Turkey frying is a tradition in the South, but it’s beginning to catch on all over. Frying a turkey is quick — usually about an hour — and it results in a juicy bird that’s packed with flavor.
There are some problems with this process, however. Obviously, deep frying a turkey in oil isn’t very healthy. There are some size issues. You need a huge pot to cook for an entire family. Most of all is the risk of fire. If you throw a frozen turkey into hot oil, it will explode. If you drunkenly tip over the boiling oil, you can run into a host of problems with grease fires and personal injury.
I’ve had firefighters all over New England tell me that they practically expect turkey fires every year. One fire captain in a city in southeastern Massachusetts said he has two hot spots where some idiots light up a bird every year.
That’s where The Big Easy comes in. Char-Broil’s propane-powered infrared cylinder allows you to “fry” a turkey, and a variety of other meats, without the health and hazard risks of cooking in oil.
It operates very much on the same principals as a gas grill, specifically those more modern infrared gas grills. Instead of boiling oil, the cylinder has holes that allow for the conduction of heat even throughout the device. This results in a thoroughly cooked turkey that’s not burned on the outside.
Now, Char-Broil did not overcome the size issue. You can’t toss a 30-pound Thanksgiving turkey in it, but it’s a great solution for a few turkey breasts. So on Thanksgiving, when you’re still making the big, huge roasted turkey and other fixings, you can throw some extra meat in the Big Easy. It’s also a great barbecue tool for making turkey, chicken, ribs, brisket, and more. There is another version of The Big Easy that can accommodate a turkey up to 25-pounds.
Another advantage — albeit one I didn’t realize right away — is that The Big Easy has a side-out tray that collects drippings you can use for gravy. You can’t do this when you’re frying a turkey in oil, of course. The problem is, I didn’t notice the tray right away. If you don’t clean and empty it out every time you cook, you’ll be left with a gross, rancid, insect-infested mess.
That’s a basic maintenance thing, but one complaint I did have with The Big Easy was that the legs aren’t very sturdy. They are more like sheet metal, and I would have liked something a little thicker and weighty. The rotary ignition system wasn’t very impressive either. I actually had to resort to match-lighting the cooker.
The idea when cooking is to leave the fryer open, but there’s a mesh lid that you can throw on for 10-20 minutes at the end of the cooking cycle to crisp it up a bit. See, the way The Big Easy cooks meat is that it generates heat all around and all through the device.The wall of the cooker radiates infrared heat that penetrates the food as it rises out the top before the stale air has a chance to dry out the food. It’s like cooking in a really hot wind tunnel.
Shortcomings aside, at $149 for the standard version and $169 for the 25-pound variant, (available at Costco) The Big Easy is a great toy. It’s sort of the opposite of a smoker. Instead of low and slow, it’s hot and fast, but it doesn’t dry out your food the way a hot oven would.