I wanted to test Nesco's Roaster Oven to see how handy it would be to roast a turkey in something other than a busy stove oven, especially at holiday time. However, I've been somewhat skeptical about capacity, whether a roaster oven would hold a large turkey. I also lacked an understanding of all a roaster oven can do, so it's been an informative testing phase. Read on to learn how this Nesco® roaster fared in my home test.
Nesco Roaster Oven Reviews: Nesco 4818-14 Classic
- Nesco The Original Roaster Oven 18 Qt Roaster Oven, Ivory
- Porcelain coated removable cookwell
- Roast, steam/poach, bake, slowcook function
- Adjustable temperature control from 200 to 450degF
- Holds a whole turkey up to 22 lbs or use for large batch meals, to bake pies, cookies and other cooking needs
- Unique CIRCLE OF HEAT® construction so foods are cooked from the sides, not bottom
- Automatic temperature control for even, energy-efficient cooking
- Portable oven design for use in the porch, at the cabin or as a main or second kitchen oven
- Includes a removable chrome steel rack with handles for easy transfer or to keep meats/poultry raised
- Cookwell and heatwell resists scratches, corrosion, chips, stains
- Use/Care and Recipe Guide
- Model 4818-14
- 1425 Watt, 120 Volt
How the Nesco Roaster Oven Performed
Reading the manual is crucial to understanding everything you can do with this roaster oven if you want to benefit from this large appliance, because it would be a shame to use it only for roasting.
My main objective was to use it for roasting large meats, poultry and the holiday turkey, but as I learned during testing, there's much more to this counter appliance and it can supplement or replace your primary oven as needed.
The construction of this roaster oven is good, though I did expect a heavier lid and cookwell. But it certainly didn't seem to affect performance and the cover design seems to help with basting. Everything cooked/baked fairly evenly, so the heating technology seems to work fine. I love the temperature range - it opens up a world of cooking possibilities. The initial curing process to prep the roaster oven was no problem. We ran it empty as recommended for about an hour in the garage and that resolved the new appliance smell.
My first roasting was a chicken and it turned out very well. Since I didn't have a browning agent on hand (recommended by Nesco), I gave it a light brushing of Heinz 57® sauce. The skin was nicely browned and the chicken was tender and flavorful. Roasting time was similar to what I'd expect in my range oven - about 1.75 hours for a three pound bird. After roasting, the chicken was easy to lift out with the roaster's rack. With the variable temperature, I was then able to simmer bones and make a soup in the same roaster. I cooked another chicken during testing, without a browning aid and skin was golden, but not as brown as the first one. So a browning aide is really optional and not crucial.
Another test was using the roaster oven to supplement my range, for baking meat and apple pies. I did not brush the top pastry with milk, as I usually do to enhance browning. I placed two 8" pie plates in the roaster oven and a few were baked in my range oven. One waited for the next batch. That's where it got interesting. In my haste, I forgot to place the fruit pies on a baking sheet to catch any overflow. You guessed it, my range oven was a mess and needed downtime for some serious cleaning the next day. Meanwhile, the pies in the roaster oven baked event-free and that appliance became my primary oven to bake the last pie.
For baking, the roaster oven does a fine job. As you can see in the image, you really cannot tell the difference in browning, and results were similar to the pies baked in my regular oven. The roaster oven does seem to take about 8-10 minutes more for some baking. But keep in mind that it's really hard to resist lifting the lid and peeking, which results in heat loss and time delays. I would definitely use the roaster oven again for any type of baking. And with use, peeking (hopefully) will be reduced to a minimum, which should result is more comparable baking times.
Other large meal items turned out as expected with only slightly longer cooking/baking time than doing them in the range oven. Oh curious me, I had to try baking my bread in it too. Browned fine, good texture - you really couldn't tell it had not been done in my regular oven. You can fit two standard loaf pans in the roaster oven (on rack), but only one if it has wide handles. I used the rack for pies, bread pans and especially for any meat/poultry I wanted to raise from the drippings. The rack is well made, lifts out easily and is an essential tool. But spray or grease it to make cleaning easier. Because of the design, it cleans up more quickly than my usual poultry lifter. And remember to use oven mitts to remove baking or roasting; the roaster oven side walls are very hot.
The final and crucial test involved roasting a 17 lb turkey. Using the guide of 13-18 minutes per pound, I expected roughly about 5-7 hours and started it early at 400degF for the first hour, then 350degF. The Norpro Turkey and Poultry Timer signaled it was done at about five hours which was earlier than expected and I reduced the temperature considerably since there was still a couple of hours to serving time. The turkey was not stuffed; I now prefer dressing made in a slow cooker. I had rubbed the turkey skin with margarine and seasonings. The skin turned out a golden brown, confirming that a browning agent is not really necessary. The turkey was moist and tender, even after the forced delay to meet serving time. I would definitely use a roaster oven again for turkey roasting. We also loved the convenience of a counter-high cooking appliance, which was easier to monitor and transfer the bird when done.
Note that when using the cookwell rack, you really cannot baste a turkey with a spoon and need a baster. You also should make sure the cord is not draped against the roaster, since the exterior walls are also hot. Oven mitts or hot pad should be used to handle the lid; the handle stays reasonably cool but it's just too easy to come into contact with the hot lid. But leaving a hot pad on the lid handle is not advisable; it could easily cover/close the steam vents. When removing the lid, lift to one side to avoid a steam burn and keep moisture inside the lid from dripping on the counter.
To protect the counter, I did use a wooden board under the roaster oven as I tend to do with many heat-generating appliances. The cookwell is porcelain coated and does clean up well with a little scrub. You can also give it a light oil spray to help with clean-up. Porcelain coated steel generally has a long life, so I'm not sure I would prefer a nonstickcookwell, though that would certainly make it even easier to clean.
Nesco 4818-14: Overall Impression
This test was a learning experience and I was thrilled with results. While I knew you could use a roaster oven for large batches of lasagna or chili and for roasting poultry/meat, I was very skeptical that you could successfully bake in one. This test assured me you can bake or cook most anything you usually do in your range oven, except of course, broil. That really increases the benefits of having a roaster oven to supplement your range, or as a stand-alone portable oven.
This roaster oven would be incredibly convenient for summer cooking in the porch to keep the kitchen cool. It would also work very well for doing many large tasks such as cooking several pounds of baked potatoes, making large batches of food for special events, or just as a warmer for buffet serving. With the ability to roast, cook, slowcook, simmer, steam and bake along with a wide temperature range, this is definitely a versatile appliance.
I purposely tested this roaster oven over the holidays because that's usually when my oven has a hard time managing the cooking/baking load and it has proven its worth, though it is a large appliance that needs adequate storage during downtime. For those who often find it difficult to remove a large bird from the stove oven, you can place this cooking appliance on a higher stable counter or table and remove the racked turkey without bending over.
This roaster oven is part of Nesco's The Original Roaster Oven line and they do have several sizes of roaster ovens for those with smaller needs. When choosing a roaster oven size, buy according to your needs, but keep in mind that you may want to occasionally roast a large turkey in it as well. The model reviewed has a high dome cover, which I believe is essential to accommodate a large turkey and properly apply the lid. As for capacity, it was adequate for my turkey with a little room left. I'd love to hear from readers who have cooked a 22lb bird in their roaster oven.
The main drawback of a large roaster oven is having to store it when not in use, so that's something that should be considered if you're thinking of buying one. As for price, Nesco roaster ovens are very affordable and most retail for less than $100. You can also replace the cookwell if you need to or add an optional buffet server to turn an 18 qt roaster oven into a buffet warmer.
A Nesco Roaster Oven is ideal for those who do a lot of cooking or baking, for those who often host sporting events or attend pot luck dinners and socials. It would also make an ideal wedding gift for large families. A roaster oven would also be very handy for the church kitchen, or for the RV or cottage.
About the Company and Related Resources
Nesco® has been manufacturing popular roaster ovens for years. They have the widest range of sizes, finishes and accessories for their roaster ovens and their models tend to have higher dome-shaped lids than some other brands. They also have a good assortment of tips, FAQ's and recipes for their appliances; visit their site to learn more.