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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.