Published January 1, 2004. From Cook's Illustrated.
According to a recent infomercial and a slew of imitators, any cook with a wealth of counter space can now have authentic rotisserie flavor at home.
Manufacturers herald rotisserie ovens as the easy means to flavorful, juicy, perfectly cooked, lower-fat, and generally glorious food. Skeptics like us are not easily sold, however, so we got our hands on five countertop rotisserie ovens to see what they were capable of.
In each oven, we roasted a whole brined chicken, a 4-pound beef rib roast, and a pork tenderloin. Then we selected one recipe from the instruction manual that came with each machine and cooked it in its respective oven. While we found that the two ovens with a horizontal spit did a better job roasting chickens than did vertical roasters (the chickens seemed more moist and more flavorful), overall we could find little to recommend a countertop rotisserie oven of any type.
The chickens cooked in the two horizontal roasters were decent, but the lurid, ashen pork tenderloins were entirely unappetizing and nearly tasteless. The beef rib roasts browned beautifully, but when cut into revealed egregiously uneven cooking: The perimeters were well done, while the very core of each roast was medium. Demerits were given to one oven for making loading and cleaning very difficult and for directing us to secure our 4-pound beef rib roast in an 8-inch-square by 2 1/4-inch-deep basket (an impossible fit; the roast had to go directly on the spit. Because the second model did a slightly better job roasting the chicken and because it was easier to load, unload, and clean, we thought it the best of the lot.
None of the vertical roasters excelled at any cooking task or equaled the performance of the horizontal models.