Don’t mess with perfect. (Review: Char-Broil “Big Easy” oil-less fryer)

Char-Broil "Big Easy" Cooker

Char-Broil “Big Easy” Cooker

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and my wife and I have been planning out our Thanksgiving dinner preparations. This will be the first time in my life where I will be cooking the Thanksgiving turkey instead of my dad. Being a southerner in the good ole state of Louisiana has provided me with the delicious treat we know as cajun-fried turkey.

When I was growing up, my dad would always take the day before Thanksgiving off of work, set up a large pot on a jet engine-like burner on our patio and later in our shed, and boil our birds in hot peanut oil. He also fried turkeys for most of his friends and the majority of his co-workers who would bring gifts (usually whiskey) to him in exchange for making their turkey fried and delicious.

In my opinion, frying a turkey is the only way to properly cook one, and if you haven’t tried one, I highly recommend it. My wife doesn’t appreciate the highly unhealthy qualities of a fried turkey, so I borrowed an “oil-less fryer” to test out and see how it compared. My dad bought this contraption for about $170 last year and never used it. It’s operation seemed pretty straight forward, season turkey as usual, drop in basket, put basket in cooker and cook on the one setting it has until done which is usually 10 minutes per pound or 170 degrees internal temperature. I decided to test it out on a small chicken this weekend.

I started by rinsing my completely thawed chicken and removing the giblets and toweling the bird dry. Next I injected the chicken thoroughly with a pre-prepared marinade called Cajun Injector. If you can’t find Cajun Injector, a mixture of butter, orange juice, pineapple juice, cherry juice, and cajun seasoning will do the trick. After that, I rubbed the bird down with some canola oil and then rubbed on some Tony Chachere’s seasoning. There we have it, ready to cook.

Chicken in cooker

The incorrect way to put your bird into the cooker. It should be sitting upright, breast side up.

I turned the gas on the cooker and lit it, put the chicken in the basket and dropped it in. It was very simple. The 5 pound chicken I cooked took almost an hour and a half to cook because I didn’t position it properly in the basket. I laid the chicken on it’s back instead of placing it upright, breast side up. This caused uneven cooking and the top was done before the bottom. I had to reposition the chicken to get the back done and it took longer.¬†Clean-up was easy with some soap and water and a scouring pad.

To sum it up, the chicken came out looking beautiful with crisp skin and moist meat. Was it comparable to a bird fried in oil? HELL NO! It was more like a rotisserie chicken you might get at a grocery store except the skin was better. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great, but I don’t get how they can call the cooker a fryer when it doesn’t actually fry anything and the end product does not rival a fried bird. If you want a fried turkey, there is no substitute to the real thing. As one of my friends posted on my Facebook wall when I asked if anyone had any experience with an oil-less fryer, “Don’t mess with perfect.”