By Teri Olcott
When it comes to cooking, I’m all about easy. Crock-Pot meals are some of my favorites because you throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot, let them cook all day, and when you come home from work, your meal is waiting. When my aging and well-used Crock-Pot started dying (RIP my friend), I did a little research on its replacement. I decided on a Nesco Roaster Oven because it got excellent reviews and claimed it could double as a roaster, baker, steamer, and cooker. Sizes ranged from five quarts to 18 quarts. I decided on the 6-quart model which has proven to be the perfect size for my family of three. If you have a kitchen that’s short on counter and storage space, the Nesco Roaster Oven might be perfect for you.
Who is Nesco?
Nesco began as a company called Metal Ware Corporation in the 1920s in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. Known for their pots, pans, buckets, and other cooking and farm items, the company came up with the idea for the roaster in the 1930s. By wrapping electrical wire around a double-boiler, they were able to make it heat up and cook. This tiny, portable oven was sold throughout the Milwaukee area and eventually evolved into today’s roaster oven. In addition to the roaster oven, Nesco makes dehydrators, jerky makers, vacuum sealers, meat grinders, and several other kitchen appliances.
The Components of the Roaster Oven
Heatwell and Body
The heatwell is the heating element for the roaster. Called the Circle of Heat by Nesco, the heatwell is like a tiny oven that heats up and is contained by the metal body of the roaster.
The non-stick metal cookwell sits in the heatwell. The cookwell is similar to the pot in a slow cooker (Crock-Pot). The cookwell is removable for easy cleaning. You can also use it for food storage in the refrigerator.
A wire rack sits in the cookwell. The rack is great for baking and fat-free roasting.
A glass or aluminum cover sits on top of the cookwell and keeps the heat and moisture in. Two small vent holes allow air circulation. Newer models have an aluminum cover.
A knob on the front of the body sets the temperature and selects the cooking mode.
A small manual provides instructions, care and cleaning guidelines, and several recipes.
How it Works as a Roaster
One of the best things about this roaster oven is that you can roast meat as you would in a conventional oven, but in an oven that’s a fraction of the size. This saves money and keeps you from heating up the house when you don’t want to. The 6-quart roaster can roast up to four pounds of meat. It’s great for chicken or a small beef or pork roast. The larger 18-quart model claims it can roast a 22-pound turkey. You can sear meat in the roaster by turning the temperature up to 425 degrees, then back to the roast setting.
How it Works as a Cooker
Although you can use the roaster as a cooker, I find it just as easy to heat up items in a pot on top of the stove.
How it Works as a Baker
Just like roasting, you can bake a loaf of bread in the roaster oven without a conventional oven. I make a lot of banana and zucchini bread, and the roaster is great for this. A bread pan just fits in the 6-quart cookwell. You can also make meatloaf or anything that will fit in the bread pan. The metal rack can be covered with foil and makes a nice baking platform for fish, pork chops, and chicken. Anything that fits in the roaster can be baked just like you would with a regular oven.
How it Works as a Slow Cooker
The Nesco Roaster Oven is a great slow cooker. You can sear meat in it, add your other ingredients, then turn the dial to the slow cook mode and let it slow-cook away. I like to make stews and soups, and the slow cook feature has never let me down. Meat comes out tender and perfect without being dry. Very little moisture escapes through the vents in the lid.
How it Works as a Steamer
I have never used the steam feature because I just prefer a pot on the stove. It doesn’t take long for the roaster to get up to whatever temperature is selected.
Cleanup of the roaster oven cookwell and cover is easy. You can put them in the dishwasher or wash by hand. Wipe down the body to remove any spills.
Cost and Where to Buy
For all that it does, the Nesco Roaster Oven is reasonably priced. The 6-quart model can be found for around $40, and the 18-quart version costs about $60. You can find the roaster oven in various colors at just about any store that sells cooking items.
Conclusion and Rating
I love the Nesco Roaster Oven. It far surpasses a conventional slow cooker and has held up well to frequent use. It’s well made and comes with a one-year warranty. You can also buy replacement parts from Nesco if you somehow damage the lid or cookwell, but it would take a very hard knock to damage either item.
I give the Nesco Roaster Oven five out of five stars.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Teri Olcott and www.shutterstock.com