream kitchen! Because of this we sometimes need our kitchen tools to double up and fulfil more than one purpose.

Today we’ll be looking at Dutch Ovens vs Roasting pans. We’ll walk you through the differences between the two and whether you really need both. Can a dutch oven roast meat and still achieve delicious results? Read on to find out!

What is a Dutch Oven?

Dutch ovens are a real heritage piece of kitchen equipment. Originally made from cast iron, they were used to cook food over open fires or hot coals – you may be familiar with the sight of them from any number of old western movies!

Dutch ovens have a lid to keep food covered, retaining moisture and tenderizing meat whilst cooking.

Whilst they are still a fantastic way to cook food over the campfire, dutch ovens have evolved from their outdoor beginnings and are now a mainstay in many kitchens. Traditional cast iron dutch ovens are still available, though they’re now also made in a wide range of materials. Le Creuset make beautiful (not to mention durable) dutch ovens in enamelled cast iron, available in a variety of striking colors. You can also find dutch ovens in ceramic, aluminum, stainless steel and terracotta – we really are spoilt for choice!

What is a Roasting Pan?

Roasting pans, sometimes known as roasters, are designed to evenly roast the food within. They tend to have handles on the side to enable safe carrying of the hot, and often heavy, contents after cooking. They’re available in a variety of materials including stainless steel, aluminum, copper and cast iron.

Unlike dutch ovens, roasters have an open top to enable hot air to circulate. To further improve the circulation of air, a roasting rack (often sold with roasting pans) can be added. This lifts the meat off the bottom of the pan and enables the top, bottom and sides of the meat to be cooked evenly, giving a crisp and even finish all over.

Roasters come in a wide variety of depths and sizes, with the right choice for you dependent on what you plan to cook. When cooking with a lot of oil it’s important to use a roasting pan with high walls to ensure that oil does not spit out of the pan.

What is the Difference Between a Dutch Oven and a Roasting Pan?

Whilst there are some similarities between dutch ovens and roasting pans, there are some significant differences which make them entirely separate pieces of kitchen equipment.

Roasters are usually larger than dutch ovens. This means that a dutch oven is better suited for the cooking of smaller cuts of meat, though there are larger sizes available. Typically you’ll be able to cook a whole chicken in a dutch oven. On the other hand, roasting pans are better suited for cooking larger cuts of meat or bigger poultry such as turkey.

The fact that roasting pans have an open top means that meat and vegetables cooked in one are usually crispier than those cooked in a dutch oven.

One of the most attractive qualities of dutch ovens is their versatility. There is almost nothing that you can’t cook in one! Stews, casseroles, chillis, briskets, soups, chowder, desserts – you can even use them to bake bread or pies. On the flip side, roasting pans aren’t nearly as versatile. Whilst a more shallow roaster can substitute for a baking tray in a real bind, they’re only really suitable for roasting food.

Can You Use a Dutch Oven Instead of a Roasting Pan?

Whilst dutch ovens aren’t expressly designed to replace roasting pans, the great thing about their versatility is that they make an excellent replacement for a roaster when called upon.

Because dutch ovens aren’t expressly designed for roasting, the finished product often isn’t quite as crispy as it would be if you used specialist roaster. However, if you follow our instructions and use the right sized dutch oven for your cut of meat, you’ll still pull off an excellent meal!

How to Use a Dutch Oven for Roasting

Be sure to leave the lid off your dutch oven when roasting. Leaving the lid on will limit airflow and prevent proper roasting. You should also be conscious that the meat has space to ‘breathe’ inside the dutch oven. For best results the meat shouldn’t be touching or pressed up against the sides. To ensure that meat cooks evenly, it’s best not to place anything else in your dutch oven whilst roasting meat.

Roasting racks can also be added to make roasting with a dutch oven even more simple. A roasting rack helps to lift the meat up from the bottom of the dutch oven, which improves air circulation. This removes one of the main downsides of using a dutch oven as an alternative to a roasting pan, allowing you to enjoy a brown, crispy finish. A rack works especially well with larger cuts of meat that would otherwise be slightly too big for your dutch oven.

Before placing meat into the dutch oven to roast, you may want to first brown it on the stovetop using a frying pan. This helps to seal in moisture and gives the meat extra flavor. To save on washing up, you can do this directly in your dutch oven over the stovetop. Heat an oil with a high smoke point such as Avocado oil or light olive oil and brown up your meat. Once browned, place your dutch oven into your conventional oven for the length of time dictated by the recipe.

What Else can be Used Instead of a Roasting Pan?

If you only occasionally roast food, investing in a roasting pan might not make sense for you. Whilst dutch ovens are a great alternative, there are other ideas that you might want to consider as well. Below are some options that may already be in your kitchen that can be repurposed into roasting pan alternatives:

  • Disposable Aluminum Bakeware
  • Cast Iron Skillet
  • Slow Cooker
  • Bundt Pan
  • Broiler Pan
  • Paella Pan
  • Casserole Dish

Dutch Oven or Roasting Pan – Which is best for you?

Depending on your needs, dutch ovens and roasting pans both make for excellent additions to your home kitchen. If storage space and budget allow, you’d ideally have a variety of roasting pans and dutch ovens in different sizes to cover you for all occasions.

Unfortunately though, the world we live in isn’t an ideal one! If you really need to choose between a roasting pan vs dutch oven, it’s important to keep in mind your current and desired activity in the kitchen. Are you planning to cook large cuts of meat on a regular basis? If so, investing in a large, quality roasting pan may be the right decision for you.

On the other hand if you don’t expect to be cooking large cuts of a meat on a regular basis, or if you need something that offers more versatile, a dutch oven is probably a safe bet. If possible we recommend covering multiple bases in one by going for a few in a variety of different sizes.

What is the Best Type of Roasting Pan?

If you decide to invest in a roasting pan, it’s important to go for something that will give you many years of enjoyable service.

One of the most important factors to consider when looking for a roasting pan is the size. There should be enough capacity for the amount of meat you’ll be cooking. Here’s a rough guide for picking a roasting pan that has the right size for your needs:

  • A small pan (14″ x 10″ x 3″) is suitable for up to 12 lbs of meat
  • A medium pan (16″ x 12″ x 3″) is suitable for up to 16 lbs of meat
  • A large pan (18″ x 13″ x 4″) is suitable for up to 20 lbs of meat

Roasters typically come in rectangle or oval shapes. Oval pans are more suited for meats with an oval profile such as poultry, ham and prime rib. Rectangular pans provide a slightly larger surface area but can be more tricky to clean after use. Our recommendation? Go for a rectangular pan with rounded edges. This retains the benefit of a larger surface area whilst being easier to clean – the best of both worlds!

When it comes to the best material for your roasting pan, there’s a fairly staggering amount of options available. If you can think of a cookware material, chances are you can find a roaster made from it! That said, we recommend going for a pan with tri-ply or multi-ply cladding for the very best durability and performance.