TurboRoaster: Does it work?

A new product called "TurboRoaster" claims to cut time in half when you're roasting a whole turkey. It also promises a tasty, juicy bird -- and marketers are really pushing it for the holidays. But does it work?

In full disclosure, the manufacturer's rep sent me a TurboRoaster and invited me to put it to the test. It looks like a modified mason jar with a twisted stainless steel tube connected to the lid. Water in the jar is supposed to send hot steam through the tube and into the turkey during roasting, so the bird gets cooked from the inside and outside at the same time. I noticed the instructions call for a starting temperature of 450 degrees, then 425 degrees after the first 20 minutes. That's 100 degrees higher than the traditional turkey roasting temp.

For our test, I purchased a fresh turkey weighing just under 20 lbs. One traditional roasting chart I consulted called for a roasting time of between five and five-and-a-half hours at 325 degrees. Others called for a roasting time of between three and four-and-a-half hours at 325 degrees.

At first I used a roasting rack inside the roasting pan. But the roasting rack raised the turkey too high for the TurboRoaster tube to reach the turkey when I put it in the oven. So, I had to transfer the turkey, ditch the roasting rack and try it again. For turkeys, the instructions say fill the jar 3/4 full with hot water then assemble the tube and lid and seal the jar. The jar sits directly on the oven rack.

I left the turkey roasting for about two hours and 15 minutes. The bird definitely looked done, but the several cups of juices sitting inside the turkey cavity seemed on the pinkish side. When checking the internal temperature, however, the thermometer read 180 degrees in multiple locations. And when I carved the turkey- both the dark and white meat were done and moist. Regarding the juice inside the cavity, since the internal temperature showed 180, and all juices ran clear when the meat was cut- a home economist recommended simply removing the cavity juice with a baster and discarding it.

Bottom line: TurboRoaster does speed up cooking time, but not necessarily by half. According to most roasting charts it saved me about 60 to 90 minutes. One reviewer found that with chicken it saved only 20 to 30 minutes, so a lot depends on your time management challenges, your oven demands, and what you think your time is worth. In our test, the internal steam affect did appear to keep the meat moist. But I've gotten similar moistness by brining poultry and stuffing the cavity with moist vegetables (sauerkraut is a personal favorite).

TurboRoaster sells for $20. When I checked to confirm reports that it's available in local stores- the staff at the major retailers I contacted, including Target, Bed Bath And Beyond, and several Walmart stores had no knowledge of the product and could not find it in their computers. This suggests the item is so new that it's still primarily available through mail order. As I've reported in the past, ordering "As Seen On TV" products by mail tends to generate mixed reviews about billing, customer service, and third-party information sharing, so if you decide to order this product, be sure to keep detailed records and let me know how it goes.

After this report aired on KOMO 4 News, several viewers called in to say they have been able to find the TurboRoaster in the Puget Sound area. One consumer says she bought at a Walmart in Lake Stevens. Another woman says she found hers at an unspecified Bartelll Drug store.

Bartells then Tweeted me that yes, they have it available:

.@ConnieKOMO FYI, the Turbo Roaster IS in every one of our stores! We're ready for Thanksgivukkah! #GobbleGobble

Bartell Drugs (@bartelldrugs) November 26, 2013