Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Deep Fried Turkey, Hold the Deep Fry

The "Oil-less Turkey Fryer" from Char-Broil arrived just in time for me to test before Thanksgiving. I am one of their bloggers this year on Char-broil live in exchange for a few goodies like this. The products are for me to use or give away. If I want to review them, I can, but without any strings attached. But first, some back story....

I've been intrigued by this little unit for a few years now, having competed on one in a Barbecue Smackdown at Memphis in May in 2010. I'd always wanted to go to MIM, so when Char-Broil invited me to be a guest chef for some fun demos and competitions with some other barbecue personalities, I jumped at the chance.

I'd never touched one before I was thrown into a celebrity grilling competition, and had to learn quickly how to operate it while at the same time realizing that everyone else was cheating wildly, pulling bacon and other ingredients out of their pockets.

Luckily, The Big Easy, as it's called, is really easy to operate. Turn on gas, turn igniter switch and you are good to go. I didn't win the competition, but it was a blast. Next time I'll stuff my pockets with bacon. It was nice to get to know this cooker at home, without the pressure of TV cameras on me.

I decided to make a simple "deep fried turkey", according to the recipe provided in the packaging booklet. I rubbed a 14 lb turkey with peanut oil, and then sprinkled on a rub I made by mixing two commercial rubs together plus some thyme. I didn't need to get finicky about the rub as this was my maiden voyage. It was more about testing the tenderness, the skin, and the cook time than any specific flavors.

First I seasoned the little guy (the grill, not the bird) with vegetable oil, per the instruction booklet. By the way, my preferred oil rag for grills is a clean old sock of Eric's that has finally shredded. I can get an old sock oily, dirty, and then throw it in the compost with a clear conscience that I've both reused an old thing and diverted it from a landfill. We always seem to have a steady supply of tube socks in the process of biting the dust. Eric will try to wear the torn, holey socks out of the rag drawer, so I have to actually rip them to the point that they no longer hold a foot. But I digress....

Here are my comments on The Big Easy:

I cooked my turkey for 4 hours, about 30 minutes too long because the kids were in the bath and I couldn't go out and get it. It came out beautiful, but on the edge of too done. The booklet math recommendation came out to 3.5 hours so it was correct.

The skin: The skin is definitely the highlight of this turkey and cooking method. It was all I could do not to pick the bird bald. Crispy, fried but not oily, and a deep amber color...perfect.

The flavor: I didn't brine the turkey and wish I had. It was a little bland beyond the skin layer.

The texture: This time of year we are up to our necks in turkey at Pete's, so I'm used to the smooth, almost delicate texture of a smoked turkey. The texture was a little tougher, but I attribute this to my overcooking.

Sturdiness and other comments about the cooker itself: I like the basket and little handle lifty thing that comes with. You simply load the basket and drop it down. It was solid enough and sat level, yet once assembled I could carry it out the door and down the steps to the front yard. It was easy to set up and easy to clean.

What I did NOT like: It cooks totally open - you only use the mesh lid at the end, meaning you have this really hot burning thing right at kid level. And by kid level, I mean right exactly at the height and spot a 2-5 year old would stick their hands on or in. It made me very nervous. I got so nervous bringing my almost 3 yr old widely around it that she nearly tripped, out of transferred nervousness, into the burning hot center.

I've come up with a solution. Char-broil should include cones and caution tape with the packaging to section off the grill. And maybe a few English traffic cops to stand around it to make sure no one gets too close to the flame.

Final comments: I like it. I'm keeping it vs giving it away. I wish it came with a lid or cover because the very first night I left it out and of course it rained. I recall the ones we used in the competition had lids, and grill inserts so maybe these are extras one can order.

I'll use it again, though it will most likely be on a less frequent rotation than other grills, due to the open flame/small child issue. I want to try it with a brined turkey. The booklet has some recipes with injections, but no brines.

As for my opinion on injections, I think I've already answered that poetically.

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