I’ve been cooking turkey in a deep fryer for three years. I love the taste, but I don’t like spending 30 dollars for the peanut oil to cook a turkey. Too, I have a six and four year old, so I have to keep them far away from the turkey fryer and its flesh-melting, boiling oil. Oil-less, infrared cookers finally dropped below 100 dollars, so I took the plunge on a Char-Broil Big Easy Oil-less Cooker.
How it works
There are three ways to transfer heat: convection, conduction, and radiation. Convection involves a transfer medium – like boiling water, hot oil, or the air in an ordinary convection oven – moving heat from a heat source. Conduction has the heat source making direct contact, such as pan-frying or flat-top restaurant grills.
Radiation uses a heat source that emits high temperature, infrared light. There’s no radioactivity involved. Heat radiation is how the Sun heats the Earth. If you used a solar cooker to cook your turkey the result would be the same as with the Big Easy cooker; it would just take longer.
The Big Easy is for outdoor use. It connects to the same refillable propane cylinder as your gas BBQ grill or turkey fryer. The propane burns and heats the space between the outer wall and the inner stainless steel inner wall, which radiates infrared heat.
The boring details
The instructions said to season the interior by coating it with a thin layer of vegetable oil and running the fryer until the oil cooks off and the metal surface changes color. The stainless steel turned a nice bronze color.
Then it was time to add the turkey. I used the same butter and cajun seasoning injection I use for deep fried turkey, then coated the skin with a little vegetable oil to make the skin crispy and brown. The turkey goes into the removable stainless cooking basket with the legs on the bottom and the wings on the top.
After 20 minutes or so I removed the mesh wire top because these guys said so to avoid making the top too brown. I think they’re basically right, though I may go longer next time to get the skin crispier. I used the meat thermometer included in the box to make sure the breast temperature reached the recommended temperature of 165°. Since this was my first time I played it safe and let the temperature go to 170°.
Total cooking time for a 15 pound bird was about two and a half hours. That’s about three times longer than required for deep-frying. A deep fryer may make more sense if you’re cooking many birds to feed a lot of people. On the plus side there wasn’t a pot of boiling oil to guard from the kids, so I was free do other things during those two and a half hours without worry, which was pleasant.
How did it taste?
The turkey cooked in an infrared cooker was wonderful. It was moist. It was delicious. It was much better than the second, roasted bird we cooked in the oven. If you’ve only had roast turkey then infrared turkey will be an eye-opener.
Should I sell my deep fryer?
If you’ve ever had deep-fried turkey the question is how does infrared stack up? I didn’t have a deep-fried turkey handy for a side-by-side Pepsi challenge, but I’ve made turkies that way for the last three years.
Honestly? I still think deep-drying is the yummiest way to cook a turkey. The oil-less, infrared cooker is good, but deep fried is still taste king of gobbler mountain. The flavor and moisture really get locked in and the texture of the crispy skin is amazing. I also like the fact that a deep fryer is essentially a big propane burner that’s good for all sorts of outdoor cooking jobs. My emergency winter heating and cooking plan revolves around three propane tanks, a Mr. Heater Heat Buddy for heating, and a deep fryer for boiling and pan frying food. I won’t be selling my deep fryer.
Looking at the whole picture, though, infrared wins if cost of operation, safety, or healthy cooking are important. Too, I can see me using the infrared cooker for steaks, chicken, pork butt, brisket, ribs, you name it. I’m poring over the options for baskets, leg racks, rib hooks, and kabob hangers.
Taste-wise, there is one place where the Big Easy cooker flat-out whips a deep fryer …
Drippings and the gravy from Heaven
The removable drip pan is my favorite feature of the Char-Broil Big Easy. The non-stick drawer under the cooker is about the size of a narrow baking pan. It has a convenient handle and slides out smoothly so nothing spills. Good thing, too, since what’s inside is amazing.
After the first hour and a basting with a stick of butter the drip pan produced a pint of gorgeous, red and gold broth infused with butter, turkey fat, and cajun seasoning. The gravy my wife’s cousin Charla made from those drippings was mouth-watering. It may have been the best turkey gravy I’ve ever had in my 42 years. When the bird was done there was another pint of liquid in the drip pan, so you will never lack for turkey gravy.
Previously – Talk to me about infrared turkey fryers