I've always loved rotisserie-cooked foods, especially chicken. But, I've found most rotisserie units made for the home to be inadequate, usually leaving behind big messes and, in the case of outdoor grill attachments, causing huge flare-ups. So, I was intrigued recently when I saw an ad for a stand-alone rotisserie cooker for the home kitchen. A little less intriguing, I have to admit, was the brand name: Ronco.
Frankly, I didn't even realize Ronco still existed. I remember seeing TV commercials for Ronco products as a kid -- items like the Ronco Veg-O-Matic, the Ronco Spray Gun and, of course, the Popeil Pocket Fisherman (named for Ronco founder and inventor Ron Popeil). It's easy to forget that these were wildly popular products in the '50s and '60s, netting more the $2 billion in sales over the past 40 years.
(Photo courtesy of Ronco)
Today, Ronco is focused on selling higher-quality consumer housewares like the Ronco "Showtime" Rotisserie that caught my attention. I saw an ad and it looked and sounded like something I'd like to try. So, I contacted the Ronco folks and got hold of a loaner. To be honest, I wasn't expecting a lot. But I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I tried out the Ronco Showtime 5500 Model Rotisserie and was pretty impressed. For starters, it seems to be well-made and is big enough to cook a couple of roasts, two chickens, or a 15 lb. turkey. But what I liked most about the Ronco Rotisserie is its easy cleanup and also the simplicity and ease of cooking with it.
(Photo courtesy of Ronco)
Here is the recipe I used to make a rotisserie chicken, and the results.
A 3 1/2 to 4 lb. chicken, whole, giblets removed and excess fat trimmed
1 Tbs. freshly minced rosemary leaves
1 Tbs. freshly minced thyme leaves
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Begin by mincing the rind of the lemon.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon rind, the juice from the lemon and the minced herbs.
Wash the chicken inside and out thoroughly and pat dry using paper towels.
Salt and pepper the chicken, inside and out. Then rub the lemon-herb mix all over the chicken, loosening the skin of the legs, thighs and breasts to get some seasoning under the skin.
Now, you're almost ready to cook. One of the things I like about the Ronco Rotisserie is the accessories included. There are non-stick drip pans and grates, a nonstick basket for cooking things like salmon filets, oven gloves, and food ties, all of which are very useful. The rotiserrie also came with very clear instructions and a useful DVD with demonstrations for cooking all sorts of things from chickens and roasts to kabobs, burgers, fish and veggies.
First, I tied up my chicken (yes, kinda kinky!) using the elastic food ties provided with the rotisserie. The clear instructions on the DVD and in the manual made this process a cinch. Next, I impaled the chicken on the nonstick rotisserie spit rod. Again, clear instructions make this almost foolproof.
Then, I simply attached the nonstick spit rod assembly with the chicken to the cooking unit and was ready to roll.
The rotisserie has three settings: no heat, roast, and sear. Searing is used for things like searing steaks or browning foods. The no-heat position allows food to keep rotating after cooking without heat, to evenly distribute juices. And then, the roast position is the normal position for rotisserie cooking.
Ronco provides an excellent time and temperature chart for cooking all sorts of foods. For a whole chicken, the recommended time is 15 minutes per lb. My chicken was about 5 lbs., so I set the timer for one hour and 15 minutes. As Ronco says: "Set it and forget it." (Although they don't literally mean "forget it.") In an hour and a quarter, I had a beautifully browned, tender and moist rotisserie chicken all ready to eat. Impressive.
A couple of things: First, the rotisserie is very quiet; that surprised me. But, what really won me over was the fact that there wasn't any smoke. I'd expected my kitchen to smell of burned chicken fat. However, the nonstick drip tray and grate cover collects the fat that drips from the chicken and it doesn't burn. Best of all, clean-up is simple and easy.
Now, the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie 5500 isn't cheap at $199.99. There are also smaller models that go for $99.95 and $159.80. But, for the price of a single gourmet-cooking pot like an All-Clad, you could have this nifty rotisserie for your kitchen. I was skeptical, but I think the Ronco Rotisserie 5500 is a terrific unit and a good bang for the buck. I guess Ron Popeil has done it again.
(Photos by Ted Scheffler)