A roaster oven frees the kitchen's main oven and stovetop for cooking other dishes with its plug-in portability and stand-alone utility. For that reason, you can use the roaster oven to prepare extra dishes for a large gathering when the other cooking surfaces are busy, or use it for just a single dish for an intimate gathering without heating up the kitchen. Roaster ovens have limited capability, but do what they do well, long as you understand what to cook in them.
Slow Cooker Comforts
Because roaster ovens don't brown meat, any liquid braised dish that works in a slow cooker will work on a larger scale in a roaster oven. Consider cooking a stew of beef or poultry, layered with vegetables. Start with potatoes and carrots on the bottom, then add chunks of meat, seasonings and broth. Cook on medium-high heat for up to 4 hours, lifting the lid to stir rarely. Reduce heat to low for serving.
Although roasted meats won't brown in the roaster oven, they cook evenly and without sticking when prepared properly. Choose a skinned chicken or turkey, or plan on discarding the skin when prepared in a roaster oven. Preheat the roaster oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the bird on a roasting rack and add a small amount of water or broth to coat the bottom of the roaster oven. Place the lid on the appliance and cook the turkey or chicken without removing the lid for approximately 30 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer in the meatiest part of the thigh registers 165 F.
Fully Cooked Favorites
Any items already cooked that are just in need of reheating work well in a roaster oven. For example, you can prepare a fully cooked whole or half ham in a roaster oven. Glaze the ham before placing it in the roaster oven and warm at 325 F for up to 2 hours to heat through. Heat ingredients like cream cheese, shredded cheese and vegetables that don't need to be cooked through in a roaster oven to create an elegant appetizer dip. Add shredded chicken and hot sauce for a buffalo chicken dip or imitation crab meat and artichoke hearts for a seafood artichoke dip. Serve with crostini, crackers or chips and cold salsa garnish.
Create memorable desserts in a roaster oven while using the rest of the kitchen to cook the main course. Mix together a favorite pie filling recipe and pour into the roaster oven, or to save time, use canned or jarred pie filling. Create a crumbled crust for a fruit crisp by mixing oats, nuts, brown sugar and chilled butter in pieces. Spread the crust evenly over the filling and heat at 350 F for 30 minutes before reducing the heat to warm. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
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- The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; Jack Bishop
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison Food Safety & Health: Safely Using Your Slow Cooker or Nesco Roaster
Andrea Lott Haney writes articles and training materials for food industry publications. Having studied foodservice sanitation, nutrition and menu planning at Purdue University, Lott Haney has more than 10 years of experience as a catering and event planner for luxury hotels and currently tours the Midwest as a corporate customer service trainer and consultant.