Trying Out the Char-Broil Oil-Less Infrared Turkey Fryer
The other day I watched Andrew putting the finishing touches on the fried turkeys we were planning to take along to a gathering at a friend's house. About 12 pound each, they had soaked in brine for two days then been injected with an emulsion involving cognac, Tabasco and butter. Andrew has fried many turkeys and they are always a big hit but these were different: He had cooked them in a Char-Broil Big Easy oil-less infrared turkey fryer, a contraption he had eyed with suspicion until some total stranger he met at Lowe's raved on and on about his, effectively persuading Andrew to lurk in wait until they went on sale soon after Thanksgiving.
The "fryer" (which is to be used outdoors only) is powered by propane, the flame enclosed within the double-walled heating chamber (output, 18,000 BTUs). Upon ignition infrared waves emanate inward from the walls of the chamber, creating a blazing hot cooking environment. The infrared rays push the air out, resulting in meat that does not dry out as it does when roasted. Turkeys (or any other foods) cooked using infrared rays are not technically "fried" as they are when prepared in 5 gallons of scalding peanut oil, but the results closely resemble those fried the old fashioned way.
The Turkey Frying Master is now a convert. The turkeys were juicy, crisp, and delicious. The only oil used (other than the butter in the injection marinade), was the tablespoon or so used to rub the exterior of each bird before placing it in the so-called fryer. Other advantages to this thing are that whatever is being cooked (leg of lamb, ribs, chicken, beef, whatever) can be rubbed with spices or slathered with sauces before cooking, it's much safer than the flaming pot of oil needed for traditional frying and there is very little clean-up required. According to Andrew, the infrared fryer has already paid for itself ($70 on sale, regularly $100 to $130) based on savings enjoyed in the cost of oil alone, and cooking with it involves close to zero supervision. He stuck a digital thermometer probe in the turkey, set the alert to go off when the internal temperature reached 165ºF and walked away. One living on a parade route could feasibly toss in a turkey, head out to a parade, and lead a group back for fried bird upon return.
Those are the advantages. There were a few disadvantages:
- Traditionally fried turkeys cook at 3 minutes per pound as opposed to the 10 minutes per pound required with infrared, so an assembly line like the one we put together the day before Thanksgiving whereby we injected and fried 10 turkeys with two fryers going in one afternoon (we handed them out to friends and neighbors) is not a possibility;
- The basket the turkey sits in leaves marks and impressions on the final product so those seeking a flawless, pristine bird will be disappointed. We can live with this;
- Though the manual does not instruct you to do so, when cooking something as large as a turkey the bird must be rotated from time to time or it will cook unevenly. Andrew failed to do this and one of the turkeys we brought for dinner required a trip to the oven.