Just a roasting rack
Credit: Jeff R Clow/Getty Images

I have been doing a lot of roasting lately. Not the traditional holiday things, like beef tenderloin or turkey, but duck. Duck is delicious, and it's a great party trick. And it's relatively easy (as long as you watch out for the duck fat catching on fire) to roast in the oven. Twice over the last two weeks I've made duck a l'orange for family or friends, a delicious dish that made me feel extremely like Julia Child. Twice, discovered what I've always suspected: You mostly don't need a roasting pan.

If you have a roasting pan and you use it a lot, then by all means, ignore me. But if you just haul it out once a year to make the turkey, hear me out. I was looking into purchasing a roasting pan for my tiny Brooklyn kitchen, fretting over where on earth I would store the thing for the rest of the year. Most good quality roasting pans are expensive, and most cheap ones don't seem worth your time—I mean why not just use the aluminum ones available at the grocery store? I didn't want to bother with anything nonstick, because I worried about the coating leaching toxins at high temperatures. And then I hit upon the wise advice of J.Kenji López-Alt, who confirmed what I've always suspected: Don't bother with a expensive roasting pan. Just buy a roasting rack.

What you want is to set up a situation where air can circulate around the item, crisping up the skin of a chicken or giving the outside of your roast a nice sear. The roasting rack does that by making sure the item is elevated. You can also just use a wire rack. But you don't really need an expensive, triple-clad roasting pan for underneath—in most cases a baking sheet does just fine. For my ducks, I used a double layer of aluminum roasting pans with the roasting rack set inside, which worked perfectly and also meant that I didn't have to cope with cleaning out the pan when I was done with the duck.

The only task you can't accomplish without a roasting pan is making a pan gravy from the drippings by setting the pan over two burners and going from there. But honestly, you could as easily just degrease and deglaze the aluminum pan or baking sheet with wine or stock and pour that mixture into another pan to make the gravy. Don't believe Big Ktchenware—you don't really need a roasting pan.