Pros: Achieves its purpose very well!
Cons: Very single-purpose; lacking in good directions; you do have to be willing to properly care for cast iron
Rating: 3 out of 5
If you love roasting chickens, you might be interested in the Emerilware Poultry Roaster. It’s a round pre-seasoned cast-iron pan with a raised well in the center. That well is designed to hold both liquid and herbs (to season and moisten the chicken). It’s also designed to hold the chicken upright and ensure that it heats evenly, from all sides and from the inside out. You can put vegetables in the rounded foot of the pan around the chicken so that they roast while being basted with chicken juices. You will need to clean and oil the pan once before using, but that’s it—pre-seasoned cast iron is pretty easy to use.
Our experience: We used one of the three enclosed recipe cards. One is for an herbed chicken with vegetables; one for a roasted chicken and root vegetables with cider (that’s the one we made); and one for a grilled chicken (yes, you can use this on a grill). The first recipe card specified preheating the pan along with the oven. The recipe card we were using didn’t mention this, but it referred to adding ingredients to the hot pan later, so we assumed this was an error of omission and preheated the pan. We added cider to the well in the center, arranged the vegetables around the edge, carefully stood the chicken upright on the well (not entirely easy with a hot pan, but not too bad—just watch your fingers), and poured the rest of the cider over the vegetables as instructed. Then the whole thing went into the oven for less than an hour.
Oh, the results were divine! Chicken isn’t my favorite meat, so I know that if I really love a chicken dish then something went very well. The chicken was extremely moist and flavorful. I wouldn’t call the vegetables entirely healthy, soaked as they were in chicken fat, but they tasted heavenly!
A few thoughts: We love cast iron and are willing to use it; not everyone is. You need to oil it lightly before every use and after every cleaning. You can’t put it in the dishwasher or soak it in suds—you have to clean it primarily with scrubbing power, although since it tends to be surprisingly non-stick this is pretty easy. It’s also heavy, so anyone with arthritis or the like won’t want to mess with it. It’s one of those personal choices.
The roaster definitely loses points when it comes to the included instructions—which is to say, there aren’t really any. It’s a shame, because this is one of the easiest things to do right, and one of the most foolish things to do wrong. There’s a single sheet that primarily instructs you on how to care for cast iron, and there are three recipe cards. There’s nothing that, for instance, tells you definitively whether you should preheat the pan before using, and there’s no guide as to the size of chicken or other poultry the pan will accommodate. The recipe cards call for a 3.5-4 lb chicken (fairly small—2 to 4 servings), but nothing says whether the pan will work with a larger chicken, or anything like a duck or turkey. Since it’s called a “poultry roaster” instead of a “chicken roaster” that seems to imply flexibility, but the size leads me to believe that you wouldn’t want to go much over the 4 lb mark and probably wouldn’t want to try this with a duck or goose.
If you love roasting chicken and enjoy working with cast iron, this is a great choice. It does a fantastic job and produces delicious results. It’s a very narrow-purpose item, however, so you might not want to take up the extra kitchen space if you don’t roast a lot of small chickens.