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On the list of ultimate adulting tasks, roasting a turkey ranks pretty highly. But what if you don’t have the heavy-duty cookware that your uncle whips out every Thanksgiving? Is bird still the word?
How to roast a turkey without a roasting pan or rack: In short
- Ideally, replace the roasting pan with a sheet pan that has raised edges — especially for larger birds and briskets. However, you can also try using a Dutch oven, skillet, or baking dish.
- You don’t need a roasting rack, but it helps to keep your turkey raised. It might come out a little stewed otherwise.
- You can use a wire cooling rack if you have one. If not, you can twist up some aluminum foil or cover the bottom of the pan with a chunky layer of coarsely chopped veggies.
- Be sure to cook turkey to an internal temp of 165°F (74ºC) and check the appropriate cooking time for the size of the bird you have.
A good roasting pan with a rack can help you bring your Thanksgiving turkey home to roost (or roast). But if you don’t have a roaster, that doesn’t rule out a moist bird coated with crispy skin and packed with all the flavors.
You don’t need to run to the store for one of those big disposable aluminum pans, either. If you have a rimmed sheet pan or another vessel big enough to hold your turkey, you’re good to gobble.
We’ll break down how to roast a turkey (or another animal protein) without a roasting pan, including what to do if you don’t have a roasting rack and how to choose the right vessel.
Picking the right vessel for the job is key when you want to roast a turkey or other meat without a specialized pan.
Depending on the size of your protein, you may be able to roast it in a:
But for a larger turkey or a big-ass brisket, you’ll be better off with a sheet pan. Make sure it’s a rimmed sheet pan — the kind with raised edges. This will help contain all the juices and drippings, keeping your bird moist AF and minimizing drippage.
Sheet pans are available to purchase online.
A word of caution
Be careful when roasting a heavy protein like a monster turkey on a sheet pan, because it will be harder to take out of the oven and to move without handles. You certainly don’t want your masterpiece slip-slidin’ away onto the kitchen floor.
Also, be sure no part of the protein hangs over the edges of the pan. This will help keep all parts of the bird covered in the juices and allow everything to roast evenly.
If your protein’s truly too much of a beast for the gear you have, wrap any overhanging legs or edges in aluminum foil to drain the juices back into the cooking vessel.
You don’t need to keep your turkey raised too high when roasting, but you will need to elevate it in some way.
This helps air circulate for even cooking and prevents the bottom from getting too soggy. By raising your meat onto a mini-throne of sorts, you’ll get crispier skin on poultry or a caramelized crust on a piece of pork or beef.
Without a rack, you could inadvertently end up braising your meat instead of roasting it (depending on how much fat and juice the meat releases during cooking). Braising is a cooking technique that involves stewing meat in liquid — and it can be hella delicious, but not when your guests are expecting a roast.
Long story short: Raise so you don’t braise.
This depends on whether you have a wire cooling rack or not. You may be in the market for one — in which case, you can buy one online.
But there are other roasting rack substitutes that don’t require dropping dollars on new gear.
If you have a wire cooling rack
Got a wire rack that you regularly whip out for cooling cookies? You can set it in your sheet pan and place the protein on top.
If you don’t have a wire cooling rack
The video below gives you a guide to twisting foil into a handy figure-8 shape.
If you don’t have foil
Gah! Foiled again! Don’t worry — you can give spoons a try. (See? We said you didn’t need any special equipment.)
If you prop your turkey up on silverware, just be sure that silverware is made from oven-safe materials. And remember to handle those hot utensils with oven mitts after roasting.
But the tastier method is to make a bed of coarsely chopped veggies like potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables. They’ll raise up the protein and absorb all the delicious drippings. (It’s best to make them nice and chunky so they don’t disintegrate under the weight of the bird.)
A *chef’s kiss* tip
For the perfect Thanksgiving twist, try roasting turkey on a bed of stale bread. Ta-da — instant stuffing!
However you choose to elevate your bird, you can add various elements to introduce a wider variety of flavors and overtones to your roast. Why not try:
No matter how you roast your animal proteins, make sure you do it safely.
It’s *so* important to keep food safety front and center when prepping and cooking a big ol’ hunk of protein. Undercooking animal protein runs the risk of transmitting Salmonella bacteria and other foodborne nasties to anyone who eats the food.
You know what foodborne pathogens hate? Being cooked properly. So keep your meal safe (and ruin their whole night) by remembering these important steps:
- Store the meat safely. Cover and refrigerate any animal protein you want to keep safe until the day of roasting (or the day before, if you need a longer thawing time).
- Make sure you thaw the protein long enough. You can thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator or in cold water. The time it takes will depend on the size of the roast and the type of protein you’re using. You can check the ideal thawing time for your roast here.
- Check the cooking time and temperature. This also depends on type of meat and the size. Make sure you preheat the oven long enough so that your animal protein reaches a safe temperature. For instance, it’s best to set your oven at a minimum of 325ºF (163ºC) when you roast a turkey.
- Use a food thermometer to check that it’s ready. Food thermometers, which are available for purchase online, can confirm that the internal temperature of your roast is safe for human consumption. Which is, ya know, pretty useful at the Thanksgiving table. For a turkey, the internal temp you want is 165°F (74°C).
You don’t need a roasting pan and roasting rack to cook a turkey.
By replacing the pan with a rimmed sheet pan, Dutch oven, or skillet, you can still get a boatload of delicious bird. And wire cooling racks, spoons, scrunched aluminum foil, and chopped veggies are all fair game as roasting rack replacements.
Be sure to take the extra steps necessary to seal in the juices and elevate the bird.