Southwood RG7 and RG4 Commercial Rotisserie Oven Review
Southwood RG7 and RG4 Commercial Rotisserie Oven Review
A SOLID MID RANGE COMMERCIAL ROTISSERIE THAT CAN COMPETE WITH HIGH END MACHINES
At less than half the price of some well known high end commercial chicken rotisserie ovens, Southwood has built a largely comparable and capable machine, with some interesting innovations and a few minor quirks. The Southwood RG7 commercial chicken rotisserie oven, and its smaller sibling the RG4, are high volume, heavy duty machines that easily outclasses lighter flimsier entry level commercial rotisseries and can compete with some higher end brands such as Rotisol, Old Hickory, or Henny Penny, at a mid range price point.
The first thing you’ll notice is that it is in fact a heavy duty machine. Its built with the same heavy gauge stainless steel used by higher end manufacturers. The RG7 weighs 500 lbs, you may find a cheap brand weighting 1/2 that. And its undeniably powerful. Each burner is rated at 57,000 BTU giving the taller RG7 170,000 total BTU. That is more than many brands costing 2 x as much, and it's nearly double the BTU of a budget brand like Ampto. The 1/4” thick tempered glass doors are identical to the doors used in high end machines.
There is evidence of cost cutting to hit the $3000 price point. You’ll find more screws and spot welds than you will find on a $10k machine. The mechanism for turning the spits does away with a motor driven gear system instead relying on small electric motors to drive the spits independently. We actually found this to be an advantage because it's so easy to access and fix, but it also costs less. You can read about the spit motors in more detail below. There are some convenience accessories missing that saves the manufacturer on cost. You’ll need to buy a gas regulator yourself ($40). You'll need to make a trip to Home Depot to pickup a light bulb ($20). You'll pay extra for wheels.
Overall the Southwood Rotisserie offers tremendous value for those out there unwilling or unable to budget $10,000 for a commercial rotisserie machine. They work as advertised and are capable enough for high volume supermarket or food truck chicken rotisserie production. Expect 10 good years of high volume production rather than the 15 to 20 you may get out of a high end machine, but at 1/2 the price that is a deal we would accept.
HOW THE SOUTHWOOD IS SIMILAR TO ITS COMPETITION
The RG7 looks and functions much like a lot of other vertical, standup commercial chicken rotisserie ovens that you may see in Boston Market, big Supermarkets, or Peruvian Restaurant chains, and for the most part it works the same way. It's a tall lighted vertical oven with motorized spits that rotate behind tempered glass doors for excellent product merchandising. The RG7 has 3 high BTU burners while the smaller RG4 has one.
Ceramic bricks sit directly on the burners to capture heat and radiate that heat out evenly across the product. Motorized spits, each individually controlled, can move in either direction or can turn off completely off if you are doing a partial cook.
HOW THE SOUTHWOOD IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER ROTISSERIES
All rotisseries use a motor to turn the spits but Southwood engineered a system that works a bit differently, and ultimately better, than the others we've tested. Rather than using one big motor to turn the spits with precise gearing, both the Southwood RG7 and RG4 uses small inexpensive motors to turn each spit individually. Each spit is driven by its own small electric motor housed in the electric panel on the left of the machine.
What we like about this is that should a motor ever go out, the other 6 spits will keep turning, and your business stays open. Any business owner will tell you that this is a big plus, but what sets this machine further apart is that these motors are inexpensive, at about $50 each, and user replaceable. Just remove the side panel , pop off the motor for any spit, and pop in the new one. In our tests we were able to replace a motor in 15 minutes.
USING THE ROTISSERIE MACHINE
Any gas Rotisserie will need to be installed by a professional, under a ventilation hood or flue system. The exhaust is carried up and outside the chimney in the top of the unit. Do not attempt to install gas cooking equipment without a licensed professional.
First Steps: Install the ceramic bricks, burner shields, and glass doors. Place the included ceramic bricks about 1.5” apart, 9 to a row, directly on the burner. Hang the burner shield on the horizontal post in front of the burner. The ceramics are what cook the chickens, not the burners. The burner will heat the ceramics, which will radiate heat out evenly across the oven. The burner shelf ensures burner heat is directed up into the bricks,
The glass doors are 1/4” tempered glass. These machines can only accept tempered glass. In the event an employee bangs into or drops a door, the glass will break into small harmless pieces that will not hurt anyone. You will see some other brands offering a full size hinged door in addition to the sliding doors. Southwood only offers the sliding door option, which are most popular because they do not require much clearance. A tight New York City kitchen or food truck will always prefer the sliding door to swing. Load your spits by sliding the right most glass door to the left and opening the side panel. You can load your spits at a 45 degree angle so the clearance requirement to the right side is minimal.
Air intake valves along the side of the machine adjust up and down to control the flame. You’ll want to make sure these are adjusted at installation for a nice blue flame. If your flame is yellow or red it is not optimal. Do not close or seal the air intakes or the burners will be starved of oxygen.
With the unit plugged into an 120V outlet, the burners lit, the burner adjustment complete, and the loaded spits inserted into the machine, you will simply flip the switches for the spits you intend to cook. Since these units use independently controlled spit motors, any number of spits can run at one time, so partial or full cooks are both possible. Expect a 3.5 lb. chicken to take 50 minutes to 1 hr to cook. These machines are durable enough to run all day so you are free to do light volume or heavy volume rotisserie cooking, depending on your needs,
At the end of the day these machines should be turned off and fully cleaned with a non abrasive stainless steel cleaner. The drawer beneath the spits is designed to hold water for humidity while it also captures chicken fat drippings. The chicken fat / water mixture should be emptied each and every time you finish cooking.
While you can’t beat the durability and longevity of a high end machine like an Old Hickory or Rotisol, we found the Southwood RG7 and RG4 to be closer in quality to a high end $10k + commercial rotisserie machine, while being closer in price to the lower end units being sold through Ampto or Diamond brands. Based on this excellent quality to price ratio, the affordable and user replaceable parts, and it's independent spit design, we give the Southwood a strong recommendation.
Want even more info? Watch Cam's video review below: