What is a Roasting Rack (and What To Do If You Don’t Have One)

So you’ve cut all of those vegetables and root crops, rubbed the meat with all of those seasonings, meticulously calculated how long to cook it and at what temperature, and all you’ve got to show after all of it is soggy meat?

You’ve got to elevate your roasting game, buddy. And I mean that quite literally.

Roasting pans often come with a metal insert called a roasting rack specifically for this purpose. But on the off-chance that yours don’t, there are several makeshift solutions you can do with common kitchen items. Keep reading to know more about this useful tool!

What is a Roasting Rack?

A roasting rack is a kitchen tool made from stainless steel or aluminum that is designed to lift meat off the bottom of a roasting pan or a Dutch oven. The rack facilitates better drainage, allowing fats and juices to drip away from the meat. This prevents meats from becoming soggy, and leaving you with a crispier outcome. More than that, the rack creates space on the underside of the meat, which promotes even cooking and browning.

Roasting racks come in various forms: flat, V-shaped, adjustable, or even with built-in handles for easy removal from the pan. Rectangular racks are the most common, as they often come bundled with the roasting pan when purchased. There are also circular roasting racks that are meant for use inside a Dutch oven, just make sure you’re buying the right size.

How to Use a Roasting Rack

Using a roasting rack is a straightforward process that can significantly enhance your results.

First, always ensure that the rack is properly sized for both the food and the pan. Oversized or undersized racks can lead to uneven cooking or difficulty in handling. When roasting meats, consider trussing them to maintain shape and promote even cooking.

Before putting the meat on the rack, you should make your bed of vegetables first. With that said, while it is tempting to toss in all of your vegetables in the pan, try not to overcrowd it, especially right where the roasting rack sits. Overcrowding chokes air circulation, which defeats the purpose of using the rack in the first place.

With that done, place the roasting rack centrally inside your roasting pan, ensuring it sits firmly. This central placement ensures that every part of the meat receives consistent heat, leading to uniform cooking and browning. Additionally, rotating the pan halfway through cooking can compensate for any hot spots in the oven, further ensuring an even roast.

After cooking, it’s essential to let the meat rest on the rack before carving, allowing the juices to settle. Speaking of juices, the drippings left on the pan are packed with flavor, so don’t discard them! Use them to make gravies and sauces to go with the meat.

What to Use If You Don’t Have a Roasting Rack

Lacking a roasting rack shouldn’t stop you from achieving a perfect roast. Common kitchen items can serve as functional substitutes. Here are some ideas:

  • Crumpled aluminum foil. Tear off 2 or 3 large pieces of foil, and roll them into logs. Make sure that the diameter of these logs are at least 1 each ensure that the meat is elevated off the pan. Next, form each log into an “S” shape, then arrange them in a row. You can now place the meat on top of these S-shaped logs.
  • Metal cookie cutters. The walls of cookie cutters are usually an or two tall, so arranging them along the center of the pan can create the elevation you need. Don’t attempt this if your cookie cutters are made of silicone or has plastic parts, and definitely check the temperature of your metal cookie cutters first!
  • Cast iron trivet. While a cast iron trivet is commonly used to protect tables from damage by hot pots and pans, they can also be used to prop up meats in the roasting pan. And you don’t have to worry, as cast iron is oven safe!

I left out the traditional “bed of vegetables” method in this list. While it does put meats away from the surface of the pan, they don’t solve the air circulation problem.


The roasting rack undoubtedly adds value to the culinary experience. It promotes even cooking, healthier meals, and can enhance the flavor profile of your dishes.

However, its absence should not deter you from exploring the world of roasting. Alternative methods can effectively replicate its function, though perhaps with a bit more creativity.

Ultimately, whether to include a roasting rack in your kitchen collection depends on your cooking frequency, the types of dishes you prepare, and your willingness to experiment. Like many kitchen tools, it’s not an absolute necessity, but it certainly has its advantages.

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