Tricks and Tips for Easy Cleanup of Your Thanksgiving Roasting Pan

Few of my friends use old fashioned roasting pans anymore to prepare their Thanksgiving turkey. They feel that a roasting pan is too large, too impractical, and too much of a hassle and prefer to use a roasting bag and a disposable roasting pan instead. While there is no arguing these items are definitely labor saving, disposable anything just isn’t all good for the environment.

Cleaning a roaster doesn’t have to be a drag, but does take a little planning ahead.

Invest in a roasting rack

My 100 year old roaster has a device called a “roasting rack.” This collapsible metal frame holds the bird above the pan, which allows the turkey to brown more easily. Because the turkey is not in direct contact with the roasting pan, there isn’t any baked on turkey to deal with. Roasting racks range from $10-$15 in price and are well worth the money.

Pretreat the pan

Those old enamel roasting pans really stick to food. Pretreat the pan with a spritzing of olive oil before placing the turkey inside. While it won’t prevent everything from sticking, it will do a pretty decent job of preventing food from really getting a grip.

Keep water in the pan

One cooking tip I learned years ago was that water prevents food from sticking to skillets, pans, and kettles. I usually add a couple of cups of water to the pan, and remove the lid from the pan the last hour or two of cooking. The water makes the turkey moist and tender; removing the lid towards the end of the cooking time allows the meat to brown nicely. Keep an eye on the fluid level! If the water is evaporating, don’t hesitate to add another cup of water.

Don’t use a roasting pan to make gravy

Most roasting pans aren’t terribly practical to use on the stove top for making gravy. The enamel models have ridges that don’t allow the bottom of the pan to make direct contact with the heat, and makes it impossible to mix the flour properly. Instead, drain the liquid and drippings from the roasting pan into a small skillet to prepare the turkey gravy.

Set it soaking

After the turkey has been pulled out of the roasting pan, and the meat juices transferred into a skillet, take a few minutes to prepare the roasting pan for a presoak. I add a quart or two of warm water, a few drops of Dawn dish washing soap, and then pop that roaster right back in the oven. Set the temperatures around 250 degrees, and forget about it until after dinner has ended.

After your guests have left and it’s time to clean up, pull the roaster out of the oven. Pour off the liquid, then wash with warm soapy water and a stiff scrubby brush. Any remaining food should pop right off with a minimum of effort.

Cleaning a roasting pan after Thanksgiving just isn’t that big of a deal. By using a roasting rack to lift the bird off the pan, pretreating with oil, and using water to do the work for you, you’ll discover that cleanup doesn’t have to be a chore.

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