If you eat or serve meat at Thanksgiving, you know the turkey is the grand centerpiece of it all, even if sides are what everyone actually loves eating the most. And if the turkey goes wrong ― if it’s too dry, or unseasoned, or falls on the floor, or whatever other nightmare you can think of ― then the entire meal feels off.
Half the battle is knowing what size turkey you need and how long to cook your turkey per pound, and the other half is having the right tools ― like a roasting pan, that classic piece of holiday cookware that also comes in handy for all sorts of things, from roast beef or pork to ham to mac and cheese and lasagna. The glory of a roasting pan is that its rack allows you to set the meat up high and roast vegetables in the drippings below. And the pan can also go straight to the stovetop for searing or making gravy (provided it has a mostly flat bottom, something to keep an eye out for when shopping). Plus, unlike cheap disposable pans, good roasters won’t rip under the weight of your bird.
Although you can find roasting pans in a wide variety of shapes, materials and configurations, experts and testers say a few features are crucial: Tri-ply stainless steel, which typically has a middle layer of aluminum, browns much better than either plain or enameled stainless; the handles matter a lot, since you’re maneuvering and carrying a large, heavy and extremely hot dish; and the roasting rack should fit snugly enough that your turkey (or whatever you’re roasting) doesn’t slide around dangerously when you’re moving it in and out of the oven. Most experts recommend rectangular pans over oval types, since these typically line up better with the burners on your stove.
(A note about size: The size given for a roasting pan typically reflects the pan’s interior, not necessarily its total length. For example, a 16-inch roasting pan may actually be 20 inches wide from handle to handle, so check the full dimensions and measure your oven before buying to be sure the pan you want will fit. Keep in mind that if your pan is too large for your turkey, the drippings may burn, though covering the bottom of the pan with chopped vegetables can help with that.)
Here are the best roasting pans testers have given the seal of approval:
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.