What is a Broiler Pan? A Complete Guide and the Best Broiler Pans on the Market
Broiler pans are ubiquitous and yet still relatively mysterious when it comes to everyday cooking. Most of us have probably encountered broiler pans before, but we may not be totally sure what they’re for or confident in how to use them. The truth is, broiler pans for ovens are quite versatile, and once you start using them, you may never go back.
What is a broiler pan?
A broiler pan is a large, flat pan that is used to broil food. Now, simply saying a broiler pan is a pan for broiling doesn’t tell us much. To really understand what a broiler pan is, we need to first understand what broiling is.
Broiling is a method of cooking in which food is exposed to very high heat, usually by placing it directly under the heating element located at the top of your oven. Broiling foods results in a pleasant browning, crisping and even caramelization. Broiling is fast and can be tricky, but it also imparts food with more complex flavors as compared to conventional roasting.
It’s easy to confuse broiling with roasting, since both cooking methods are done in the oven, and both involve pans with very specific designs. And therein lies the difference, and the unique design of broiler pans.
Broiler pans are typically designed as a set of two flat, nested trays; food is placed on the top tray, which has slots that allow for fats and liquids to drain to the bottom chamber.
Broiler pans, unlike roasting pans, are thus designed so that food does not cook in its own juices. While submersion in juices may be nice for roasts, you definitely don’t want food sitting in liquids if you’re trying to crisp it up.
Roasting pans, on the other hand, are typically single piece dishes with higher walls that are specifically designed to contain juices, and in which food is permitted to cook more slowly. Roasting is generally done at lower temperatures, on a lower rack in your oven, while broiling is all about getting food very hot, very quickly.
What are the advantages of using a broiler pan?
The most obvious advantages in using a broiler pan are the browning, crisping and textural results of broiling that you simply cannot get from a normal roasting pan. The advantages of using a broiling pan are synonymous with the benefits of broiling, which to put it more generally, include:
- Getting that perfect crust – Again, broiler pans are great if you want to brown or crisp up the top of your dish. This works incredibly well with meats, but also with fish and even vegetables.
- Cooks more evenly – Hot air circulates particularly well through these pans, thanks in large part to the perforated ribs and/or cross-hatches (depending on design) located in the upper tray of most broiling pans. Hot air from the broiling elements heats from above, and even circulates to cook from below.
That said, if you want to crisp both sides of your dish evenly, you’ll need to flip it halfway through broiling.
- Easy to clean – Simply drain the juices after use (or collect them in a fat receptacle) and then clean your pans as you normally would. I recommend cleaning your broiler pan immediately after use to make things easier (more on this below). The fact that broiler pans separate juices from the food makes clean-up a breeze.
When do you use a broiler pan?
Broiler pans are the best option for cooking proteins like beef and fish, and even vegetables, when you want to drain excess fats, oils and even water. Broiler pans are therefore a fantastic option for steaks, and are especially helpful for avoiding mushy vegetables.
I also prefer to use a broiler pan when cooking certain types of whole fish, like sea bass and branzino, and when I’m looking to get a nice, crisped up skin. Broiler pans are perfect for this type of dish because the fish sits above its juices as it cooks, rather than in them.
If, on the other hand, you want your protein to cook in its own juices, resulting in a more tender final product, or you want your vegetables to stew, then you’ll want to go with a roasting pan. Roasting pans will collect and retain moisture, reinvigorating the dish with its own flavors as it cooks.
Broiler pans are also incredibly versatile, and as you can see below, can even be used to roast whole turkeys. Cooking your turkey on a broiler pan – even though you aren’t technically broiling – actually preserves the juices below (for gravy, etc.) while getting that nice crisp skin on top.
Tips for getting the most out of your broiler pan
Broiling food isn’t terribly difficult, but there are still a few things you’ll want to remember in order to get the most out of your broiler pan. While some of these tips are designed with easy clean-up in mind, others are more fundamental to properly cooking your food.
Crowding the pan – You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears repeating – don’t crowd the pan, and that includes broiler pans! Broiling is all about getting that nice, browning that we all love, and that’s only achievable when you space your food to maximize surface area.
If you crowd your food together, you risk crisping up the tops of your food while the sides get soggy, or remain uncooked. For best results, try to leave at least one inch of space between proteins whenever using your broiler pan.
- Clean-up – Broiling is all about crisping your proteins on top while letting juices drip down below. Broiler pans are designed to do precisely that, and as a result, the lower tray that collects grease can get pretty nasty, pretty quickly.
Do yourself a favor and make cleaning up easier by lining the lower tray with tinfoil. While this may not catch 100% of the juices that collect down under, a layer of tinfoil still makes a huge difference in keeping your broiler pan clean.
While some people like to line both the top and bottom trays of their broiler pans with tinfoil (and if you do, make sure to cut slits in that top layer of tinfoil), I prefer to only cover the lower tray. I’ve found that putting tinfoil on the top of the broiler pan doesn’t help much in terms of keeping the tray clean, and worse, it tends to stick to your food.
Instead, concentrate on the lower chamber, where most of the grease will collect anyway. Remove the tinfoil, clean your broiler pan with warm soap and water, and replace with fresh tinfoil as needed.
- Bake, then broil – Broiling is some of the hottest cooking out there, and involves getting your food right up close to the heating element in your oven. This is great for getting a nice crisp, but unless the food you’re cooking is relatively thin, it’s very easy to burn the outside of your food while the inside is still raw. Or alternatively, it’s easy to dry the exterior of your food out while waiting for it to cook all the way through.The solution to this problem is to bake first, then broil. You can still bake at a high temperature, cooking your food about 80% of the way, and then finish under the broiler. This way your food will cook evenly, and still get that nice browning on top.
How to clean a broiler pan – three tips for caked on grease
Of course, cleaning your broiler pan is going to be easiest if you follow some of the tips above, specifically those that reduce mess in the first place. Covering your broiler pan in tinfoil and using a brush to apply sauces without spillage are great in this respect.
But that said, let’s assume you haven’t done any of those things, and you’ve got a down right nasty broiler pan. What’s the best way to clean that broiler pan?
- Wash immediately after use, while the broiler pan is still warm. The key here is to attack your broiler pan before any residual food debris cools and solidifies. Use warm water, a neutral detergent and a semi-abrasive sponge or scrub brush (see below).
- Use a scrub brush. Scrub brushes are ideal for broiler pans because the bristles can get between the slits at the top of the pan, and the stiff brush is enough to tackle caked on grease. I like this Amazer scrub brush a lot – it’s very functional, has great aesthetics, and has a built in scraper edge for tough food bits.
- Soak in warm, soapy water for as long as possible. If you didn’t have time to wash your broiler pan before the food debris cools, no worries. You can still clean your broiler pan – it will just take a little longer.
Soaking your broiler pan in warm, soapy water will soften the food debris, making it easier to clean. Unfortunately, broiler pans tend to be pretty large, and are oftentimes too big to fit in a standard sized kitchen sink. If this is the case, you still have options.
You can soak one half of the broiler pan at a time (cleaning each half consecutively), or you can look for a receptacle (like a large storage container) in which to soak your pan. It may make a mess, but you could even soak the broiler pan in your bathtub – you’ll just have to clean your tub after too!
Broiler pan substitutes
If you don’t have a broiler pan, don’t worry. There are plenty of substitutes that will work almost or even equally as well.
Disposable broiler pans – These aluminum broiler pans aren’t’ actually half bad. They have steep ridges that keep food raised above juices, ensuring that your food browns nicely without getting soggy. Although disposable pans like these can be a bit wasteful, there is no beating the convenience. Don’t worry about clean-up!
Sheet pans – Sheet pans are increasingly popular among home cooks and professionals alike, owing largely to their versatility. They won’t keep food raised above any potential juices though, which is something to be aware of. That said, they come in all sizes, and are great for one pan meals. These sheet pans are made in the United States!
Important considerations before buying a broiler pan
There are a few important things to consider before buying a new broiler pan, or looking for a replacement broiler pan for your oven. Chief among these considerations is size – will the broiler pan fit in your broiler?
In addition to size, you’ll want to consider broiler pan type (whether it’s a permanent fixture in your kitchen or disposable) and versatility. After considering these options, you should be ready to go.
Size – Measuring the size of your broiler pan and determining whether it fits in your broiler (or rather, under the broiler, which is usually located in the oven) is obviously going to be the first consideration when selecting a new broiler pan.
While measuring length and width is vital to ensuring an appropriate fit under your broiler, don’t forget to measure your broiler pan’s height. While broiler pan height usually only varies by a few inches, or even a fraction of an inch, those precious inches can be critical. They might mean the difference between a nicely browned pie and burned crust.
Your broiler pan height is one of the factors (in addition to rack adjustment) that determine how close your food gets to the broiler, and since broiling is about exposing food to extremely high heat, distance matters.
Type – What I mean here is, are you going to use the broiler pan repeatedly, or are you just looking for a quick, easy fix? If you plan on getting the most out of your broiler, then I would strongly suggest getting one of the broiler pans listed below. These are all great products, and with a little care, they will last forever.
On the other hand, if you don’t think you’ll ever use your broiler again, or you simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of washing a large item, disposable broiler pans might be the way to go. It is somewhat wasteful – there is no denying that – and not exactly cost effective, but disposable broiler pans are a great option if you need an immediate fix.
Versatility – The really cool thing about dual level broiler pans is that they’re actually pretty versatile. While the top level is obviously meant for broiling, in that the surface is textured and perforated to let juices drain below, the lower level is really just a secondary sheet pan.
What I mean is, if you select the right broiler pan, you’re actually getting both a broiler pan and a sheet pan, and depending on the depth of that lower pan, potentially even a roasting pan as well.
There are no rules against removing the top sheet and using your broiler pan to roast, if that’s what you’re into. This is a great way to get the most out of what is otherwise a single use item.
When it comes to broiling, each of the following broiler pans are absolutely fantastic, and all three have specific advantages. Each one is a solid, dual piece broiler pan, and moreover, they are all comparable in size and price.
There are, however, a few notable distinctions that may draw you to one over the other. Let’s take a closer look at each.
1. GE – 16.75 Inch Broiler Pan
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The first thing you need to know about this broiler pan by GE is that it’s an OEM product, which means that it was designed specifically as a replacement item for GE ovens. GE designed it with their own oven dimensions in mind. So if you happen to have any number of GE models that this broiler pan fits, you’re in luck.
That said, there is no reason why this pan can’t be used in non-GE models. You simply need to measure your broiler length, width and depth (as described above) and ensure that this broiler pan (which measures 16.75 x 12.62 x1.37 inches, by the way) will fit.
The size on this GE broiler pan is pretty standard, though I wish the lower tray was slightly deeper. While the top tray is ribbed and perforated nicely, allowing food to rest on top as juices drain to the lower chamber, that lower chamber is rather shallow.
Don’t get me wrong, the lower chamber is more than deep enough to catch even above-average broiling drain off, it just isn’t deep enough to double as a roasting pan.
The broiler is also coated in a non-stick, enamel finish that is easy to clean. The porcelain enamel is actually great, since it is relatively non-stick but still able to withstand extremely high temperatures.
When you pick this up and feel its heft, there is no mistaking the fact that you’re handling a well made, solid steel GE product. When it comes to quality, there is no beating this broiler pan.
2. Range Kleen – 16 Inch, Porcelain Coated Broiler Pan
Range Kleen – 16 Inch, Porcelain Coated Broiler Pan
Coming in a few bucks cheaper than the GE and made in the USA – what’s not to love?
This Range Kleen broiler pan is almost identical to the GE broiler pan above in size, though it’s just a tad bit shorter in length. Measuring 16 x 12.75 x 1.75 inches, this all steel, porcelain enamel coated broiler pan has more than enough real estate to broil food for two, or even a small family.
The design is also very similar to the GE pan, with ribs and perforations that allow for drainage, and a lower chamber to collect juices. And my thoughts regarding the lower chamber mirror those for the GE pan too – it’s plenty to collect broiler drain off, but just not deep enough to double as a roasting pan.
Although the Range Kleen is cheaper than the GE pan, it’s actually made in the United States, which is a huge plus. It’s solid, though relatively light and technically dishwasher safe – if you can fit it in the dishwasher!
Rather than putting this item in the dishwasher, it’s more likely that you’ll need to either wash this broiler pan immediately after use (the porcelain enamel cleans up nicely, especially when still hot) or soak it in your sink.
3. Norpro – 16.5 Inch, 274 Stainless Steel Broiler Pan
Norpro – 16.5 Inch, 274 Stainless Steel Broiler Pan
A fantastic broiler pan for stainless steel fanatics.
This Norpro broiler pan stands out from the crowd. Measuring 16.5 x 12 x 2 inches, this two piece broiler pan set is made from high quality, brushed stainless steel, which gives it a distinct look relative to other broiler pans, which are typically black.
The broiler pan itself is comparable in size to the GE and Range Kleen broiler pans, though this Norpro is slightly deeper, measuring two full inches. And that extra quarter inch, while it doesn’t sound like much, actually makes quite the difference both with respect to how close you are getting your food to the broiler, and how much volume the lower chamber can hold.
I also really like the design of the Norpro, which rather than using ribs, actually has a cross-hatched, perforated pattern. It works just as well, if not better, when it comes to keeping food well above juices as they drain down. The top sheet also has a small handle for convenience.
On the downside, there are a few things to mention. First, while stainless steel is strong and durable, it is somewhat harder to clean as compared to enamel, especially when food burns. If you get this broiler pan, you’ll definitely want to invest in some bar keepers friend as well!
Second, a few people have noticed that the sides of this broiler pan can be quite sharp, so you’ll want to be careful when you handle it around the edges. You can probably fix this easily with a little sand paper. And lastly, this pan is quite a bit more expensive than comparable broiler pans, coming in at over $30.
So while there are great innovations that make this broiler pan unique, there are a few notable downsides that you’ll want to take into consideration. If you’re a stainless steel fanatic though, it’s a great option.