Deep frying your Thanksgiving turkey is popular for a reason – it happens to be the same reason that Lipitor is popular, but that’s beside the point. Unfortunately, every year, 10 million* Americans start house fires from attempting to fry their bird. And in addition to the arson hazard, deep frying a turkey requires a ton of oil, which, let’s face it, you’re not going to filter and reuse.
Luckily, the folks at Char-Broil have created The Big Easy Oil-Less Infrared Turkey Deep Fryer, and were kind enough to loan me a unit for testing. This cooker looks and works just like a conventional turkey fryer, except it uses no oil. Instead, a ring of gas burners heat up the inside of the cooking chamber, roasting your meat evenly and allowing the fat to drip down, with no risk of flame-ups.
Rather than test the machine with a turkey, though, I thought I’d try out a few other dishes. Check out my video review after the jump.
First, I roasted a whole chicken, along with red potatoes on skewers. This was hands-down the best chicken I’ve ever roasted at home: super-crisp skin, even cooking and juicy meat. Unlike roasting a chicken in the oven, the skin was crisp and evenly browned on all sides. Next, I roasted a whole leg of lamb (pre-seasoned, care of Trader Joe’s). I hung the lamb in the center of the cooker using a pair of metal skewers. Although the roasting time was about the same as if I had cooked the lamb in a standard oven, it developed a much nicer crust in The Big Easy. And, cleanup was much simpler too – all the fat dripped into a non-stick tray at the bottom.
Finally, I put the unit to the test as a bread oven. I placed a mound of dough (premade, thanks again, Trader Joes) on a preheated salt block and baked it for 35 minutes. I was hoping for wood-fired oven results – an intense crust and super-quick baking time, but unfortunately, the result was identical to what you’d expect from a standard oven. Based on my measurements with an infrared thermometer, the inside of the cooking chamber only reaches between 350°F and 450°F – a wood burning pizza oven can be upwards of 900°F. Still, considering that this $99 device was only designed for turkey frying, it may not be so single-purpose after all!