I’m Not Talking Louisana Kind of Big Easy
Recently, I had the opportunity to try out a Char Broil Oil-less Turkey Fryer — The Big Easy* to “fry” a turkey. I know it’s a month before Thanksgiving, but we need to talk turkey. When I read the offer to receive a Char Broil oil-less fryer from the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program to try out, I didn’t blink before signing up.
I saw two benefits — frying a turkey without oil and an electric cooker. I could do with less oil in my life and I’ve heard great things about fried turkey, so I was anxious to see how it would work. As you know, I’m rather restricted on how I can cook on my balcony since no open flame is allowed within 15 feet of the building, so I thought wow! This is perfect for me.
But see, there was a problem…
A short time after I opted in, I received mail telling me I’d receive The Big Easy AND a Flip Video camera to capture the fun. I was so excited! I navigated to the Char Broil site to check out all the details and much to my dismay, that cord I saw in the photos and thought was a power cable was a connection hose for a propane tank! Oh, the horror!
I headed right to my email account and let Kiersten from Foodbuzz know that I was disappointed, but that I’d have to pass on the offer to give The Big Easy a try because, quite possibly, all of Northern Virginia would go up in flames and I’d end up in jail for breaking all kinds of fire code laws.
Much to my surprise, when I came home from work one day, the Big Easy was waiting for me at the front desk! What? Oh my! I have a gas powered turkey fryer and nowhere to use it. But then it came to me … my friends! We all enjoy good food and have shared plenty of great meals together, even if some of my dishes bomb. And I’ve had Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys at their house the past few years. So as I stood there in my guest room, looking at the box that contained a gas powered, infrared turkey fryer it came to me — I can schlep that thing to their house and we can fry up a turkey on their deck!
Hey! Hey! Hey! I said it was Oil-LESS, didn’t I? Stop your worrying! We’re not using oil next to a propane tank, or anywhere else for that matter. Keep reading.
Last weekend, before my big first day at the new job, I hauled the fryer into the trunk of my little car and drove up the road with all the fixin’s for dinner. And might I add, that box was heavy. My friend and her son put the fryer together. I’d say it took about 20 minutes, including the time to un-box the pieces and to put the packing materials back into the box.
I didn’t lend much of a hand in putting the fryer together. Mother and sun had that all under control while I laid out the ingredients for the meal and finished prepping.
The Big Easy came with a stainless steel insert with a hole in the bottom and a drip pan and two baskets as well as a jar of Cajun seasoning rub. I didn’t realize the rub was in the box and put together a flavoring marinade to inject the turkey with the night before, so I decided to forgo the rub. I’ve never used a flavor injector before, but I decided to go pretty basic with the marinade. A good dose of melted butter, herbs de provence, hickory smoked salt and plenty of beer. I poked that thing 15 – 20 times, but it was making a huge mess of things. I’d chalk it up to user error. I learned near the end to just keep the syringe in the turkey for a few seconds after I pushed the liquid through or else I’d be sprayed by marinade that was anxious to get up and out of that turkey. I hit everything, the legs, thighs, back, and breast. Nothing was left untouched. I was going to be sure that turkey was moist.
Once the cooker was put together, we took it outside, hooked it up to a propane tank and turned it on. The igniter worked like a champ. There is no temperature control, no thermostat, it’s either on or off, but as soon as I hit the igniter, it was on and began to quickly heat up.
It’s an interesting piece of engineering. There’s a stainless steel burner at the bottom of the fryer which heats the inside wall of the fryer. The mesh lid is optional, but it was a windy day so we kept it on to keep all the heat from escaping, although I’ve got to say … the fryer heated up almost instantly and never cooled down. There is no thermostat, so the heat is what the heat is, no more, no less.
There were two baskets included and it took us a minute to figure out what the difference was between the two. We noticed four small prongs in one basket. I thought the prongs would be useful to help seat the turkey and keep it upright, but on second thought, it looks like it’s for a can of beer. One day I need to try making Beer Can Chicken. But I digress …
In my usual manner, I just threw the turkey in the basket that was packed in the main box (the fryer came in 2 boxes — one with the big rig and the other with what I thought was only the propane connection, but it also included a 2nd basket) without reading. But after the bird had been “frying” for about an hour, we realized it probably should have gone in legs first. Those prongs would have helped keep it upright, but really, there was no need for any help. The turkey was perfectly positioned and browned evenly on all sides.
I did read that the cooking time should be just 10 minutes a pound to cook a turkey. I purchased a 13 lb. bird, so that meant in just over 2 hours we should have a fully cooked turkey. Cold and/or windy weather could alter the cooking time, but it was in the 60º’s and not terribly windy, just a nice breeze was blowing.
I got worried as the first hour ticked by. The thermometer in the bird seemed to have stopped and the turkey was just a light tan. About 45 minutes later we got a thermometer from the kitchen and low and behold, that turkey was just about done!! Fifteen minutes later we had a finished turkey ready to be taken into the kitchen to rest.
It was time to finish the side dishes. I made caramelized apples with spiced, sweet pecans and rice pilaf as well as a salad. Oh, and did I mention the broccoli salad? Yep, we had plenty of food for dinner which was going to go quite well with the peach crumble and ice cream. Oh lordie, I’m full just thinking about all of that food! Oh, but wait! I forgot the appetizers. There were platters of cheese and crackers, smoked salmon and all the goodness that goes with it — capers, creme fraiche and red onion — and more than a dozen jalapeño poppers. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself with the darn peppers — AGAIN! And I’m really sorry if anyone burned off a few taste buds in the process of eating said poppers. But they sure were good, weren’t they? Now, just imagine those poppers with some of the bacon I have curing in the fridge this week!
Again, I’ve gotten off track. Forgive me please. But can you imagine this home cured bacon with fresh home made bread and mayo, a little tomato and lettuce? Ohh, we’re going to have some fun next weekend when this is done.
Ok, back to the turkey. We pulled the it out of the fryer and the color and texture were — simply — AMAZING! Scroll up. Just look at that turkey up there! I’m a big fan of poultry skin. I know, I know. It’s soooo bad for me. Yes! I know! But I love the texture and the flavor. The color of the skin on this turkey was absolutely perfect. It was a beautiful golden brown and had a nice crackle to it when it came out of the basket.
Satya carved while I got the sides plated and we ran to the dining room to try the finished product. I think I can safely say that everyone was surprised by how moist this turkey was. It had the same juicy quality of a brined turkey, but without any brining — just a few good jabs with a turkey injector. The skin? It was pretty, but not what I was expecting. It was tough and had lost some of it’s crunch as often happens when poultry sits while waiting to be carved, but it became chewy. Some of that could have been my failure to use a rub or butter or oil. When I make a turkey in the oven I make a mixture of seasonings and butter and rub it all over the turkey. I give it a good massage which I learned 25 years ago from a recipe in the New York Times. Next time I would do the same. I think the butter and seasonings helps to give it a crackling kind of crunch with that nice salty flavor.
I was a terrible guest and did nothing to help clean up the mess other than to help clear the table, but here is what I can offer for information about cleaning The Big Easy. The basket needs to be cleaned. No question. While the turkey came right out without sticking, there is some residue left on the basket. The instructions say to either use a cooking spray or to rub oil on the rungs of the basket to help make clean up easier. We used a grilling spray. I’ve got a two-drawer dish washer and it would either stand up or lie down in the bottom drawer easily, but if not, the spray helps to make clean up easier. The stainless steel drum in which the basket or food goes gets dirty. It’s what happens when you cook. If I had a deck and left my grilling equipment out there I’d probably not have done anything with the insert, but if you’re bringing it inside I’d suggest either turning on the fryer and letting the residual stuff burn off or as Satya did, cleaning it out. That would be the least fun thing about using The Big Easy though because it’s a big piece to put in a kitchen sink. I suppose a hose might help, but running cold water in that drum probably would have done nothing much to clean it. Satya sent photos so I could show you how it cleaned up, but I felt terrible when I realized she spent time to get it clean. Next time, it will be the burn-off method. I’m sure of it.
So … just let it burn off before using it the next time. If it’s going in a garage, you might want to do that first so that nosy critters don’t find their way in.
While we were eating and oohing and ahhing over the taste and texture of the turkey which I’ll concede, I needed to season more heavily, we were planning the next thing we wanted to cook. Satya votes for a prime rib and Don suggested an authentic gyro. And I’d like to see an Asian style pork shoulder. I think the choices are infinite and while I can’t camp out at their house every weekend, I’m looking forward to our next feast using The Big Easy.
I took a look around the Char Broil site and have to say, if I had a yard I’d spring for the new Big Easy Smoker, Roaster & Grill unit. It looks amazing and a little more versatile.
Have you ever fried a turkey? What did you think? Was it intimidating? Would you consider something like this as an alternative?
* I received The Big Easy from Char Broil free of charge as part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program. I also received a FlipVideo camera, which did not arrive until after the dinner. All the photos and film were shot with my own equipment. I have not been paid to write about the products received and purchased all food and supplies with my own money.
In 2007 my career with a large, but shrinking high tech Fortune 50 \"left me,\" leaving a void in my life. While lamenting the loss and flying around the world looking for a new career to get married to, I discovered a way to use a familiar outlet during tough times -- writing. My blog-writing morphed into writing about my favorite past time -- Food! I purchase food, sell food, make food, watch food being made, broadcast meal preparation, photograph and blog about food. Like I said; Food! To change this standard text, you have to enter some information about your self in the Dashboard -> Users -> Your Profile box.